Author and coach Steve Magness made a post about mental health today that I really liked. He broke it down into seven parts, and the beauty is in their simplicity.
It made me wonder: How many of these do I live by on a daily basis, and which ones could I implement to help me starting today? In my experience, the best practices are the ones that can be followed consistently and don’t require a lot of mental bandwidth to complete.
The first one was BUILD COMMUNITY. I read a great book recently titled The Happiness Equation, and one of the components of happiness that has been scientifically studied is the heart of community. We as sapiens crave and need community in order to live productive lives.
We need people to communicate with, relate to, and grow from. Whether it’s fitness, personal, or professionally-related, this sense of having people close by that you can talk to is the razor-sharp difference sometimes between being happy and successful and feeling isolated and beaten down.
For me, I want to continue to bolster my community of friends, family and colleagues on a daily basis because I know how better off I feel when the sense of community is strong.
Number two was DON’T EXPECT THINGS TO FEEL GOOD ALL THE TIME. Life is hard, and suffering is a pre-requisite. And, frankly, most of us realize that growth comes only after suffering a set back or some form of loss.
It’s inevitable, and if we can frame these situations as opportunities for growth there is a good chance we can bounce back much quicker than if we wallow in self-pity and doubt the purpose of life.
Number three was SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP IF YOU NEED IT. I’m a teacher and coach, and while I always want people to come to me for help, I realize I need help myself. I can’t be the best version of me without the guidance of someone more experienced than me in certain areas.
I talk to a therapist one-to-two times per month. I speak to a business mentor every few months. I’m constantly reading and learning from people WAY smarter than me. It’s a good feeling to let go of control and put your trust in someone else. It alleviates anxiety and it opens up windows of growth. Try it.
Number four was GET OFF YOUR PHONE AND DO REAL THINGS IN THE WORLD. I’m as guilty as anyone of spending too much time on my phone. My wife chides me occasionally for scrolling mindlessly through Instagram – and she’s not wrong in doing so. I derive some benefit from social media (connection, learning, etc.), but the downsides are very visceral.
I often feel anxious when I’m on my phone too much. When I can put it down and be present with loved ones, get outside and move, or read a book, I feel more grounded and at peace. This is a big one for me and one I’m working to improve daily.
READ BOOKS was number five. Most people who know me know I absolutely love to read. I usually have a novel in the rotation in addition to something fitness/health-related. Right now I’m reading How Emotions are made by Lisa Feldman Barrett and the Strength Training: The agile periodization approach by Mladen Jovanovic.
I love to mix in science fiction, historical non-fiction, and anything else that just gets me out of my own head. Reading is the best.
WORK IN INTERVALS was number six. Trying to sustain hours of focused work without a break is usually not sustainable for people. Why do intervals in training work so well? We stress the body at near max capacity, and then allow longer periods of recovery. Other types of work should be no different.
Stress the nervous system or the body in whatever way you choose, but then back off and enter a state of parasympathetic recovery. Our body needs it. You WILL burn out if you don’t find good ways to unwind and decompress.
Lastly, he says SPEND TIME IN NATURE. The world really is beautiful, and I’m not trying to sound hokey or cliché. If I find myself anxious or sad, just getting outside and breathing fresh air and walking makes all the difference. Feeling down or off or just defeated? If all else fails, get outside and go for a walk and call a loved one. Get out of your own head and into the world.