January is drawing to a close, days are getting longer and the sun is paying us more visits. But, as we all know, whether we’re talking about the actual weather or the bipolar kind, this is the trickiest time of the year, when you feel like spring is here and begin to relax, only to be hit with a mid-March snow storm. So in the next couple of months, I believe self care is more important than ever.
On that note, I have had it up to here with the pseudo-helpful health influencers that permeates social media, oozing of toxic positivity and pushing super expensive products on vulnerable people who just want to live a healthier and happier life. And really, it doesn’t have to be so bloody complicated as these people will have you believe. I say this completely without judgement for anyone who’s ordered a bunch stuff or paid for app subscriptions, because I’ve stepped into these traps myself countless of times. Only this morning, I was one click away from ordering a bullet blender I can’t afford, just so I can make breakfast smoothies which I probably won’t drink.
Instead, I ate a banana and went for a short run in the park. Short being the operate word, as I am extremely unfit at the moment. But, after making sure I wasn’t about to cough up my lungs or vomit blood, I felt really good. I walked back home at a leisurely pace, enjoying the rare sunlight and marvelling at the massive difference in my energy and mood, after only fifteen minutes of sluggish jogging.
And that got me thinking about writing a blog post like this.
So here it is.
Lifestyle Hacks for a healthy, happy and mentally stable life:
- Make rainbow meals
- Drink water
That’s it. No diet powder smoothies or programmes, no detoxing, no juice fasting, no calorie counting, no super foods. It’s all super food, if it’s unprocessed and you have more than a two or three colours on your plate. If you want to combine your healthy diet with a mindfulness hack: grow your own vegetables or, if you live in the city with no access to a garden, grow herbs and microgreens on a window sill, the whole process is therapeutic and you’ll enjoy eating them more if you’ve grown them from seeds yourself.
- Do it
Yeah, I know. We all know this and we all wish we didn’t. But the truth is, unless you’ve got some specific workout goal like running a certain distance at a certain time, lifting a certain number of kilos or looking a certain way, it doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do. In terms of mental health, you just need to move your body and get your heart rate up, as regularly as possible. And actually, I find that when I think of my exercise routine as ”clearing my head” or ”de-stressing” or something to do with my mind rather than my fitness, I tend to find it easier to get started, to keep going, to get into a routine and to get to a point where I see an actual improvement in my physical health and fitness, as well. Whereas, the times where I’ve started, or attempted to start, a workout routine because ”I’m so unfit/weak/flabby/etc” it never works.
- Create one that works for you
- Stick to it as much as possible
- Really is important, especially when you feel like you don’t need it.
Spirituality/mindfulness/peace of mind, I have controversially lumped these together as the same thing, and I can’t give you a quick list for it either, because it’s so individual in terms of what works and what your background and beliefs are. I myself was raised completely without religion, so what works for me (for example: a nature walk or lighting a candle) might not work for you. If you’re a very spiritual person, meditation or prayer might have the exact same effect on you, as sitting by the sea will have on me. But the point is, it doesn’t matter as long as it works for you and genuinely gives you that peace of mind. It can be prayer, gardening, chanting, crystals, candle-lit bubble baths or painting with watercolours, it doesn’t matter. But if you find some kind of ritual or routine that gives you that stillness in your mind, then that is something you’ll want to incorporate into your daily or weekly routine.
Finally, and this is specifically directed to those of us living with a mental illness, I want to reiterate: Knowledge is power.
If I had to pick one thing, one single coping strategy or hack that has saved my life, to pass on to someone who’s recently been (or are in the process of being) diagosed, it is this: Do your own research.
Read any and every thing that’s ever been written about your condition. Find and watch the documentaries. Find and join the peer support communities. Sponge up all the available information that is out there, whether it’s scientific or anecdotal, it really doesn’t matter because you’re not writing an essay, you’re arming yourself with knowledge; some of it will be irrelevant, some of it will be interesting, and some of it will save your life. You need to sift through it all to find the stuff that is helpful to you, but also: you need to affirm to yourself that you are in control of your own recovery and/or well-being.
That’s not to say that you won’t need a lot help from a lot of people, some of them mental health professionals most likely, but it is essential for your recovery that you take a vested interest in it and remind yourself, especially when you feel yourself spinning out of control of your own mind, feelings and life, that you can be in control of your own recovery process.
If you don’t have the physical, mental or emotional strength or capacity to process a lot of information right now (and believe me, I know exactly what that’s like: Hello Brain Fog, thanks for stopping by and making it impossible to get through one single paragraph of a job post, right when I am in desperate need of a job!), here’s a simple but good place to start:
(That’s the cognitive triangle which is the basis for CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy)