Are you exercising your mind?

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This week on social media i’ve seen a lot of posts discussing “mental health awareness” and the fight to change the stigma attached to mental health disorders. I’ve seen a lot of posts reinforcing that it is ok to talk about mental health struggles and to come forward if you are struggling because you certainly are not alone. All of this I completely agree with and truly believe that the more we talk about our mental health, the more normalised it will become to talk about it, when like our physical health it becomes unwell.

However something I think that isn’t talked about as much is ways to strengthen our mental health, how to cope with daily stresses and how to fight the pressures of life. I think when we hear the word mental health, a lot of people associate it with depression, anxiety and eating disorders. However when we talk about our physical health we don’t quickly associate it with diseases such as cancer, we tend to associate it with fitness and the absence of illness. The question that really stumps me is, why do we perceive mental health and physical health so differently? Arn’t they both just two different types of health?

We seem to exercise our bodies to keep physically healthy but how about exercising our minds to keep them mentally healthy. Here are a few things I do to keep positive and exercise my mind each day….

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1.Meditate. Most people associate meditation with the yogi hippy crowd (two things i’m not because I suck at yoga and I don’t have the skin tone for colourful clothing), but it’s one of the best habits i’ve ever chosen to get into. Although some people can meditate for hours on end,  I tend to do just 10 minutes when I wake up and 10 minutes before I go to bed. For me it’s simply a way to start the day with a clear mind and end the day with one too. I feel a lot of us carry daily stresses from one day to the next, or the last thought of the day is related to what you’ve been scrolling through on Facebook and Instagram. Meditation  essentially teaches you to breathe and clear your mind but mostly it just teaches you to stop, take a break and focus on the present. Just a few of the benefits of mediation include reduced stress and anxiety levels, improved sleep and increased energy levels. So if you’ve got 10 minutes each day to stalk through Instagram or watch compilation videos of animal fails (which I must admit do improve my mood too) then you’ve got 10 minutes to meditate.

Tip: there are heaps of guided and non guided meditation videos on youtube!

2.Gratitude. We live in a world where even with the quickest technology and most up to date phones are still not quick enough or new enough. There will always be bigger and better and you’ll never catch up with ‘the Joneses’. So everyday I write down 5 things each day that i’m grateful for. Trust me it will start to change your perspective of the day and eventually you’ll become more content and grateful for what you do have rather than focusing on the things you don’t.

3.Read! I’m the first to admit I used to HATE reading, for example when I was a child i’d say to my mum “i’m bored”and she’d tell me to read a book and i’d be like “hello is that some kind of joke?”. But i’ve recently found an appreciation for sitting down and reading a book, even if its just for 30 minutes a day. I find reading trains you to use your imagination, something that watching TV tends to strip away.

4.‘It’s ok not to be ok’. Any one who says that everyday they are 100% at the peak of their happiness and never have a down day, are in the minority if not the nonexistent. I believe everyone has days where they feel like life’s not going right for them or are just in a crappy mood for no good reason. My advice is to just accept these days, embrace them and don’t fight them because you won’t feel like that forever and tomorrow is a new day. Just like we cherish the good days, we should embrace the bad ones too because if we didn’t have them, we’d never be able to establish the good ones. When I have days where everything becomes too overwhelming and I just want to curl my self into a duvet shaped  burrito and eat a burrito, I do it because at that moment that is what makes me feel better. Don’t be so hard on yourself, no ones perfect and the sooner we realise that, the more accepting we become of the days when we just are not at our best.

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Laura

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