Aug 15

How to Quiet Your Mind

 

Quieting your mind is important for mental health, including reducing stress and anxiety. With patience and practice, you can quiet your mind. Learn how.

 

The idea of quieting the mind seems like a foreign concept, esoteric and perhaps even the stuff of science fiction. As our society get busier and noisier and faster, so, too, do our minds. Stress levels have skyrocketed, tens of millions of people live with anxiety disorders and more than that experience bothersome anxiety that isn’t quite diagnosable as a disorder. “Agitated” has become the new form of “calm.” Because of this, experts in the fields of psychology, mental health, wellbeing, spirituality, and common sense agree: it is more important than ever to be able to step back and quiet the mind.

It’s a conundrum. Our mind races with thoughts of stressors, worries, and fears. Racing thoughts become broken records, and we begin to focus too much on these thoughts, strengthening and perpetuating them. We overthink. For our own health and wellbeing, we need to become still, to quiet our mind. But because of our racing thoughts, becoming still seems impossible. The harder we try to quiet our mind, the busier our mind grows.

To be sure, quieting your mind is challenging. Doing it, though, brings deep peace. Imagine facing the same stressors you face now but feeling at-ease in spite of them. Imagine, too, possessing the ability to believe fully in yourself and rise above stress and anxiety. Quieting your mind brings these mental health benefits. With patience, practice, and persistence, you can quiet your mind. These five tips can help you along your journey:

5 Tips to Learn How to Quiet Your Mind

  1. Become physically still and comfortable. The mind and body follow each other in a dance.
  2. Breathe slowly and deeply. Let your mind concentrate on your inhalations and exhalations (but don’t force it).
  3. Be mindful. Tune in to your senses. Pay more attention to what you see, hear, feel, and smell than your thoughts.
  4. Accept your thoughts rather than fighting against them. Allow negative thoughts to come and go while you do your own thing and practice mindfulness.
  5. Gently conjure images of positive things, such as your personal values and goals. Visualize yourself experiencing them.

For the visual among us, here are the principles in graphic form.

Quieting your mind is important for mental health, including reducing stress and anxiety. With patience and practice, you can quiet your mind. Here's how.

 

One of the approaches to mental health and wellbeing that promotes the above principles is acceptance and commitment therapy.  With ACT, you define what’s important to you and learn how to accept what you can’t change while taking charge of creating a high-quality life. For a workbook that shows you how to quiet your mind and create your life worth living, check out Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps.

Using the five steps to quiet your mind will help you, over time, create inner peace and contentment. The stressors will remain, but you won’t become trapped in them.

 

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Aug 8

Enhance Your Emotional Health with a Bare Spot in a Garden

We can enhance our emotional health with a bare spot in a garden. Creating a bare spot helps shift perspective and appreciate beauty despite what’s around us.

 

Emotional health is an important component of our mental health and has to do with our subjective emotions like joy and sorrow, pride and shame, self-love and self-loathing, and more. While it’s true that emotions come and go, often striking us seemingly out of the blue, it’s also true that we are not powerless in the face of our feelings. While we might not entirely stop them, we can rise above negative emotions in order to live well in spite of them. One way to do so is by creating a bare spot in your garden.

A brief visualization exercise might be helpful here. Close your eyes and imagine a beautiful, lavish garden. What does it look like? What flowers or plants are present? Are there trees? Would you enjoy a pond, and if so, what is in it? How do you enjoy this garden? Are there comfortable benches or a swing within the garden or nearby? Perhaps there’s a winding path for walking meditation. Now become still and appreciate the beauty of this garden. As your eyes roam, your gaze falls on a patch of bare ground, dry and devoid of visible life.

Perspective and Emotional Health

As you continue to observe, where do you find your focus? Are you returning to the bare spot over and over again, are you seeing it while you’re looking at the beauty around it, or are you ignoring it and avoiding looking anywhere near it? Your response to the bare patch, a response you can learn to choose intentionally, is an important factor in your emotional health.

Our negative emotions are often responses to external events in our lives. We face stressors and problems on a daily basis. Some are chronic, such as toxic relationships, a hostile work environment, the effects of trauma, or caring for a loved one who is ill or disabled. Additionally, our negative emotions can be caused by internal factors such as mental illness or other mental health challenges.

Like everything in life, emotions are neither all good nor all bad. Just as there are negative emotions, there are positive ones, too. Some are a mix of both. Self-conscious emotions, those that deal with our feelings about ourselves, can be positive and motivating or negative and damaging. It’s actually not the emotions themselves but what we do about them that determine our emotional health.

The situations, whether external or internal, that cause unpleasant or life-disrupting emotions are the bare patches in the garden of life. Compared to everything else around them, they’re ugly. Barren. They seem to have nothing to offer. They ruin the garden. How can someone enjoy the garden of life and make it a garden worth being in when there are unsightly, dirty patches?

