Feelings and thoughts, both pleasant and unpleasant, have one thing in common – a mind which experiences them. And this is an obvious truism that seasoned meditators pick up early in their practice. But what does it take, for a westerner, or someone who is unfamiliar with the mind, to develop strong mental health? To resist impulses, to build up fortitude, and to remain calm in the face of restlessness, anxiety, and fear?
Behavioral psychology will tell you to practice a certain set of habits. To lead a well-rounded live, which in the face of adulthood is often an act of balance.
Trying, therefore, to maintain balance, I’ve decided to create a simple checklist. With the help of my wife, who is a psychologist and Gestalt therapist, I’ve traced down the most productive habits. These represent the backbone – the proper framework – on which you can rest your mental health.
What is the mental health checklist?
If I had to put everything through a poetic lens, I’d say that our nature is multi-dimensional. A pragmatic division sees the average Jane as a biological creature, who is very intelligent, highly social, and self-aware. The mental checklist, therefore, needs to address a number of different verticals.
If you observe successful people who’ve put their lives together, you’ll notice a frequently shared trait – they all have a propensity towards forming and maintaining routines. And this is something that Jordan Peterson, who is a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, will urge most of his clients to adopt.
The routine, although it can leave enough room for leeway, should dictate most of your waking hours. If nothing else, there should be a pattern by which you start your morning, go to work, eat, or end your day.
Fixed circadian rhythm
The circadian rhythm regulates the level of melatonin secretion, the plasma level of cortisol and your core body temperature. When out of balance, these can have a negative effect on every other system in your body.
To fixate your circadian rhythm, you’ll have to wake up at the same time every single day. Regardless of when you go to bed, make a conscious decision to get up at the exact same time.
Although it feels like a layman advice, the importance of exercise is very much in sync with scientific rigor. It can effectively regulate hormones such as endorphin, dopamine and serotonin, allowing you to experience more positive emotions.
Exercise is linked with having a positive self-image, less significant mood swings, and physical well-being which is the precursor of mental well-being. Do note, however, not to mistake exercise with overly demanding routines – it is more than enough to get active, lose a couple of pounds, and make a habit to exercise twice or three times per week.
Having a creative or productive outlet
This is why it is very important for people to have a preoccupation – something to fill their most productive hours with. Whether that is going to work, investing energy into a personal project, or perhaps creating some form of art.
Our nature is to be resourceful, curious, and creative, so we must employ our mind on daily basis.
Most people perceive themselves in relation to others. Social activity, therefore, should be an important entry in our mental health checklist. Through social occasions we work towards attaining status – and this is what regulates most of our positive and negative emotions.
To traverse, therefore, through the social hierarchy, we must practice our social skills, and make it an intentional habit to engage in social activities.
Light and balanced meals can greatly contribute towards reducing your anxiety, depression, and overall restlessness. The more disciplined you are, the stronger your mental health. You should also make a habit of eating throughout the day, never skipping a single meal.
Sun and air
Regardless of what you do for a living, outdoor time must become one of your priorities. Adult life comes with a garden variety of responsibilities, so getting out in the open can be admittedly remote. Nevertheless, you must find at least 15 minutes and get the most out of it.
Familiarize yourself with the mind
The more capable you are of seeing repetitive patterns running in loop, the less likely you are to get overwhelmed by them. And this is achieved through either meditation or therapy. There are many affordable apps like Headspace, where you can learn to meditate, and equally many affordable therapists that you can visit once ever week or two.
Slavko Desik is editor-in-chief at Lifestyle Updated where he often writes about personal development, home fitness, and lifestyle design. Working together with his wife, who is a psychotherapist, his goal is to create easily accessible guides for leading a healthy, balanced life.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.