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Everyone wants to be happy. What most people mean when they say they want happiness is that they want to feel a positive sense of mental well-being. Mental wellness however, requires some effort, in the same way physical health does. If you want good physical health, you can’t sit on the couch drinking beer and eating donuts and fried chicken; you have to do things that result in better health, such as eating right, drinking enough water, exercising, taking vitamins, and getting enough rest. If you want to experience positive mental well-being, there are things you have to do on a regular basis that result in mental wellness.
Following are five essential mental wellness activities that, if done together regularly, will result in a sense of well-being that can improve the quality of your life.
The importance of learning to be consciously present and aware, as opposed to on autopilot, cannot be overstated. Mindfulness allows you to have conscious awareness of what you are doing, so you can make choices to override automatic thinking and make positive changes in thoughts and behavior. When you are mindful, you are able to observe events in a non-judgmental way, which allows you to detach from negative emotions, as opposed to being controlled by them. As a result, the way you respond to events in your life starts to change. Your emotions are better regulated, and you stop getting so upset, angry, or fearful over things you can’t control. You are also not flooding your brain with fear and worry about the future or resentments from the past, which has the profoundly positive effect of resetting your emotional state to calm and peaceful.
In order to experience the life-altering benefits of mindfulness, it is best to practice on a daily basis. Once a week won’t get you there, but 10 minutes a day is enough to start to feel the benefit in a matter of a few days, although you probably won’t start to notice how it is changing your behavior until you’ve been practicing daily for a couple of weeks. You should subtly start to notice you feel calmer and less stressed; things that used to upset you may not bother you so much anymore. You will feel greater clarity in your thinking and ability to focus. To add a mindfulness practice into your routine, it is best to set aside a regular time to do it every day. First thing in the morning is a great way to start your day off on a positive note; however, for some, mid-day is a time that offers a needed break, and right before bed can have a calming effect. There are innumerable books, courses, and online resources to teach you how to practice, but if you are a beginner, I suggest starting off with a guided phone app; Mindspace is one that I recommend regularly to my patients.
2. Input the Positive.
What you take in from your environment matters a great deal to your emotional well-being, because it stays active in your subconscious mental space for a period of time, even after the event is long over. For example, if you’ve ever listened to a song on the radio and then heard it in your head a week later, or watched a scary movie and had a nightmare the next night, that’s because those events are still active in your mental space and influencing you emotionally. If you would like to experience positive emotional well-being, you need to take in as many positive things from your surroundings as possible, and minimize the number of negative things. Most people don’t pay attention to what they are taking in. If you watch a lot of negative news stories, chronically listen to songs about heartbreak and sadness, frequently watch crime dramas and horror movies, regularly play violent video games, or spend a lot of time listening to other people complain about their lives, that is a steady junk diet of emotional negativity that is bound to drag you down. Oftentimes, you don’t even notice these things are making you feel down, because they have become a part of your normal emotional set-point.