It’s a legitimate question that leads to some very important questions:

  • What is the rest of the garden like?
  • Is the bare patch truly capable of ruining the entire rest of the garden?
  • Does the spot make the nearby vegetation worthless?
  • Is the bare spot in control of what you see in the garden, or are you in control of your perspective?
  • Are you looking exclusively at the bare spot in the garden of your life?
  • Are you trying hard to avoid it but find yourself unwillingly focusing on it (because if you try not to think of X, you’re still thinking of X)?
  • Are you seeing the complete garden, all of it—flowers, bare spot, and all—and appreciating its beauty for what it is?

To Enhance Mental Health, Appreciate Beauty No Matter What Surrounds You

Reflecting on your complete garden allows you to appreciate real beauty, the wonderful flawed beauty that is life and people and gardens, and to develop the emotionally healthy perspective that allows you to see the good that exists despite the not-so-good. Appreciation of beauty, incidentally, is one of the character strengths that research in the field of positive psychology has shown to be a component of mental health and wellbeing.

I planted a small flower garden in my backyard, and I purposely left a bare spot as a reminder to check my perspective, appreciate beauty, and maintain emotional health and wellbeing. Negative and positive will always exist together. It’s how we see it that enhances our emotional health.

Consider planting a garden of your own. If you don’t have a place for a garden, you might buy plant and a flower pot that is bigger than necessary. You’ll have your own mini garden, complete with a bare spot, as a reminder of perspective and emotional health.

 

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Aug 1

Life, Mental Health are Balancing Acts

So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
                              —Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss certainly knew his stuff. Life—and mental health—are indeed a Great Balancing Act. Specifically, they’re about balancing doing with being.

The Act of Doing

Doing is the stuff of life. We must do in order to live. We rise in the morning and forge ahead into the day of relationships, chores, work, and a seemingly endless to-do list of random yet crucial tasks. This doing is action and is vital for life-living, mental health, and wellbeing. Some of the benefits doing include:

  • meeting your needs—securing food, water, shelter, love and belonging, financial resources, etc.
  • creating a sense of empowerment—I can do it!
  • providing a source of energy—I am doing it and I’m charged up to keep going
  • building self-confidence and self-efficacy—”I didn’t think I could, I didn’t have the energy, but I did it anyway.”

Yes, taking action is crucial for our mental health and wellbeing. Taking even small steps, doing little things, goes a long way toward the place you want to be.

Despite the fact that doing is vital, too much action (or feeling too much pressure to act) can be damaging to our mental health and wellbeing. Living our lives on a hamster wheel can lead to

  • increased stressed, which negatively impacts mind, body, and spirit
  • fatigue, which is caused by too much emphasis on doing as well as the accompanying sleep disruptions
  • anxiety—the sense that nothing is ever done, is ever good enough and that you should be constantly working in order to be worthy, accepted, secure, etc.
  • depression— too much doing can throw us, including out brain chemistry, out of balance and negatively impact our mental health so significantly that we develop depression.

The Balancing Act: Doing and Being

If too much doing does more harm than good, its seems logical that we should stop doing that. Logical, perhaps, but it’s not always easy. Have you ever noticed that when you want to stop doing something, it becomes difficult? That’s because there’s an important piece missing: replacement.

To reduce something isn’t enough. We have to replace it with something else in order to fill in the hole left when we stop something. Replacement brings balance to our lives. In this case, to nurture our mental health by reducing our habit of frantically doing, we need to reduce the amount of harried action we’re taking and replace it with the opposite of doing: being.

Our being is our nature, the core of our self. Being is existing. It’s honoring who we are and allowing ourselves to be in each moment. Being involves mindfulness, using all of your senses to be fully present in the moment. It involves slowing down when you’re feeling agitated and taking slow, deep breaths to calm yourself down. Being is discovering what you like and doing more of it. In a state of simply being, we don’t feel pressured to do.  Being benefits our wellbeing in numerous ways, such as

  • quelling self-doubt—when we honor and accept ourselves for who we are, we begin to believe in ourselves more and more
  • relaxation—when we allow ourselves to just exist without the pressure to constantly do, we can let go of stress and reduce tension
  • stress-relief—when we allow ourselves to just be, our thinking slows, our muscles relax, breathing becomes slower and deeper, and we feel centered rather than pulled frantically in multiple directions.
  • enjoyment—when we slow down and let ourselves exist without self-judgment and rules for what we “should” be doing, we free ourselves up to discover what brings us meaning and to pursue it wholeheartedly.

Too much of either one, of being and doing, isn’t desirable. In excess, both disrupt our mental health and wellbeing because of a lack of balance between the two. We need to be do-ers, and wee need to be beings. We need a balance of doing and being, of action and relaxation.

