Posted on May 29, 2019
Sola Salon Studios
Good mental health is not just a state of mind; it is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle and career. Mental health determines how we handle stress, relate to loved ones, make decisions, and even how we think, feel and act.
As a hardworking Sola-preneur in the modern world, we know keeping a positive attitude can be a balancing act. And even though we are nearing the end of Mental Health Awareness month, it’s important to keep mental health a priority all year round. So we shared some simple reminders on how to maintain the healthy mindset that will enable a thriving career, fulfilling relationships, and a positive attitude all year long.
Just like exercise or healthy eating, good mental health takes practice, consistency and balance. It’s like a muscle – use it or lose it! When we’re on the top of our game mentally, we can handle anything that comes our way, personally, professionally or otherwise.
The best part is, there’s always room for improvement – so these practices can only benefit us in the long run. There is never a bad time to give our mindset a little boost of sunshine with these balancing and nourishing practices:
1. Gratitude 🙏
Studies show that expressions of gratitude boost positive feelings and states of being—from hope and optimism to happiness and vitality. Scientists and psychologists agree that a daily gratitude practice can cultivate joy. Having a consistent gratitude practice empowers us to see the silver lining even on the most difficult days.
Keep a gratitude journal to write down three (or 10 or 20) things per day that you are grateful for. We recommend doing this just before bed as a nighttime ritual, or first thing in the morning upon waking up.
Another great practice is to write thank you notes as much as possible. Just expressing your gratitude melts stress away and uplifts your mood. It is said that when you focus on gratitude, you cannot feel anything else in that moment, because it is such an all-encompassing feeling. Plus, your loved ones will get a burst of good vibes from reading your heartfelt thank you note.
2. Meditation 🧘♀️
A secret to mental stability is maintaining a regular meditation practice. This can be as simple as 3-5 minutes per day of simply breathing and getting present. To be present means to get into your body, focus on your breathing, and simply allow your thoughts to be. Meditation does not mean that you stop the flow of thought, that would be nearly impossible, but to just observe what is without getting wrapped up in the story.
A consistent meditation practice gets us grounded, in touch with ourselves, and sends blood flow to the brain. A well-oxygenated brain is a happy brain. We recommend meditation first thing in the morning to maintain a balanced mindset for the rest of your day. Experts claim that meditation leads to lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression while boosting focus, presence, and patience.
3. Laughter 😂
Just like the old adage says, laughter truly is the best medicine. Studies show that laughter relaxes the body, relieves stress and even boosts the immune system. When we laugh, our brains release a chemical called dopamine, which makes us feel happy and at ease. It’s like our body’s very own in-house happy pills.
So, meet your most hilarious friend for lunch, check out a comedy club, find killer standup comedy on Netflix, or try laughter yoga to get those deep belly laughs in. Whatever makes you laugh the hardest, just make laughing a top priority!
4. Get In Your Flow 🙌
They say that when we are doing what we love, we get into a flow state. Wikipedia defines this flow state as, “A mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” As this buzzword, “flow,” has become more and more studied and observed, they are finding that people who spend more time in a flow state are happier overall.
Getting into the “flow” requires an activity that you are able to fully immerse yourself in, whether it involves crafting, gaming, writing, exercising, sports, outdoor adventure, or whatever your passion may be. The flow state takes over your physical body and mind so that you can focus intently for a good stretch of time. This might be 30 minutes to several hours, depending on what gets you into your flow. Whatever strikes your passion, let it whisk you away into a flow state as much as possible to feed your body and mind.
5. Challenge Negative Thoughts 🙅♂️
If you remember one thing from this list, remember this: Not everything that your brain tells you is true. Humans are biologically programmed for survival and our brains are wired to spot danger, visualize outcomes and fend for our lives. Because that type of fight-or-flight survival mentality is no longer conducive in the modern world, it is important for us to remind our brains that not every thought we have is valid and true. Negative thought patterns and self-criticism are most productive when we can give them some perspective. Ask yourself, is that thought useful? Is it wholly true? Is it contributing to the mindset that I am trying to cultivate?
Another fun thing to do is to challenge your thoughts by asking, is the opposite of that statement also true? For example, when you think to yourself, “I am so lazy and out of shape,” does it also ring true to say, “I am so motivated and healthy”? Just a simple perspective shift can go a long way in showing you that everything is relative. Another example, “it is so dreary outside” can shift to “it is raining – what a great opportunity to get some work done.”
As your harshest critic and loudest internal judge, give yourself some slack by internally stating the opposite of your negative thoughts as they arise! Check those judgments at the door and treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Soon, you’ll start giving that positive voice some time to shine and your internal cheerleader will go on autopilot instead of that old negative feedback loop. Positivity is a gift that keeps on giving.
6. Exercise 🚴♀️
Regular exercise is one of the most efficient and effective ways to improve mental health and positivity. Studies show that exercise can even treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as anti-depressants, but without the negative side effects. When we exercise, our body releases endorphins – a powerful chemical that uplifts, inspires and motivates us through a rush of positive thoughts and feelings.
When we exercise regularly we can make long-term changes in our thought patterns. Exercise breaks the cycle of negative thought patterns by shifting our focus, while endorphins instill steady feelings of calm and wellbeing. We recommend 15-30 minutes of high-intensity exercise or a 30-60 minute walk at least 3-5 times per week. The more you can get that heart pumping, the more endorphins will flood your system. And if you end up with a toned body? Well, that’s just another perk!
7. Get Outside! 🌞
Sunlight is a beautiful way to boost serotonin in the body, which is also known as the “happiness hormone.” Serotonin helps to improve mood and focus while making us feel more calm and alert at the same time. Sunlight actually cues special areas of the retina (in our eyes), which triggers the release of serotonin. In addition, sunshine supplies us with a good dose of Vitamin D, which boosts mood and balances mental and emotional states of being. So, get outside and into some sunshine! We recommend at least 20 minutes per day. Couple it with a walk or some exercise for a doubly happy boost: endorphins + serotonin = 😃.
8. Share Your Gifts and Talents 🌟
Research shows that helping others is paramount to mental health. So, whether it’s your loved ones, your kiddos, your clients or even a local homeless shelter – remember that your service is so greatly needed on this planet! When we help others, we feel a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that cannot be substituted elsewhere. It is crucial to weave ourselves deeply into the social fibers of our community in order to maintain a true sense of purpose and belonging.
In addition, the gratitude reciprocated for your acts of service can feed self-esteem and positivity. Just like expressing gratitude gives us a boost of positive energy, receiving gratitude can also do the trick. So find somewhere to volunteer your time or reach out to a friend in need. There is serious fulfillment in giving, so give back as much as you can (while still keeping some for yourself!). Remember that your unique gifts and talents are invaluable.
If you can boost just one of these practices in your life, you’ll have a happier mindset and more balanced mental health. Remember the most important thing of all is to treat yourself with grace, kindness and compassion. Not every day will be sunny and bright, but with a little practice, you can get better and better at finding the light.