The stigma of mental illness breaking down and becoming much more ‘socially acceptable’ to talk about, and I could not be happier about that. Having open and honest communication about our thoughts and feelings is so important, not just for ourselves but for every relationship we have. It allows the people who are dealing with mental health issues themselves, as well as their family members and friends to be better equipped in understanding and supporting the people in their lives that struggle with mental health.
Mental health is something I have struggled with for the majority of my life. I was diagnosed with both anxiety and depression at a very young age (around 13 years old) and was put on medication for it just a few years later. I tried multiple different medications over the years and ended up finding one that really, truly helped me; Not just by helping the symptoms of my depression, but it was the first time in my life the ‘cloud’ of depression lifted. I was able to see how down I really had been. It was like I had to climb my way out of a hole to see how deep down I had been digging. It allowed me to gain perspective on my entire world; I realized that I didn’t have to feel hopeless everyday. In that way, the depression medication really helped me at a time in my life when I couldn’t imagine anything making me feel okay.
THEN when I was 19, I met the love of my life. I won’t get into that in this post, but it is one of those almost gag-worthy, romantic fairy tales that seems too good to be true… and only gets better and better.
But I will stop swooning…
Let me just say, despite me having a completely biased opinion, I love the way my husband’s brain works. The way he thinks, the way he perceives the world, is something I strive for every single day.
Oh man, I’m swooning again…
He is just so ‘zen’. My sister actually refers to him as Morpheus because he has a way of interpreting and explaining situations and ideas in a way that I’ve never seen anyone able to do. We have and always have had a very open communication with each other – which I believe is one of the most important aspects to maintaining a healthy relationship.
I had always been a very private person, which allowed both my anxiety and depression to intensify and debilitate me for years, without people even being aware there was anything going on. But as soon as he came into my life, and I was able to openly communicate everything with him, I started noticing positive changes almost immediately. With every conversation we had about something I was thinking or feeling (or obsessing over, or worrying about, or dwelling on), a weight was lifted. He gave me a completely new perspective on EVERYTHING and it has truly been life changing. And, as an added bonus, it allowed me to come off both my anxiety and depression medications successfully. I am happy to say that I have been off those meds for almost 10 years now.
Am I still swooning? I promise there is a point to all of this.
The point is, he introduced me to some concepts that have made a huge difference in my life, and will separate it into 2 parts:
You are in control of your own mind.
All that there is, and ever will be, is NOW.
They are very simple concepts in theory, but much harder in practice (or are they….?)
There are obviously certain aspects in life that you cannot control, but one thing you CAN control is your own mind.
If someone says something hurtful, and you become upset about it, you have chosen to be upset. You have chosen how you want to react. The other person cannot force this, and has literally no control over your thoughts and feelings. Your thoughts and feelings are that – yours! So next time you catch yourself reacting negatively to something someone said, STOP yourself and ask why you are choosing to waste precious seconds of your life feeling negatively based on the words / actions of someone else?
Which brings me to the next point:
The only thing that is real, and happening…is NOW.
and…..see where I’m going with this?
The only thing we can control is NOW – the present moment.
Because once the moment has passed, it is exactly that – PAST. You no longer have any control over it; You cannot change it in any way.
What does this mean? It means no matter how many seconds, minutes, weeks, years you spend dwelling on something that has already happened, it is not going to change it. NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT! Which means you are just wasting moments worrying about something that you cannot change, when you could be doing something positive for yourself or others around you.
I know you’ve probably heard this before… maybe in an expression like ‘the past is the past’ or the ‘past is history’ or ‘what’s done is done’. These all sound very cliché, but they are also just stating an obvious fact. If you really think about the concept, it seems insane, right? Why would we waste precious time dwelling on things that we literally have no control over. It can actually be quite detrimental to your mental and physical health, and is often the root of depression for many people.
As for anxiety, it is the same concept, except instead of dwelling on the past, you are worrying about the future. You are worrying about a possible future that does not exist yet (because the only thing that exists is right NOW). And, like the past, you have absolutely no control over the future. For example, the amount of time you spend worrying about getting in a car accident will not make it any more or less likely to happen.
When you find yourself worrying about a possible future moment, or event, or anything… instead, try to rework your thought into what you can do RIGHT NOW. Remind yourself that time spent worrying has no effect on future possibilities. All you are doing is wasting your moments NOW when you could be doing something entirely different and healthier for your life.
I know this immediately sounds like one of those ‘easier said than done’ type things, and if this is what you are thinking, I am inclined to agree with you. But, it is only harder because we make it hard and because we are not giving our brains enough credit. We are so used to this mindless loop of negative thoughts and worries that it is second nature, and doing anything else seems foreign. But fret not, because just being aware of it makes it easier.
I think it is important to note that no matter how small or big the thing you are dwelling on is, it is not worth wasting time on. Here are some examples of ‘trivial’ things that are common worries or fears, that aren’t worth a single second of your time (and my attempt to show you ways to redirect these thoughts)
Did I say the right thing?
It doesn’t matter. You cannot change what was already said, and wasting time thinking about ways you could have said it differently will still not change what was said.
The first time a thought like this enters your mind, if you truly were an @sshole and said something you didn’t mean, acknowledge that, apologize for your behaviour and move on!
If you cannot let it go and really think you said something you didn't mean, then fix it NOW. Apologize, explain, do whatver you have to do... but know that you are doing this NOW. You can't control the past, but you can always control the NOW.
I wonder what he/she said/thought about me when I wasn’t there
doesn’t matter, not worth your moments – it has already happened and you have no control over it for two reasons: it is in the past and it is something done by someone else
This leads me to a very cliche idea and one that I will try to do an entire future post on, and that is ‘PLEASE STOP WORRYING ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK ABOUT YOU’ don’t waste a single second of your life worrying about this. Please.
Any worry that starts with ‘what if ____?’ Let me show you why this is not worth your time:
‘What if I don’t get the job?’ --> ‘What if you do?’
All you can do is prepare yourself as best you can, be confident and trust yourself. The rest is out of your control, and no amount of worrying will change that.
'What if one day the clouds were pink and rained sprinkles?’
Hear me out: No matter how much you worry or think about this (or any) possible future scenario, it will have no effect as to whether it will ever happen.
If I could recommend one book to read on this topic, it would be ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle.
For my next and final point, I want to be perfectly clear. I am not sitting on a high horse as I type this. I am by NO means, anywhere close to an ‘expert’ on this subject. It is something I work on every day (or anytime a thought enters my mind that has no place being there). It is a concept I understand, but am not a master of. I just always want to share these concepts I've learned with anyone who may or may not have thought of it this way. Awareness is KEY!
Merely being aware of the idea of ‘being in control of your own mind’ is a huge step in the right direction. You cannot fix something if you don’t know that it is 'broken'. And I really do believe the way the majority of humans think is somewhat broken. I think people just accept that this is how the human brain works.
Now imagine a world without people dwelling on their pasts and worrying about their futures, and instead, just enjoying this.
This beautiful world we live in is happening all around us… RIGHT NOW.
If only we can stop for a moment and truly enjoy it.