Doing and Being: A Balance Budget

Achieving a balance between doing and being can be easier said than done. It’s one thing to know that this balance is important and another thing altogether to create and maintain that balance. First, know that it’s a process. It takes time to figure out what your personal balance looks like. Then, the balancing act takes practice. These two tips can help you achieve the balance:

  • Make lists, draw pictures, cut out images, or otherwise represent all of the things you have to do/want to do and all of the ways you like to relax, enjoy, and be—this will help you what’s important to you in both categories
  • Create a budget. Give yourself a certain number of “units” to spend in the doing category and in the being category each day. Track your spending to ensure you’re maintaining the balance you desire.

Striking a balance between doing (going, going, constantly going) and being (allowing yourself to relax and resist) will help you attain and sustain mental health and wellbeing.

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jul 25

Talk about Mental Health in a New Way: Start a Book Club

 

Mental health book clubs allow us to talk about mental health in a new way. Explore the benefits of a mental health book club and get tips on starting one.

There’s much for us to gain by talking about mental health.

Globally, talking about mental health brings the topic of mental health and its challenges and disorders out of the dark shadows and into the sunlight. It can be seen and heard and felt. It can even be tasted: NAMI Seattle holds an annual Depressed Cake Shop (an event that began in the UK and is spreading around the planet), an event that raises both funds and awareness.

Individually, having mental health conversations legitimizes the fact that hey, we all face challenges—whether or not they’re diagnosable as a mental illness—and allows us to share experiences, feel normalized, and develop strategies for maintaining optimum mental health. How, though, does one easily and safely go about talking about mental health? Through a book club, of course.

I started a book club with my local NAMI chapter. In short, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is an organization that provides support and education for people living with mental illness and for family members/care givers of people living with mental illness. People whose lives have been touched by mental illness in some way can enhance their mental health and wellbeing through NAMI’s services.

Even in such a supportive environment, it can be difficult to talk about mental health when it’s so personal. The Wellbeing & Words Book Club, like all book clubs, offer a way to discuss tough issues in a safe way—through characters and setting and plot and storyline that is tucked safely between covers.

Books aren’t a way to hide, though; instead, they’re a way to express. They humanize the broad concept of mental illness. Books and their clubs spark open-ended questions and encourage exploration and discussion. Mental health books, both fiction and nonfiction, show what mental illness is like. They inspire hope of recovery.

In the Wellbeing and Words Book Club, participants naturally and comfortably share their own stories as they relate to the book. Books offer a safe platform on which to walk. Some participants prefer to discuss only the books themselves, and they can do so without the pressure to get personal. It is, after all, a book club rather than a support group. The support that happens comes naturally through the books themselves.

Interested in starting a mental health book club? These tips might be useful:

  • Find a local organization to host. Many organizations welcome new ideas and the chance to enhance the way they serve their communities.
  • Hate the idea of asking an organization to host? That’s okay! Start your own. Most general book clubs meet on their own, usually at someone’s house or a restaurant, and initially involve just a few friends or acquaintances.
  • Use Goodreads to develop a list of mental health books. You can search their lists for such books.
  • As you read, jot down topics that stand out to you and use those as starting points.
  • Focus on takeaways. What did each member gain from the book that he/she can use in daily life?

Perhaps I’m biased about the power of mental health books, as that’s what I write. I do so intentionally because books have the power to influence lives, to increase understanding, to develop empathy. Sharing books with others is a great way to talk about mental health in a new way.

 

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jul 18

How to Handle ANTs to Increase Mental Health and Wellbeing

Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs, can decrease mental health and wellbeing. Learn three ways to handle ANTs to enhance mental health, wellbeing.

Recently, in ANTs—Automatic Thoughts Can Ruin Your Picnic, I explored how ANTs can be pesky little creatures that get in the way of our living life fully. These automatic negative thoughts that pop into our minds in certain situations can cause great stress and anxiety. They can even intensify depression and aggravate other mental illnesses. We all have ANTs (they’re not exclusive to mental illness). Unfortunately, it’s natural for the human mind to get stuck in unhelpful thought patterns that drag us down. (Follow the above link to last week’s post to see a list of common ANTs.)

There are ways to deal with ANTs so they don’t ruin the proverbial picnic of your life. Here are three approaches whose effectiveness has been proven by research.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an approach to healing that focuses on our thoughts. A fundamental belief of CBT is that events, situations, and people aren’t problems; instead, our thoughts about those things are the problem. Therefore, if we change our thinking, we change our perception, interpretation, outlook, and overall happiness.

To get rid of the ANTs at our picnic, CBT has us identify our negative thoughts and then look for evidence to prove that the thoughts and beliefs are faulty. This approach is supported by research and is helpful for many people (nothing is helpful to everyone, which is why there are so many therapeutic healing approaches).

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an approach to mental health and wellbeing that doesn’t have people fighting with and focusing on their ANTs but instead has people shift their attention to their values, those things they hold dear, and actions they can take to create the reality they desire.

