My friend, Sydney, tagged me yesterday. I have to list five things I do to stay mentally healthy. This is something I’ve been working on lately, so the timing was great for this exercise. Here goes…
Journal Writing—I write longhand three pages in my notebook every morning. This is my brain drain. It empties my head of all the drama and petty, inconsequential stuff that can latch on like Velcro. Very often, seeds from this “compost pile” of writing will take root and you’ll see the result in my blog posts. For me, writing rights things.
Walking—I’m a solitary walker. It’s only one of several forms of exercise I do regularly, but it’s the one I like the most, and also the one I don’t think of as exercise. That’s not why I walk. I walk to experience silence and solitude, to reorder my thoughts and emotions, to recharge, to feel my connection to a much bigger picture, to immerse myself in nature, to regain my perspective.
Volunteering—This, perhaps more than anything else, helps me stay mentally sound. We all know there is more happiness in giving than in receiving, and this is something that consistently takes the focus off me, which ironically enough, helps improve my focus in my life. I have several things that are very special to me, for which I’ve consistently volunteered my time for 20 years now. Sometimes I have 15 hours a month, and sometimes I can carve out 70 hours a month. Regardless, I get far more back than I give.
Reading—This is so much a part of my daily life that it feels a little lame mentioning it here, but I try to incorporate into my daily reading uplifting and positive subject matter. This includes autobiographies of people I admire, essays by naturalists, spiritual content. Filling my head with positive things right before bed helps me to sleep better. I’ve heard it said that you are the same person today that you’ll be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read. I try to choose this category of reading carefully.
My Appreciation Diet—I have been doing this exercise daily for about three years, and it has made a world of difference in my mental outlook. Every morning, I write down on paper five things I’m happy about and five things I’m grateful for. This is harder than it sounds, but the key is that it helps me to focus on the positive things in my life. At the end of each day, I write down five things I did well that day. This is the hardest one for me, but it forces me to lighten up on myself, to cut myself some slack, and to appreciate my strengths and successes.
If I’m not mentally healthy, it feels like I'm driving with my brakes on. So these are the five things that help keep my life running smoothly and in peace, not in pieces.