Simple Secret #1 –Create Margins in Your Life. Remember how when writing papers for school your teacher would tell you to set your margins correctly. Setting the margins to the correct width made the paper easy to read. If the paper was filled from one end to the other with words, you would get a headache and stop reading. However, this is what we do with our schedule in life. We fill it from one end to other with busy activity but fail to care for ourselves. We get burnt out and stressed out while accomplishing very little. Essentially you are spinning your wheels and getting nowhere. So create margins in your life by setting an appointment with yourself to recharge. Grab an inspirational book, take a walk, journal your thoughts and dreams. Whatever you do make it a time for positive development and growth in your life. Invest in yourself by creating margins in your day now.
Simple Secret #2 – Practice a Positive Mindset. Your thoughts are powerful. Whatever you think, say, or hear repeatedly becomes an ingrained habit. When this habit has to do with our thoughts we call it a mindset. In psychological terms, we call it automatic thinking. It’s that subconscious level of thinking that we are often blind to. Most depression and anxiety is fueled by automatic negative thinking. In order to overcome many emotional struggles develop and practice thinking and saying more positive words. This way you can create a positive mindset or automatic positive thinking. This can make a huge difference in your mental and emotional health.
Simple Secret #3 – Connect with Positive, Encouraging Friends and Family. I mean really connect. Disconnect from your electronic device of choice and sit on the porch swing with someone you care about. One way of promoting relaxation and joy is something we call relational soothing. God designed us as social beings and we desire connection with others. No, not an internet connection but a human connection. Take 15-20 minutes daily to connect with someone positive and share about your day or listen to them. Converse face to face, make jokes, laugh heartily and just share the joy of being alive.
Simple Secret #4 – Focus on the Present Moment. A powerful and proven way to create calmness in your life is to switch your attention and focus to something in the present moment. This is often called mindfulness. Here’s how it works. You can focus your mind on something in your present environment as a non-judgmental observer. The simplest way to do this is to focus on your breathing without trying to change it. Just allow your breathing to continue at its own rhythm and rate. You may notice it change to a more deep and rhythmic breathing all on its own. You can also focus on anything internal and external. If you are eating a meal, focus on the taste and texture. If you are taking a walk, focus on the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors. Practice this technique daily and use it when you’re feeling stressed and disconnected.
Simple Secret #5 – Start a Gratitude Journal. This is one of my favorite assignments to give my clients. Recent research in Positive Psychology has identified habits and characteristics of healthy, happy people rather than focusing on disorders. Gratitude was identified as one of the most powerful habits for mental and emotional wellness. You can get started building a mindset of gratitude by journaling at least three good things you’re grateful for each day. It is best if these three things come from specific events in your day such as a kind word from someone, a small or big success, or for being able to enjoy a fun activity. Research shows that you can experience a significant improvement in your mood by doing this daily for just 21 days.
Simple Secret #6 – Get Moving. Yes, Exercise! It has been proven to be as effective as anti-depressant medication for mild to moderate depression. As a bonus, you can improve your overall health by starting a simple daily exercise routine. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym. Even 15 minutes of vigorous exercise daily can make a dramatic difference by relieving stress, lifting your mood, and giving you more energy throughout your day. Keep it simple and start exercising today.
Simple Secret #7 – Make a List of Fun Activities and Do Them. Another helpful strategy for relieving stress and improving your mood is to engage in fun, pleasurable activities. We all need a little fun in our daily lives. Think about your favorite hobbies and activities. Things like listening to music, watching a positive movie or tv show, playing sports, and many more can improve your enjoyment of life and reduce your stress and anxiety. Start making a list of simple fun activities you can do on a regular basis and set aside time to do them.
Simple Secret #8 –Faithfully Trust in God. There are things in life we can’t control. If you get stuck trying to figure those things out, you will not be at peace. Control what you can, namely, your own thoughts, feelings, and actions. Then, put the rest in God’s hands and trust in his faithful love and care for you. Whatever struggles you are going through now will pass and ultimately work towards your good. The Serenity Prayer is a great reflection on taking responsibility for what you can control in your life and letting go of what you can’t control. May God grant you serenity by helping you to accept the things you can’t control and by increasing your wisdom and courage to take responsibility for changing the things you can.
Your Faith-Based Family Therapist…
Justin H McManus, LCSW, CAP
P.S. Always Remember…
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