ACT allows people to define what it is that makes a great picnic and take specific measures to enjoy it. ACT acknowledges that life does contain ants (and helps us accept that fact), but we don’t have to let them ruin things for us.

Passions, Actions, & Relaxations

Another way to deal with ANTs, of getting them out of your picnic, is to be intentional about the picnic you create. We can’t create a perfect, ant-free picnic. Life contains problems and challenges, some small and some big. We do have negative thought patterns that of course we can identify and replace but not completely and permanently eradicate. By pursuing our passions, taking positive actions, and practicing self-care that relaxes and rejuvenates, we can turn our attention to things other than ants and ANTs.

To be passionate about books is a happy passion indeed. Books hold great value for our mental health and wellbeing. This infographic shows just seven of the many positive things books can do for our picnic.

Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs, can decrease mental health and wellbeing. Learn three ways to handle ANTs to enhance mental health, wellbeing.

Fill your picnic basket with good books, lie back, and enjoy getting lost in a book. It’s a great way to beat the ants and ANTs and enhance your mental health and wellbeing.

Listen to the July, 2017 Wellbeing & Words show to hear more! Scroll down to the picnic image.

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jul 11

ANTs—Automatic Negative Thoughts— Can Ruin Your Picnic

ANTs are automatic negative thoughts that pop into our mind. ANTs can ruin your picnic, your mental health and wellbeing. Learn more here.

Are ants trying to ruin your picnic? If you’re human, it’s quite likely that they are. Ants are pesky little critters that love picnics, and ANTs are pesky little (or big) thoughts that love our mind. No matter what kind of ant you are dealing with—the insects or the negative thoughts—you don’t have to let them ruin your picnic.

In the world of psychology, ANT is an acronym for automatic negative thoughts. These are thoughts that pop into our mind without us giving them much thought. From the moment we are born, we begin to take in the world around us. We see things happen, we watch the reactions of others, and we feel and become aware of our own responses and emotions. As we grow and develop, we form cognitive distortions, ways of thinking about ourselves and the world that are our own unique interpretations.

Here Come the ANTs

Think, for example, of two toddlers. Both are outside playing and exploring, and both stumble over a rock, falling to the ground and scraping a knee. Bewildered and a bit stunned, the children turn to the parents to gauge their reactions.

The parent of one child rushes up, very anxious and tense. This parent swoops up the child, frets and worries, points out the problematic scrapes, and tells the child that he should stay away from the rocky area and even sit down out of harm’s way. The child starts to cry, and he begins to learn that the world is dangerous and anxiety-provoking.

The parent of the other child approaches him calmly. The parent swoops him up playfully and assesses the boo-boo in an attentive but silly manner. The child giggles. Then, the parent suggests that they check out the rock. Finding that the rock is just fine, the parent and child move the rock out of the way. The child resumes playing. This child learns that he can fall and get scraped, but that things are still okay.

The first toddler is forming automatic negative thoughts about himself and the world, ANTs that could very well negatively impact his mental health and wellbeing. The second toddler, on the other hand, is also forming automatic thoughts. Some are negative (the rock, after all, was jarring, causing disruption and pain), and others are positive. As these children grow, countless incidents that occur every single day will shape their outlook.

It’s like this for all of us. We form automatic negative thoughts throughout life. ANTs are present, they bother the way we think about ourselves and the world, and they can block the actions we want to take.

ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) Are Specific

Because we come into the world assessing whether it’s safe and if we’re loved and cared for, and because we become worried and anxious when our basic needs aren’t met, we develop a negativity bias that influences our thoughts; thus, we form automatic negative thoughts. For decades, researchers have studied thinking patterns and have developed a list of automatic negative thoughts common to us all (people have these in varying degrees and intensities). In The Feeling Good Handbook (Burns, 1999), Dr. David Burns, lists 10 cognitive distortions, or ANTs:

  1. All-or-Nothing Thinking or Black-and-White Thinking (seeing things/people as either all good or all bad)
  2. Overgeneralization (seeing one event or situation as representative of your entire life)
  3. Mental Filter (dwelling on the negatives while ignoring the positives)
  4. Discounting the Positive (acknowledging something positive but dismissing it as insignificant)
  5. Jumping to Conclusions (mind reading—assuming others are thinking negatively of you—or forutne-telling—predicting that things will go poorly)
  6. Magnification/Minimization (blowing things out of proportion or reducing their significance)
  7. Emotional Reasoning (letting your feelings drive your thoughts; if you feel anxious, things must be scary/bad/worrisome)
  8. “Should” Statements (imposing rules on yourself, others, or the world)
  9. Labeling (using harsh labels to describe yourself)
  10. Personalization (unjustly blaming yourself or others for situations, circumstances, etc.)

