Keeping Your Brain Strong
Other people and external circumstances are not the only factors in our mental wellness–how do we impact our own well-being?
Let’s start with how impacting others also impacts ourselves. Sharing our talents may positively impact our mental health.
Poet Brendan BeHan writes:
If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible.
Don't hoard it.
Don't dole it out like a miser.
Spend it lavishly like a millionaire intent on going broke.
Gallup research reports those who regularly use their talents, in work or in helping others:
- improved their own health and wellness
- experienced less worry, stress, anger, sadness and physical pain
- boosted their positive emotions
- had more energy to face the day
- and had a higher engagement level
So, find as many ways as possible to share your talents with others–but still keep in mind your own wellness and protecting yourself from burnout and being stretched too thin. Set boundaries while spreading your impact. According to Web MD, establishing boundaries is good for you and the people around you. When you’re clear about your boundaries, people will understand your limits and know what you are and aren’t OK with.
The people who don’t respect your boundaries are ones you may not want in your life.
Set limits on your schedule. Don't say yes to things you really want to say no to.
Learn to say:
- “I won’t be able to make it,
- “Thank you, I’m not able to take that on right now.”
- “Thanks for thinking of me, but I have to say no.”
- "I can't do that."
When we set these boundaries with others and have much-needed time for ourselves, remembering to spend that time in a positive way is important. It’s easy to get caught up in negative self-talk, but one way to improve your mental health is to talk to yourself rather than listen to yourself. Too often we listen to ourselves and hear complaints, self-doubt, fear, and negativity.
This negative self-talk is rooted in unrealistic and untrue views of yourself. It ignores the good and your power to make a difference. Instead of listening to the negative words, replace them with empowering words, thoughts, phrases, scripture, and beliefs that give you the strength and encouragement to overcome your challenges.
Forgive yourself for any mistakes you have made; remind yourself that every day you are a new person and let go of the past.
A great way to refocus your brain from unhealthy self-talk is to seek out things that interest you and learn! Research shows that learning throughout life is associated with greater satisfaction, optimism, and improved ability to get the most from life. People who carry on learning after childhood report higher wellbeing, and a greater ability to cope with stress. They also report more feelings of self-esteem, hope, and purpose.
Learning can be done alone or can involve interacting with other people, which can increase your wellbeing by helping build and strengthen social relationships.
So give it a try:
- learn something new
- visit an art museum
- take a class on a hobby you are interested in
- tackle a DIY project
- read a book
Something like reading can be a strong coping tool.
It is like taking your brain to the gym. It works out all of those important muscles that are needed to help you be at your best mentally. Reading fiction allows your imagination to become more engaged and you can connect emotionally to characters and reflect your own feelings, problems, and desires as you read.
Find a topic you love, and start reading.
-Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCCS, Executive Director