The old adage, that health is your greatest possession is well understood by Natural Health communities like our own. We understand the importance of finding balance in the body, however this must extend to our minds in order to fully realise a holistic sense of wellbeing. After all, our mindset dictates our experience of life, and so perhaps it is the most important aspect of our health. In our busy millennial lives it’s very easy to continually distract ourselves and not take care of our minds. So, it should come as no surprise that most people struggle with anxiety, depression and other mental illness at some point in their lifetime.
The tools to balance your mind and enjoy a sense of inner calm are available, and in abundance. It simply takes an inquisitive nature to seek a remedy that is alternative to big pharma. I think that at the root of this dis-ease of the mind is our collective discomfort in dealing with tough situations. Men in particular don’t enjoy the same sort of social permission that I have, as a woman, to cry, be in touch with my feelings and ask for help from loving friends and family. In my observation of the men in my life, I can see that it can be much more difficult for them to express themselves emotionally.
Meditation: Green Juice for the Mind
For me personally, I have struggled with anxiety for the last few years. But, it has only been in the last year that I have begun to explore methods to decrease my panic attacks and find better emotional stability. One of those techniques was meditation.
Meditation has been something that I have been curious about ever since I heard about it in my late teens, I just didn’t have any idea how to do it. Like most people I knew the basics of sitting still, closing my eyes and breathing slowly and deeply, but that was about it. I didn’t understand how to quiet my mind and so this year I decided to use an app called Headspace, to help me along my journey. It teaches you how to meditate during 10 minute daily sessions. I’m now about three months in and am impressed with the results I am noticing in my emotional self.
One of the most helpful analogies that I have learnt has been about perceiving your mind to be a blue sky. Thoughts and feeling are clouds that simply pass over it. Some of the clouds are cute and fluffy, some are dark and formidable and create a thunderstorm when they all gather together, but they are all just clouds. I like this metaphor as it enables me to create a sense of distance between myself and my thoughts. This distance in turn makes it easier to recognise unhappy thoughts and emotions, see them for what they are and make an effort to simply let them pass on by. It may seem simple, but it has created a profound change in my emotional wellbeing.
Writing this post has brought to mind many pithy quotes like, ‘the most important work you will ever do is the work you do on yourself’ and, ‘it’s not what you are that holds you back, but what you think you are not’. I suppose quotes like these are clichéd for a reason, as they contain grains of truth. I think that many of us put off doing work on our inner selves because we don’t know where to begin or even what we want to achieve. Everyone seems to have abstract goals like being happier, but in my opinion you can only sustain happiness when you make a conscious effort to make each area of your life more harmonious.
As part of my emotional journey this year I have spent a lot of time reflecting, which has been good in many ways, provided I don’t get too invested in the past. During these times of reflection I have traced much of the negative self-talk back to their roots during my early teenage years. I was a very happy child, I had an enduring sense of joy and on occasion would exclaim aloud just how much I loved my life. However, during my early teenage years I became obsessed with magazines. I bought every copy of ‘Dolly’ and ‘Girlfriend’, stacked them in my room and poured over their pages. That’s where I learned just how unruly my hair was, and how little my pre-adolescent body measured up to the beauties who adorned each page. My diary entries changed their tune from happy accounts of my adventures to lists of all the items that were ‘must haves’. Over the years this evolved to how much, or little, I should weigh and the magazines morphed into thinspiration blogs.
I suppose the most damaging part of spending time on magazines and blogs of that sort is how they impact your subconscious mind. What I realise now is that I took on beliefs about myself that were inherently negative. Like many girls all around the world, I adopted a set of expectations of what I had to be. I formed the habit of comparing myself to other women, which is a road to unhappiness. I’ve since learned that having an attitude like this robs you of celebrating individuals (including yourself) for who they are.
As I have intuitively moved towards eating a vegan diet, which is naturally healthier than the omnivorous alternative, I am also moving towards a more positive mindset. I have learned to use tools like meditation and affirmations to reprogram my subconscious mind to form beliefs which yield much more positive results than previous ones.
I hope that in this new year, you can also develop habits that bring more peace and joy to you.