These thoughts can intrude on the picnic of our lives. When we allow our negativity bias to have a welcome place on our picnic blanket, we make a nice, easy path for ANTs to rush in, multiply, and take over. They even burrow into the picnic basket and creep and crawl on all of the sweet stuff in our lives. Some of the ANTs, such as the ones that discount the positive, minimize the good, or magnify the ants-y picnic, make it seem like we can’t do a thing about our ant-infested life.

ANTs Don’t Have to Ruin Your Picnic—or Your Life!

The wonderful thing about automatic negative thoughts is that they are indeed distortions. Just because we have learned to think something doesn’t make it true. We really, truly don’t have to let ANTs ruin our picnic (because who wants to have an ant-infested picnic in the summer time, or any other time of year?). Next week, I’ll give you some tips for keeping ANTs out of your picnic and filling your picnic basket with things that enhance your mental health and wellbeing.

Source: Burns, D.D. (1999). The Feeling Good Handbook. NY: Plume.

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jul 5

Gain Mental Freedom, Embrace a Life of Wellbeing

Every year in early July, the United States celebrates Independence Day. Many nations joyfully observe their own independence at various times throughout the year. Regardless of where one lives, an independence day is a day that celebrates freedom from unwanted control. The significance of this day goes far deeper than the political realm and touches each and every one of us on a personal level of being.

To live well and embrace a life of wellbeing, we need to experience mental freedom. When we feel as though we are under the control of anxiety, depression, trauma, eating disorders, brain injury, toxic relationships, or so much more, we often feel caged. Our mental health and happiness suffer. Just as entire nations have broken free from unwanted control, so can we as individuals who want to live quality lives.

You can gain mental freedom from problems and challenges. Here are ways to achieve this freedom and experience wellbeing.

Breaking free from what is imprisoning us is a long-term lifestyle more than it is a quick fix. It’s a process of awakening, of increasing awareness of how we’re trapped and why we want out as well as what we want to do when we gain mental freedom.

It’s not dissimilar to an actual prison. If a prisoner desires freedom, he or she could attempt to break out. He’d have to fight against barriers and sneak around. If she were able to escape, chances are high that she would be caught and re-incarcerated. However, if he were to acknowledge why he was there, discover what wasn’t working for him, and visualize the life he wants when he’s free, he could plan steps to achieve true freedom. Once released, she wouldn’t return and would be truly free.

The right to be free from unwanted control (that anxiety, depression, etc.) is fundamental. These tips can help you break free to gain mental freedom.

How to Gain Mental Freedom and Wellbeing

Begin with a vision. Visualize what would make you free. What does mental freedom mean to you? Create a vision board, ongoing collage, journal, or anything else that allows you to represent your life away from unwanted control.

Build awareness and insight. You can’t gain freedom from something vague and undefined. It’s important to know what is trapping you. Fully admit to yourself why/how you feel trapped. Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and how these are affecting your actions. You  certainly don’t have to psychoanalyze yourself and dig deep into the roots of your challenges. You simply want to sharpen your awareness of what is keeping you mentally trapped.

Accept what you’ve discovered. Your thoughts and feelings are okay and are part of where you are right now. Like the prisoner who fought barriers and sneaked around in order to escape, if you fight where you are or hide who you are, you’ll be caught and wind up mentally trapped again and again. Allow yourself to be where you are now and put  your energy into moving forward through the mental door and into freedom. Acceptance and commitment therapy teaches people how it’s possible to be accepting of yourself and your life.

Return to your vision. Now you can go a bit deeper and make a plan for creating wellbeing and mental freedom. Reflect on important questions such as:

  • *  Where do you want to go when you are free from unwanted control? This can be a physical destination, a    career, a relationship, etc. What are your passions and your purpose?
  • *  How do you want do be? What kind of thoughts will you have? Feelings? How will you be in relationships?  How will your mental freedom impact how you respond to problems?

Executing Your Escape to Mental Freedom

Often, when we are trapped and controlled, it can seem impossible to take back a life of wellbeing and mental health. Even when you’ve done the above activities, it can be daunting to know how to actually begin to act. That’s normal and part of the mental trap.

An approach to mental health known as solution-focused therapy (or solution-focused brief therapy) gives us a useful tool for moving forward. This therapeutic approach uses scaling to help people feel less overwhelmed and more empowered to move forward.

What you do is consider how you are feeling in a given moment or think of a goal you want to achieve (something that makes you mentally free). Rate this on a scale from 1-10, with one representing the lowest point and 10 the highest. So, for example, if one of your quality-of-life goals is to wake up wanting to get out of bed, where on the scale are you? Then, determine how you can move up the scale just a bit. If you feel that you’re at a four in wanting to get out of bed (Congratulations! You’re not at a one.), what can you do to get to a five?  (See Five Solution-Focused Ways to Beat Anxiety on HealthyPlace for more on this approach.)

You can scale anything. It helps you assess where you are now and where you still want to go, and it helps make your own independence manageable. You can create small steps rather than being daunted by the big picture.

