Steps we can take to improve mental health
By: Lorraine Hackett
Updated: 16 September 2019
Mental health, or the spectrum of feelings that we all experience every day, is a broad and wide reaching area of life that impacts each of us in a variety of ways. Acknowledging pressures to our mental health allows us to feel more control over this area of our lives and therefore have an influence over our feelings and, as a consequence, over the motivations for our behaviours.
However, most of us operate our mental health from a default setting, allowing the systems and structures that we have built to motivate our behaviour. The views and opinions of those around us influence whether or not we understand a behaviour to be acceptable and we moderate ourselves from this point of view but most of us rarely, if ever, question why we behave in certain ways and what emotional motivation we may be operating from.
With all of this in mind, the most significant thing that any of us can do for our mental health is to assess it. Whether you do this in therapy or in a time of self reflection, analysing why we use certain behaviours and what the emotion behind them is, is a worthwhile exercise. Beginning with some of our more notable emotions is a good way to begin. For example, how does anger manifest for me? What happens to me when I’m angry and what do I do to indulge or repress it? What social understanding do I have of anger? Where does my understanding of anger come from? This final question brings each of us into an uncovering piece, where we ask questions about where and why we feel a particular emotion. This is best done with a trained therapist, if you are feeling overwhelmed by a particular emotion. However, if it is out of mere interest’s sake, then asking yourself these questions can give you a lot of information and understanding of the basics of your own mental health.
In terms of moving emotional content, and therefore having a positive influence on your mental health, analysis and understanding are the first steps. Next, however, it is important to understand the manner by which we express ourselves most comfortably. Each of us operates primarily from either a physical, emotional or cognitive structure. Each of us operates from all three structures at all times, but we all have a bias towards one manner of experiencing the world. Those who operate physically will experience understanding of self most completely when they are active, in touch with their bodies and aware of how they are physically feeling. Those who operate emotionally will allow emotion to influence not just their understanding of self but also their behaviour, giving themselves permission to behave in a manner that may not be rational, but feels like the right thing to do. Those who operate cognitively will have rationale on their sides and will use logic to motivate their behaviours and life structures.
Knowing how you most comfortably experience the world is a key part of understanding our mental health. Each piece of knowledge that each of us has about why we are how we are, and about how the world feels most comfortable for us gives us power over our behaviour and our lives. When emotions or situations infringe on our ability to feel comfortable, we need to know what we can access in order to make changes that will have a positive influence. If you are someone who is physically centred, then exercise will likely be a positive influence over any emotional overwhelm. If you are emotionally centred, then allowing the emotion to exist and creating space within your world for the accepted expression of emotion is going to be really important. If you are cognitive, then talking, writing or reading about a topic will help with any difficulty that you experience.
How you are in the world is one of the fundamental pieces about being alive. Knowing what influences each of us has about the particular emotional vacuum in which we make a majority of our decisions is a powerful thing. Give yourself time and space to understand yourself. It is not only worthwhile. It is the most influential exercise that you can do over your existence.
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