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NOTE: This is a lesson in a series of 40 lessons in the free Man the Ship self-help framework. It teaches you how to be happy, healthy and wealthy in all areas of your life: physical, mental, spiritual and financial. Be sure to do the lessons in order because they build on each other. Click here to start at the beginning. To your growth!
Talking about mental health can be harder than physical health. That’s because mental health isn’t “physical”. You can’t point to your thoughts, feelings and emotions. They’re easy to ignore and disregard. People understand when you call off work because you have the flu but not when you take a “mental health day”. But mental health is as real as physical health. And as important.
Unfortunately, so many people suffer. It’s because they don’t tend to their mental health as much as their physical health. They suffer with long-standing mental trauma from their childhood. Or with stress from what’s going on with their health, relationships or finances.
The goal isn’t to get “happy”. Happiness is an emotion that’s fleeting and comes from outside of you. You end up chasing it.
Centeredness is Key
No, what you’re looking for is centeredness. Calmness. Balance. That’s inside of you and is your natural state. You feel negative emotions and suffer when you’re knocked off balance.
That doesn’t mean you’re always centered once you get there. But bad days at work don’t bug you as much. Screaming kids don’t drive you as crazy. Especially when a catastrophe hits, you’re knocked off center. But you still feel the calmness underneath the panic, fear, anger or frustration. And it takes you less work to get back to center. And you go deeper into the calmness over time.
Depending on how you usually are mentally, you may think you’ll never get centered. But trust me (do we trust each yet? Are we there yet?). It’s possible. I’ve been centered for more than 15 years. I’m calmer now in my day-to-day moments than I used to during my deepest meditations. That’s along way from where I come from. Deeply depressed. Angry. Shy. Anxious. Frustrated. But now my natural state is calmness. I’ll teach you how to get to that same place as we go along.
How to get Centered
The good news is that there are only a handful of things you need to do to get and stay centered. (do you see a pattern in these lessons yet – there’s always good news). They are:
- Stay in the present moment (mindfulness)
- Have work/life balance
- Be social
- Break the social media addiction
- See a therapist
Let’s move onto your tasks for this lesson.
TASK: Think about how you feel most of the time. How would you describe it to someone? It may be tough if you’re not used to thinking about your… thoughts. You can feel different from moment to moment but how do you feel overall? Focused or distracted? Calm or anxious? Content, happy, sad or mad? Frustrated? Scared? Angry? Peaceful? Depressed? Is there anything you want to change or improve with your emotional state? Record it in your journal.
TASK: Let’s learn to observe your thoughts. This may be foreign to you at first. Most people think that they’re looking out into the world from their mind. But now you’re asked to look at your mind instead.
1) Sit on a chair,
2) Sit with your back straight,
3) Get comfortable – wear comfortable nonrestrictive clothing,
4) Close your eyes,
5) Observe your thoughts. Don’t control your thoughts. Try not to think about anything in particular. Don’t try to clear your mind. Just observe.
6) After at least a minute, open your eyes slowly and stretch. The exercise is over.
Do this exercise daily. Do it until you can watch your thoughts for ten minutes. Without getting lost, falling asleep or give in to urges to move. Then practice it daily while you continue on with the lessons.
Here are some questions to ponder related to this exercise. They’re meant to get you to start thinking about your mind and the nature of reality itself. You’re not expected to have the answers right away. But they’re meant to direct you to your own self-discovery.
What happens when you do this exercise? How busy is your mind? Does your mind get busier or calmer as you observe it? What thoughts come into your mind? Do you feel you are creating the thoughts as they arise? If not, where are they coming from? Write your results and thoughts in your journal.
TASK: I know you’ve done a lot in this lesson but I’m going to ask you to do one more thing. I want you to check out Headspace.
Headspace is one of the leading meditation apps out there. It teaches you how to mediate. From it’s website: “hundreds of themed sessions on everything from stress and sleep to focus and anxiety.”
It’s an amazing and helpful app. Andy Puddicombe, the creator of Headspace, is a Tibetan Buddhist monk ordained in India for crying out loud.
They have a 2-week trial. Download the app and check it out. See if you like it. After the trial, it’s $69.99/year ($5.83/month). They also have a student plan that’s $9.99/year which is nice.
OK, this lesson is almost over. Are you still with me? I know all this mental stuff might be trippy to you if you’re not used to working with your mind. But your mental health is so important. It also might not be comfortable depending on how much you mentally suffer. Things can and will get better. You’ve taken a big step towards that with this lesson.