You can gain mental freedom from problems and challenges. Learn simple ways to achieve this freedom and experience wellbeing.

As you act, continue to think in terms of lifestyle and what mental freedom truly, deeply means to you. This will fuel the small actions you do every single day to create a quality life of wellbeing.

 You can gain mental freedom from problems and challenges. Learn simple ways to achieve this freedom and experience wellbeing.

 

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jun 27

Think Like a Business: Optimize Yourself with Personal SEO

 

Optimizing yourself is part of living life intentionally, of creating your own concept of a life worth living. Determining what makes a quality life and creating a path to get there is a process that in many ways is similar to what web developers call search engine optimization, or SEO. Think like a successful business person and enhance your own personal SEO.

In the business world, SEO is what allows websites to be discovered and helps businesses flourish. To be successful, most businesses need an online presence that includes a website optimized to find and be found by customers. As people who want to enhance our wellbeing, we’re not trying to attract customers. Our goal is different, but we can use some of the primary principles of SEO to optimize ourselves for mental health and wellbeing.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) enhances websites for businesses. We can use SEO principles to enhance our own mental health and wellbeing.

Personal SEO Development

  1. Know what you want, clearly and intentionally.

The first step in SEO for business happens even before the web developer touches the computer. A successful business person defines what he wants to accomplish, what “success” means to him. This business person can’t stop there. She has to have a method of creating success. It’s not enough for a business to create a goal and then sit and wait for it to materialize. Thus, the people behind the business create websites with great SEO so shoppers can find them.

As you begin to optimize yourself for mental health and wellbeing, become intentional about your goals. What, exactly, do you want for yourself and your life? How do you want to think? Feel? What do you want to do? How do you define a life worth living?

Once you know what you want, you are in a good position to optimize yourself to achieve it.

 

  1. What connections would you like to develop and enhance?

An important component for SEO is link building. When a website has other relevant websites linking to it, and when it links to other relevant websites, it becomes more visible. It’s ranking increases so that when someone searches for a topic that matches the business, the website is one of the first to appear in the long list of sites that pop up in a search engine.

If connections are important for websites, imagine how vital they are for human beings. We need relationships with each other to optimize our wellbeing. To be sure, this looks different for every one of us. Some of us are extroverted and are energized by gathering with other people, while others of us are introverted and are energized through solo time. Some people come from big families or live in large areas. Others are from smaller families or towns.  Some people deal with things like agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, or other mental illnesses that keep them secluded.

Personal SEO in the form of “link building” is about quality more than it is about quantity. Think of ways you can reach out to form one or more relationships with others. Consider volunteering in the foster care system, a nursing home, a humane society. Think of ways to strengthen connections you already have. Nurturing relationships is a great way to optimize your mental health and wellbeing.

 

  1. Know your keywords.

Keywords are important to SEO. These are simple words or phrases that are integral to whatever it is the website is about. They’re the words that people use when searching for a topic or product, and they drive the focus of the website.

Having personal keywords can be highly motivating, and they can keep us focused on what we want, thus shaping our actions. Think of your goals, then break them down into keywords. Often, taping the words where you can see them often or creating images to represent your personal keywords and having these images close by will keep you motivated. When you have easy reminders of your personal optimization, you’ll be equipped to make these keywords real.

 

  1. Be patient, consistent, and gentle with yourself, as SEO takes time to build.

Even the most skilled web developers can’t rocket a website to top ranking overnight. What a web developer does is put the elements of SEO in place for the business to build on. Business people have to do a lot of work to keep their website optimized. Businesses take steady and repeated action to maintain their SEO and grow it further.

That’s how it is with our mental health and wellbeing. We do things such as define goals, putting links in place for connection-building, and narrow our focus with keywords, motivational phrases to keep us on track. Once these are in place, we build on them, patiently and consistently, over time. Nurturing ourselves is a process. With patience and self-understanding, it’s an enjoyable one.

 
 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jun 20

Self-Compassion and You: A Guide to Turning Compassion Inward

I have a purpose in my life and in my writing: to share stories, information, and strategies so that we all may thrive despite problems and challenges and create our own version of a life worth living. I love meeting and collaborating with like-minded people, so I’m delighted to have discovered Inpathy—their services and their wellness blog The Inapthy Bulletin. I love the below article about self-compassion, something so important but for one reason or another so often neglected.

Enjoy learning a bit about Inpathy, and cherish the article that can make a positive difference for all of us.

Inpathy has a mission to increase access to psychiatry, mental and behavioral health services through telehealth. They help to make a difference in people’s lives by connecting them with licensed professional therapists, counselors and psychiatry providers. Online therapy sessions allow behavioral health providers to meet individuals where they are – at home, at work or in the community – making it both easier and more affordable to get needed care. Inpathy is a division of InSight, the leading national telepsychiatry service provider organization with nearly two decades of experience delivering online behavioral health care safely and securely.

