On Mental Health: Social, Emotional, and Environmental Factors (the "External").
by Live Better
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you're new to the newsletter, last week we started to talk about the "elements" of mental health (a non-exhaustive model), which are:
While all of these elements contain both external AND internal factors of influence for mental health, we'll choose to break them up fo discussion purposes.
This week we'll be discussing the three (heavily weighted) "external" factors of mental health: Social, Emotional, and Environmental. We often derive "happiness", joy, self-worth, and other important indicators of mental health from other sources (like places, things, and people in general). We'll go through each one of the three below, and offer an easy suggestion to improve in each area.
Has it ever been more important in today's day and age to surround yourself with people that lift you up? In a 24-hour news cycle of negative $#*T, it's a wonder we don't all think every day is the "worst day ever." I don't remember the last time I read something on the front page or watched evening news and saw something that elated me.
You are truly "the average of the five people you spend the most time with", whether that's in person or people you consume information from.
Social health is so much about our relationships (quality > quantity...looking at you Instagram follower counter).
For May, prioritize the relationships you want to serve. This may seem shallow, but you're likely placing too much time in the hands and heart of someone who doesn't deserve that share of attention. Create a list (like the one below), and create a daily action item for serving that relationship.
For reference, ours are:
1) Wife (spouse)
3) Work (key projects)
Action item for spouse: "I will plan 6 dates in May (make Google Calendar invite...to myself...to mark its place), plan one day to volunteer together, and spend each Sunday evening at 7:00pm catching up about our week."
Without detail (date, time, commitment), you will re-prioritize work or the like and it will derail the amount of time you want to spend on that relationship.
Food for thought: Are your top relationships the ones you take most for granted? Isn't it often that we take out our emotion, both good and bad, on the people closest to us?
It's time to take a review of the people in our lives, how we spend time and energy with them, and how often. It plays a key role in our Mental Health.
The trickiest and most fickle element of Mental Health. Why? Because emotions are fleeting. Like a storm, it's raining one moment and sunny the next (hello depression...). It's "I cannot WAIT for tomorrow!" one moment and "Damn, I'm really nervous about tomorrow's..." the next (hello anxiety).
Sure, internal sources affect our emotions greatly. We choose to tell ourselves the story, often the one we want to hear to make us feel better (even if it's not true), which sways our mood.
Let's choose to take the easiest route to uplift our mood in May. Emotions can be interpreted in different ways. For example, are those "butterflies in your stomach" or does it feel more like "a pit in the bottom of your stomach?" The interpretation of an emotion (and its associated physical sensation) is just that; an interpretation. "Butterflies" are often thought of as positive, such as with falling in love. "Nervous pit"...not so much, such as with potentially missing the game winning field goal.
In May, choose to be positive instead of negative. We'll start by NOT COMPLAINING. Complaining is a choice. It's the choice between half empty and half full. It's word vomit that infects and covers everyone around you, and it's 100% avoidable (though it's extremely difficult if you're a chronic abuser of your word choices).
Food for thought: Meditation creates better emotional control. Emotions drive decisions (not logic), so learn to control emotion and you inherently make better decisions (especially in a heated environment - cool heads prevail).
Besides surrounding yourself with amazing people, your physical surrounding itself is a huge determining factor in your headspace.
Cluttered desk? Cluttered headspace. Stuff strewn around your bedroom? Hard to fall asleep.
The big city energy helps us feel more connected and keeps our drive alive. The mountains help us realize nature's size and scope in comparison to how little we really are. The ocean helps us realize nature's depth; we're only surface level at this point.
In May, designate specific areas (or locations) for activities. For instance, the bed has two activities. Sleep and love. The couch is for reading and watching TV. The kitchen table is for eating (only!). The coffee shop on the corner or the office is for working.
Make this list granular (hint: it will help prime your brain to get in work/creative/musical/relax mode). This is especially important for people that work from home or entrepreneurs that work from several places. Don't confuse your brain by working in bed; you'll simply fall asleep.
Find places that stimulate you. Find places that relax you. Find places that help you feel connected. This is using your environment to your Mental Health advantage.
Food for thought: Why is it that we choose to vacation to beautiful places? Because they help us relax. What if we created our own "oasis" inside our house? It's only used for one purpose, and that's to "vacation" outside our daily life (without having to sit in 32B).
We're so excited to continue this journey throughout May to de-stigmatize talking about Mental Health. Story you want to share or question you want to ask? Follow along on Instagram, tag @livebetterco and comment below.