In case you didn't know, today is World Mental Health Day. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not all that crazy about the phrase "mental health." Over the years it's picked up too much baggage, too many associations. It sounds heavy, serious and I know for many people brings about images of padded cells, straight jackets and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It doesn't matter that "mental health" is much broader than that, that it includes everyday stress, insomnia, anxiety, or that more than 1 in 4 of us are likely to experience some of these symptoms in our lifetime. The simple fact is, "mental health" sounds like an illness in itself.
Personally I prefer to think of it as "mind health." It feels a bit lighter and, just like our physical health, it sounds as though it's something we should look after, take care of, as much to prevent illness, rather than to manage or treat any symptoms. After all, we're talking about our mind here, the most precious and valuable resource we have, through which we experience every single moment of our life. This is the same mind which we rely on to be happy, content and emotionally stable, whilst hopefully being kind, forgiving and thoughtful in our relationships with others. It's also the mind which we depend upon to be creative, focused, playful, spontaneous, to perform at our best and to enjoy life at it's fullest.
And yet, the truth is, most people don't take any time to look after the mind, to allow it to rest, to keep it healthy. In fact most people aren't even familiar with the simple things we can do in everyday life to promote a healthy mind. After all, we're not taught how to do at school. Instead, it's assumed that calm, clarity and contentment will come as standard in life. How's that working out for you by the way? Compare that to the messages in society for "staying in shape," for "getting ripped," for "being active." At times there are so many of these messages that it's almost overwhelming. Sure, it doesn't mean everyone chooses to engage in physical activity, but at least the advice and provision is out there.
Whatever we choose to call this day though, the important thing is that we understand, I mean really understand the cause of our busy mind and all the difficult and challenging emotions that arise in life. Because the tragedy is that many people simply assume that life has to be this way. But it really doesn't. Why should we experience stress-related heath symptoms when there are scientifically-proven techniques that can be used to prevent them? Why do we continue to assume that a busy mind is a productive mind, when we know it just leaves us feeling exhausted and confused? Why should we feel at the mercy of destructive emotions when science has clearly shown that with the right techniques, we can create enough headspace to experience those emotions in a radically different way?
The answer to this dilemma does not exist in some faraway magical place, as some people may have you believe, nor does it exist on the shelves of the self-help department in the bookstore. It exists in the present moment, in the here and now. There is nothing inherently mysterious about it and there is nothing tangible to hold on to. It does not belong to a particular tradition, faith, school, guru, or approach, nor does it require any special clothes, language, words or behaviour. It is our innate nature, something inherent to us all, which every single one of us has the potential to realise and experience. All we need, is for this potential to be pointed out, to be reminded again and again of how to find it within ourselves.
There are of course many ways of learning how to do this, but probably one of the most widely recognized and effective approaches (not to mention the way being touted by most neuroscientists these days) is to take out a short amount of time each day to allow the body and mind to unwind. Whilst that may sound quite general, it needs to be done in a very specific way. Some people call it meditation, scientists call it mindfulness and I like to call it headspace. The truth is though, it doesn't matter what you call it. What's important is the motivation to do it, the recognition that it will in all likelihood benefit those around you as well as yourself, and the realization that learning to step back from the activity of the mind is a skill -- and just like any other skill, it requires a little practice.
So why not make a start today? Commit to taking 10 minutes a day to look after the health of your mind. In fact why not set yourself the Mind Man challenge and see if you can do 10 minutes every day for 10 days. I've recorded a special program, which is completely free to use and which you can access via the Internet or as an app on your iPhone or Android mobile.
Simply visit www.getsomeheadspace.com to sign up to the challenge and make today the day you commit to giving the mind the TLC it deserves.
For more by Andy Puddicombe, click here.
For more on mental health, click here.