Self-Compassion is a vital part of mental health, yet it is often hard to practice. Learn three tenets of self-compassion to help you turn compassion inward.

Self-Compassion and You: A Guide to Turning Compassion Inward

By: Jen Schiller for The Inpathy Bulletin

 

When we think about the word “compassion,” we often think about it in terms of others in our lives. Describing someone as compassionate usually means we consider them to be understanding of others, selfless and put the needs of the many before their own.

However, the concept of self-compassion is not often recognized or practiced. This concept means that we take those ideas listed above and turn them inward: understanding ourselves and responding in a kind and caring way.

THE THREE TENETS OF SELF-COMPASSION

According to Dr. Kristin Neff’s website on self-compassion, the concept is comprised of three elements: self-kindness versus self-judgement, common humanity versus isolation and mindfulness versus over-identification (Neff).

Self-kindness versus self-judgement is practiced by accepting that no one is perfect, and allowing yourself to make mistakes rather than punishing yourself when they inevitably happen. Self-compassion requires that we recognize our feelings of inadequacy rather than ignore them, and then treat ourselves kindly without dismissing those feelings.

Common humanity versus isolation ties in with self-kindness. This element means that when we do feel frustrated with our perceived shortcomings, we understand that we are not the only ones having these feelings–in fact they are a natural part of being human. “Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to ‘me’ alone” (Neff).

The final element is one often utilized in meditation: mindfulness versus over-identification. While we cannot ignore our feelings of inadequacy, we should also be careful not to let them define us. Mindfulness is a practice in which we acknowledge our feelings, but do not judge them as good or bad. We simply accept our feelings as a part of ourselves rather than trying to suppress or over-emphasize them.

Self-Compassion over Self-Esteem

In an article for Live Science, Robin Nixon compares self-compassion to another hot button topic: self-esteem. The rise in parenting tactics that include the proverbial participation award have had mixed results, some of the most extreme cases ending in fragility and narcissism later in life (Nixon). Because self-compassion allows you to make and acknowledge your mistakes, as well as recognizing that these mistakes are part of being human, you can learn and move forward as part of a larger community. By contrast, Nixon explains, “…self-esteem is a measure of yourself against others. In order to keep self-esteem high, you have to convince yourself you are better (or, preferably, the best), either by denying your faults and pains or by putting others down, and usually both [10 Most Destructive Human Behaviors]” (Nixon).

 Self-Compassion and Your Mental Health

Biologically speaking, “self-compassion deactivates the threat system (associated with feelings of insecure attachment, defensiveness and autonomic arousal) and activates the self-soothing system (associated with feelings of secure attachment, safety, and the oxytocin-opiate system)” (Neff, Dahm). In another experiment where subjects were given a brief self-compassion exercise, the result was lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that causes and heightens feelings of stress. The exercise also “…increased heart-rate variability, which is associated with a greater ability to self-soothe when stressed.” Ultimately, the subjects were both less stressed out and better equipped to deal with stress when it did arise.

A higher level of self-compassion then leads to less suffering and a lower propensity for depression and anxiety. One reason for this is the link between self-compassion and self-criticism; self-kindness and mindfulness allow us to disassociate from criticism while still acknowledging it as feedback about our performance. In their chapter on self-compassion from the book Mindfulness and Self-Regulation, Dr. Kristin Neff and Katie Dahm detail an experiment that showed this correlation in a practical way. “In a study by Neff, Kirkpatrick and Rude (2007), participants were given a mock job interview in which they were asked to ‘describe their greatest weakness.’ Even though self-compassionate people used as many negative self-descriptors as those low in self-compassion when describing their weaknesses, they were less likely to experience anxiety as a result of the task” (Neff, Dahm). The subjects of the study with higher self-compassion also used more “we” pronouns rather than the isolating “I,” connecting them to a human experience and accepting their shortcomings as part of that experience. This understanding mental health struggles as universal rather than unique leads to a higher likelihood of treatment, as there is less shame to admitting that we need additional help dealing with an illness.

How to Cultivate Self-Compassion

For many of us, self-compassion is a new idea and will take changes big and small to build up. One practice that cultivates this skill is mindfulness; an element of meditation as well as an element of self-compassion, which requires that you stay in the moment in a non-judgmental way. You can and should recognize any distracting thoughts or feelings, using a method called ‘noting,’ where you choose a keyword to say to yourself or out loud during your mindfulness practice. This is something many guided meditations already incorporate.

In her article “Cultivating Self-Compassion” for PsychCentralMargarita Tartakovsky, M.S. offers several exercises for building self-compassion. These include offering ourselves healing touches or hugs, and reframing our thoughts about our own shortcomings to better accept and understand them as part of ourselves (Tartakovsky). You can keep track of these activities in a journal, a note-taking app on your phone, or simply start practicing them more often.

