The importance of a positive mindset and the best advice for improving your mental health.
Our mental health is something that we are all dealing with daily. It can be as simple as managing the pressure of work each day or fighting to overcome embedded feelings such as anger, anxiety, or depression. We all have our battles. Life’s never going to stop testing you, and it’s important to know how to control your mind when it does. That’s what growth is all about.
When it comes to your mental health, the golden rule in any circumstances, or situation, is to never underestimate the power of a positive mindset.
I understand that this isn’t always easy, especially with the pressure of external forces that can often feel like they are constantly working against us. The following list was created particularly for strengthening your mind and body, to not only withstand the pressures of everyday life but to thrive in any environment you find yourself in. It is based purely on my experiences, and education, and while some points may seem obvious, do not underestimate the power of anything you are about to read.
1: Get physical
It’s proven that participating in regular physical exercise, even in small doses, has a positive, and direct, impact on your mood, self-esteem, stress, anxiety, and the strength of your immune system. Our bodies start to deteriorate when we stop using them, so the most important thing is to just get out and move. It really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it lifts your heart rate enough for you to regulate your breathing. Your daily dose can be as simple as a short muscle stretching session, or even a short bike ride, but there is really no limit on what you can do. Here are just a few activities that you can easily fit into your week to maintain a healthy body & mind.
Yoga teaches the user to regulate breath while holding and transitioning between poses that require balance, strength and focus. In recent studies, several schools replaced classroom detentions with Yoga for children with behavioural issues, and each reported significant positive improvement in both the students’ behaviour and the general state of wellbeing. There’s a reason that this ancient art is practised by over 300 million people worldwide.
There are literally thousands of home workouts that almost anyone can do with little to no equipment. As a previous member of Australia’s health and fitness industry, I will be sharing a few of the isolation workouts that kept me fit while homebound in twenty-twenty. Just know that you can substitute almost anything found in a gym with some cheap everyday items. Think about any water bottle, or container, that you could use as a weight. It may sound obvious, but whatever capacity, in litres, that container holds, will be its equivalent weight in kilograms. Whatever you can do with a dumbbell, you can do with a plastic bottle, and likewise with kettlebells and larger containers. It’s incredible what you can do with a few makeshift weights and a set of resistance bands but if that’s not your thing, at the very least, get yourself a yoga mat and do your daily stretches. It doesn’t matter what you do, when incorporated into a regular routine, even the shortest and simplest of workouts will greatly assist in strengthening both your body and mind.
There’s a beautiful feeling that comes with distancing yourself from city life. Disappearing into the mountains is my favourite way to enjoy a bit of exercise, and nature, at the same time, however, you usually don’t have to venture very far from home to find a natural place to walk for hours on end. Hiking is another great activity that’s good for both the body and soul, especially when you stumble across some magical scenery and views.
Play Team Sports
Not only is joining a sporting team a great way to get fit, but it can also often open doors to a network of people with similar interests to yourself. This, combined with the bonding aspect, both during games and victory celebrations, is something that you are unable to take away from any other health and fitness-related activity.
As I said before, it doesn’t matter how you exercise, as long as you find a way that lets you enjoy it. When you enjoy what you do, it’s easy to turn it into a routine. You can do it, the hardest part is just getting started.
2: Be conscious about what you put in your body
Equally important as how you use your body, is what you put into it. It’s critical to maintain a healthy diet for both your mind and body, to operate at their optimal capacity. Every day the body needs natural, unprocessed foods that are rich in natural vitamins and minerals. Avoid sugar and as often as possible, processed foods in general. I grew up listening to people say “you are what you eat” and I can safely say, from my experience in both the fitness industry, and from watching friends suffer through years of drug abuse, if you fill your body with sh*t, then that’s what it becomes.
Alcohol is literally poison and there’s not a single drug in the world, legal or illegal, that will leave you better off after regular use. I’ve seen, first hand, lives being ruined and even lost to consumption use of drugs and alcohol. Every feeling of relief, joy, ecstasy, satisfaction, or excitement is only borrowed from your future self. You might not always feel it the next day, or even the day after, but there’s no escaping the darkness that comes with the highs of drug or alcohol use. An addiction to a substance can be born from using just once and once an addiction is born, it can be a tough to kick.
I also personally believe that everyone should try to limit their consumption of digital content. The news, TV, radio or paper, is not here to inform those who are digesting it. Each and every media corporation is pushing an agenda, and you should take everything you hear with a grain of salt. The world is beautiful and best seen through your own eyes, just know the difference between good and bad when it comes to what you feed yourself.
3: Spend time close to nature
I touched on this in the hiking point, but there’s no better way to disconnect from the modern world than by submerging yourself in the beauty of nature. Mountains, forests, lakes, or any natural landscape you can find, it’s all food for the soul. You don’t have to get lost in a literal sense but go far enough to be able to listen to the unspoiled voice of mother nature and get a little exercise at the same time. A report containing data from more than 290 million people was published in 2018 with evidence of exposure to greenspace reducing the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. I know it’s not always easy, or possible, to get out into the wilderness, but the next chance you get, take it. I guarantee it’ll do wonders for both your physical and mental health.
