Every day, every event, every moment leaves an imprint on us. This explains why we are constantly experiencing changes to our thoughts, moods, and emotions. Sometimes we feel really connected to friends and family; other times, we feel somehow separate or lonely. Sometimes we have so much energy and optimism that it feels like we can do anything! Again, other times, we might feel inexplicably tired, unmotivated, and daunted by the future.
For many, the quality and state of the mind is something that goes unnoticed or pushed into the background, as attention is focused on work, social obligations, and other external demands. Most people wait until the moment of breakdown to address their psychological needs, but by this time they are already overwhelmed, burned out, and deep into psychological debt that requires intensive treatment for recovery.
How much of your days are characterized by feeling bogged down, unfocused, or unmotivated? These feelings signal the need for greater attention and commitment to your own psychological wellbeing. In the same way that we brush our teeth, wash our hands, and bathe regularly, we must take daily actions to protect our cognitive and emotional health, to prevent the onset of illness and disease. Below are some ways that you can create habits to maintain your optimal “psychological hygiene.”
· Meditation as daily psychological maintenance. Meditation and mindfulness have created such a buzz in the wellness world – for good reason. The body of research on the benefits of meditation is vastly growing. Yet, some people may be intimidated by how to start a meditation practice. Good news: there are ways to make it simple and accessible to all! Developing your own meditation practice can be a matter of setting aside just 5-10 minutes everyday to close your eyes and tune in to how you are feeling in your body, heart (emotions), and mind. Now more than ever, we receive so much (too much) information from the world around us, the majority of us are in a state of constant stimulation. It is so important to stay aware of what is going on inside of your own body and mind. In doing so, you just might be able to identify early signs of mental and emotional imbalances before they cascade into something more serious and detrimental. The research shows that even brief training in meditation can significantly decrease symptoms of stress and negative mood . If you are ready to start your own meditation practice, please don’t hesitate to ask for guidance, as it might just be the catalyst to long lasting mental and psychological wellbeing.
To book a private one-hour meditation training session with me, click HERE.
· Be mindful of the information you consume: Of course, we all want to stay aware and informed on current events, relevant to social trends, and connected to the people that we love. However, there is such a thing as too much information! We are bombarded with information via the internet, smartphones, and televisions. Much of the information that we happen to stumble on via the internet, is determined by computer algorithms. Computers may learn a lot about us, but they do not have the quality of skillful awareness and sensitivity to our psychological needs that we can develop about ourselves. We are often exposed to information that is absolutely damaging to our sense of wellbeing: unrealistic idealized images of people living seemingly perfect lives, traumatizing images of natural disasters or war , or even communication demands from friends, family, work contacts at a time when we are already overwhelmed. Studies find that exposure to unrealistic, idealized images can increase negative mood and body dissatisfaction . Furthermore, while information can be a helpful tool, chronic information overload can damage psychological wellbeing in the long run . The reality is that some information isn't useful at all, and its sole purpose might be to get an emotional reaction from you. Some types of information can be downright toxic to our wellbeing. So, give yourself quiet hours (maybe even days) away to rest and reset your senses. When you start to notice that certain types of communication or information are seriously harming your sense of wellbeing, grant yourself permission to shut them off and make a conscious decision about what kinds of information you would like to allow yourself to consume.
· Choose your words wisely. Words can have a powerful impact in shaping our sense of self and perception of the world around us. Much of my work with my private clients focuses on analyzing and changing personal narratives, and this does create some powerful results! Research on personal narratives demonstrates that people who can rethink painful events in their past in terms of redemption tend to report greater mental health and well-being . What does this mean? The stories that we tell ourselves, how we choose to talk about our lives, can either empower us or hold us back. So, choose your words wisely. Stop being overly critical and unkind to yourself and start using some more empowering language whenever you can. Even when you are going through challenging times, be mindful of the way you talk about your life. Whenever possible, try to think of your life story in a way that makes you more resilient.
· Choose your environment wisely. It turns out monkeys are not the only animals that mimic each other: humans do it too, and most of the time it is entirely unconscious ! That’s why it is so vital to choose your social and psychological environment wisely. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, uplift you, and embody the qualities you wish to learn. Social support is powerful medicine [7,8] – so why not build yourself a power-packed tribe?
Speaking of Community, I will soon be organizing a group meeting for folks to gather and share their stories and goals. This will be a place to meet like-minded community members and create a culture of authenticity in the pursuit of wellness.
If you are in the San Diego area and you would like to take part, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Community. Please include your name and contact information and I will send you an invitation to join our group!
1. Lane, J. D., Seskevich, J. E., & Pieper, C. F. (2007). Brief meditation training can improve perceived stress and negative mood. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 13, 38.
2. Holman, E. A., Garfin, D. R., & Silver, R. C. (2014). Media’s role in broadcasting acute stress following the Boston Marathon bombings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111, 93-98.
3. Tiggemann, M., & McGill, B. (2004). The role of social comparison in the effect of magazine advertisements on women's mood and body dissatisfaction. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23, 23-44.
4. Stokols, D., Misra, S., Runnerstrom, M. G., & Hipp, J. A. (2009). Psychology in an age of ecological crisis: From personal angst to collective action. American Psychologist, 64, 181.
5. McAdams, D. P., & McLean, K. C. (2013). Narrative identity. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 233-238.
6. Chartrand, T. L., & Bargh, J. A. (1999). The chameleon effect: the perception–behavior link and social interaction. Journal of personality and social psychology, 76, 893.
7. Eisenberger, N. I., Taylor, S. E., Gable, S. L., Hilmert, C. J., & Lieberman, M. D. (2007). Neural pathways link social support to attenuated neuroendocrine stress responses. Neuroimage, 35, 1601-1612.
8. Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological bulletin, 98, 310.