In her article for Mindful, Carley Hauck also suggests we get used to spending comfortable time alone. This can and should look different for everyone, but the common denominator is allowing ourselves the freedom to do what we want. Hauck explains: “I pick a day, or even a night…and I just slow down. I don’t schedule anything and I just let myself see what I want to do. Sometimes I read a book, write, spend hours in nature, eat exactly what I want and I am craving (and savor it!)” (Hauck).

Ultimately, self-compassion can be cultivated in many different ways and certainly should be unique to each person. One of the best possible results of better self-compassion can be a heightened sense of creativity Nixon explains:

“Presumably because they are not afraid of being mentally taken through the ringer, researchers also think self-compassionate people…have more courage and [are] more motivated to persevere. Those with self-compassion may even open access to higher levels of creative thinking, suggests one 2010 study in the Creativity Research Journal” (Nixon).

How will you treat yourself with more compassion and understanding? Check out our article on mindfulness and meditation apps to get started.

REFERENCES

Hauck, Carley. “How to Choose Self-Compassion.” Mindful. N.p., 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://www.mindful.org/how-to-choose-self-compassion/>.

Neff, Kristin, and Katie Dahm. Self Compassion Online (n.d.): n. pag. Self-Compassion: What It Is, What It Does, and How It Relates to Mindfulness. Mindfulness and Self – Regulation. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/publications/Mindfulness_and_SC_chapter_in_press.pdf>.

Neff, Kristin. “Definition of Self-Compassion.” Self-Compassion. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/#definition>.

Nixon, Robin. “Self-Compassion: The Most Important Life Skill?” LiveScience. Purch, 15 May 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://www.livescience.com/14165-parenting-compassion-life-skills.html>.

Tartakovsky, Margarita. “Cultivating Self-Compassion.” World of Psychology. Psych Central, 22 June 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/06/22/cultivating-self-compassion/>.

 

ABOUT JEN SCHILLER

About Jen SchillerJen Schiller is a communications professional in Washington DC. She has a Masters in Theatre and a Bachelors in creative writing. She writes for numerous online publications including sub-cultured.com.

 

 

 

 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share
Jun 13

Visualization, Wellness, and Hubba

Visualization enhances wellbeing. Hubba enhances wellbeing too. Hubba's health and wellness community joins influencers and brands for success, wellness.

Are you an influencer in your field, a field such as health and wellness? Imagine Hubba. Do you represent a brand? Imagine Hubba. Are you a retailer? Imagine Hubba. And hey, are you a curious consumer wanting to simply explore (but not immediately shop for) new products and information? Imagine Hubba.

Visualization: A Powerful Tool to Enhance Wellbeing

To imagine Hubba, and determine just what it is we’re imagining, let’s engage in a visualization expercise. Visualization is a simple (but not always easy) technique for reducing anxiety, stress, tension, and the negative effects of a great many mental health disorders. As such, this practice is an excellent tool for enhancing mental health and wellbeing.

Visualization allows us to imagine something, such as a place of calm, peace, and happiness, without having to physically go there. With visualization, we call to mind an image of a place, a person, a shape, a color, an object, an action, or a goal. As we do this, we engage in deep breathing in order to foster mindfulness, focus our thoughts, reduce blood pressure, and influence the brain (such as changing brain waves and impacting production of neurotransmitters). Visualization as a regular practice has been shown to help improve mental health as well as help people achieve tangible goals.

Without further ado, let’s engage in a visualization exercise to imagine Hubba.

Close your eyes and take several slow, deep, breaths. Call to mind images of health, wellness, and vitality. You have access to people and products that will help you create a quality life, your version of a life worth living. You can connect directly with people who are experts in their field of wellness and health. You can meet influencers in the field, brands that are exciting and prominent, and products that help you achieve your wellness goals. Retailers, brands, influencers, and others interested in the cutting edge of health and wellness join in a joyous, figurative dance to build each other up. In this positive community, you naturally increases your success and wealth. You belong to a strong, positive community of influencers, retailers, and brands that all work together to enhance wellbeing.

Why I’m a Hubba Influencer

Hubba is this place of connection, community, and commerce. Hubba brings together top people and companies in a given field (Hubba has many communities, including health and wellness). It’s a place of growth and prosperity, and one where everyone benefits.

I’m thrilled to have been recently invited to join the Hubba community as an influencer in the field of wellness and health. You’ll find my badge, which serves as a link, in the sidebar.

While my books are included as health and wellness books, my main role on Hubba is to offer my influence and expertise to health and wellness brands and retailers. I write articles and maintain regular blogs about wellness. I research to enhance my professional and personal knowledge and experience, and I will write truthfully about how your brand and products improve people’s quality of life.

Imagine Hubba. It’s a community and a place to build meaningful connections. I’m happy to be a part of Hubba’s health and wellness community to join together to create success, prosperity, and lives worth living.

 
 

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words

Share