4: Understand the power of positive thinking and adopt a positive mindset
You can learn a lot about yourself from simply just observing your thoughts on a day to day basis. There is a relationship between the heart and mind which begins to reveal itself when you begin to understand your thought patterns and how your mind operates.
One of my favourite pieces of literature is called The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale. Through his work, Peale teaches us the importance of breaking free from the mind in order to take control of our lives through a changing of attitude and I highly recommend adding this piece to your bookshelf.
Works by Eckhart Tolle and Dr. Joe Dispenza are also fantastic when it comes to understanding the subconscious mind but, if you don’t enjoy reading then do not despair as Youtube is probably the greatest teacher of the modern age and you can listen to audiobooks, as well as learn about almost anything you want, for free.
“Increasing the strength of our minds is the only way to reduce the difficulty of life.” ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana.
When you begin to understand how your mind works, you will also begin to understand your pain, what causes it and most importantly, how to deal with it. You will also come to understand that even when you are at your lowest, things are never as bad as they seem. I guarantee that forming a relationship between your mind and soul will allow you to accept your situation and overcome anything stopping you from living a life full of the happiness you deserve. When you begin to know yourself on a more conscious level, you begin to open a new dimension of thinking that will change your life.
If you are familiar with any of the works mentioned above then you would already be aware of the importance of maintaining a positive mindset. I know it can be difficult, especially in such uncertain times, but believe it or not, your thoughts have power beyond comprehension and its important to be conscious about how your mind works.
It may not happen overnight, but if you wholeheartedly strive to always be positive, while consciously observing your thoughts and emotions, you will be amazed at how quickly your state of being will begin to shift into one of constant positivity.
5: Build a support network & TALK
As much as I love to spend time alone, we, as humans, are social creatures, and most of us require regular interaction with other beings, or organisms, to maintain sanity. In times of difficulty, a support network can do wonders for your mental health, as just knowing you have someone to talk to if needs be, is enough to make you feel better about even the most unfavourable situations. Find people that you trust and that you can confide in about the challenges you are facing.
Join a social club
If you don’t have a network, or like me, moved to the other side of the world without any contacts, consider joining a social club or sporting team. There are countless groups on facebook as well as apps dedicated to helping you meet people with similar interests and most importantly, have fun. I’m not saying you are going to find a free therapist, but making friends is always a good idea when it comes to having support when you need it most.
Adopt an animal companion
For almost ten years, my best friend was my dog, Wendell, who I had to say goodbye to at the end of 2020. While the love you get from a dog is likely to be much more intense than from any other animal, you can pretty much choose any domestic (tameable) creature to be your animal companion.
The touch of an animal can lift even the dampest of spirits, but a bond with a pet is something even more powerful. Once you have created this bond, be it with a dog, cat, cow or chicken, your animal companion will give you limitless amounts of love and positive energy for the rest of their lives.
Keep a Journal
If you find it hard to talk about your life with other people, try keeping a journal. Releasing feelings of emotion through pen and paper is to some, just as effective as if done verbally.
“I found that with depression, one of the most important things you can realise is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it, you’re not gonna be the last to go through it,” — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
In a time of social distancing, make sure you are talking. Don’t ‘bottle up’ your feelings, find someone that you can share them with. Check on your family, check on your friends, and if you need help, ask for it.
Meditation and mindfulness is something I have been exploring deeply with Cyndi recently, and it has had a profoundly positive effect on both of our lives since we began. While there are countless forms of meditation, all with different uses, my understanding is that the basic concept is simply just being mindful of the present moment. It’s also about feeling powerful positive emotions such as gratitude, love, and appreciation. When practised regularly, this is said to be the awakening of incredible healing powers within your body. Now, I’m no expert, but it doesn’t take much knowledge, or practice, to develop a basic understanding of why this ancient practice is used today by more than 300 million people, worldwide. If you, like me at first, are sceptical about this practice, do your own research and discover the truth for yourself. Just go in with an open mind, what have you got to lose?
Look after yourself
In such times of uncertainty, when the world doesn’t seem to make much sense, it is so important to look after yourself in all ways possible. Take this list and build on it. Be conscious about what you think, what you feel and especially, what you want to create with your thoughts. Anything is possible, you can do it.
If you take this advice with an open mind, I have no doubts that you can free yourself from any difficulty that you are experiencing within. Our health is precious, and we must do what we can to keep it in an optimal state. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
About the Author: Harrison has more than a decade of experience on, and off, the rugby field, as a representative player, junior coach, and part-time referee. His passion for rugby led him to the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers, where he studied the human body, exercise, and nutrition, before continuing his work within the health and fitness industry as a personal trainer and gym supervisor. Although the career path has changed, his passion for health, fitness, and Rugby will always remain.