10 Minutes to Happy (Lessons from Psychology)
Many of us believe that happiness is the ultimate mental health goal. How often have you heard parents say that all they want for their children is health and happiness?
This has always jarred with me as an unrealistically high expectation for life. To me, happiness is a fleeting burst of joy that fills your heart with warmth and peace. And without physical and mental health is happiness even possible?
“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.” Mary Oliver
Maybe I needed to look at happiness more from the perspective of connection, contentment, purpose and meaning? Maybe I would be better thinking in terms of mental wellness?
I like the idea of flourishing. It’s a combination of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual fitness. A rich concept that is closely related to happiness but extends far beyond it.
Flourishing is the result of feeling loved and understood, of being connected to life’s passions, relishing the triumphs of life’s peaks and having the resilience to work through its valleys.
Wellbeing is not the absence of sadness, suffering, discomfort or heartbreak. But it is having the resilience and tools to overcome adversity, relieve stress and be brave in taking on the more serious challenges.
I think for many of us feeling loved and accepted is the foundation to being mentally well. Feeling connected to people is the anchor that enables us to explore the challenges in unknown waters. It gives us a sense of belonging, a set of values and rules to make sense from the chaos.
So I started to wonder what are the rules that psychology has taught me about creating my own mental wellness.
When you are feeling overwhelmed and lost in life where is the roadmap for finding your way to a better mental place?
I often find that there is the key factor that helps you to pivot your anxiety, depression or burn out into something that you have some control over. Talking vulnerably and honestly with someone else. Being heard and understood helps you make some sense out of the chaos.
“Here’s a story, and you don’t have to visit many
houses to find it. One person is talking,
the other one is not really listening.
Someone can look like they are but they’re
actually thinking about something they
want to say, or their minds are just
wandering. Or they’re looking at that
little box people hold in their hands these
days. And people get discouraged, so they
quit trying. And the very quiet people,
you may have noticed, are often the sad
people.” Mary Oliver
Knowing that someone understands what you are going through helps you feel less alone, more normal and you start to feel like you can have a little control over your feelings. Through telling your story, having it reframed so that you have a greater understanding, is the catalyst that can transform how you feel.
It changes how you live. It gives you back direction. You start to feel that you have agency again. You are not just a victim of illness or circumstance. You can start to take your life back. And get back to feeling You again.
And that’s true happiness.
I thought it would be helpful to give you a ten minute mental work out for those times when you are struggling.
Create a power space somewhere in your home or in an outdoor space. A place dedicated to your inner peace. Somewhere you can go regularly to take 10.
10 Minutes to Flourish
Stand up: Superman pose
#1 Stand up straight: chin up, shoulders back, hands on hips, deep breath
Posture has an impact on the chemicals released in your brain. A fake smile still releases happy chemicals. Standing up straight, head high, eyes up as you walk into a room gives different signals to your brain (we are being vigilant and need to be confident, dominant, sociable) than if we are hunched and head down. So the brain releases serotonin in response to help.
But it is not just physical, because you are not just a body. You are a mind as well. Standing up for yourself metaphorically means that you are taking responsibility for your values and your own outlook so you are more likely to stand up for yourself and defend your values and boundaries whenever someone is ignoring them and you need to be strong.
Say on repeat: “I can do it”
#2 The foremost rule is that you have to take responsibility for your own life. It’s up to you. Period.
Imagine: “What does caring properly for myself look like and feel like?”
#3 Care for yourself: as if you are caring for someone you love
When we are prescribed medication 30% of people don’t take it at all, 35% don’t take it correctly missing doses and give up taking it early, and 35% take it as intended.
If your child, or your pet, or your best friend was taking some medication would you make sure that they took it? Why would you think it acceptable to do anything less for yourself?
To treat yourself as if you were someone you are responsible for helping is to consider what would be truly good for you.
What might your life look like if you were caring properly for yourself?
What could I be doing if I had the energy to improve my health, expand my mind and strengthen my body?
You must keep the promises that you make to yourself, and reward yourself to build your esteem and trust in yourself.
Start with yourself. Take care with yourself. Define who you are. Choose your destination.
This is the vision and direction that helps you to transform your wellbeing.
“He whose life has a why can bear almost any how” (F Nietzsche)
Ask yourself:“What one thing can I do right now to help me feel 1% better?”
#4 If you don’t want the future to look like the past, make a change
The future will be like the past if you don’t make any changes. But that’s the crucial difference. The past is fixed, the future…could be better. It’s up to you. A 1% change in direction every day results in a completely new direction in life. Where you start is not as important as where you are heading. Consider where you would like to be and then every small decision you make can be on the basis - “Does this take me closer or farther from my aim?”
Don’t compare yourself to others. We all have a different start to life. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today. Have you made progress?
Perhaps happiness can be found in making progress. In the uphill journey, rather than in the fleeting satisfaction of reaching the peak. Much of happiness is in hope.
Listen to yourself: “How often have I used negative and critical words about myself today?”
#5 Have meaningful conversations (especially with yourself)
Mostly our thoughts are self-criticism that passes for thinking. Thinking is listening to yourself. You need quiet and time to hear your internal dialogue.
You have to learn to tolerate your own conflicting ideas as well as negotiating and compromising to come to your decision. You have to learn to give and take, to adjust your thoughts. To respond rather than react.
Good listening can transform your life. Learn to tune into your body and respond to its needs. Learn to be self-aware, to forgive your younger self without judgement, to like yourself.
Apply your rules to listening to other people too.
Always assume that the person you are listening to knows something you don’t. What can you learn from them?
Don’t give advice. Advice is your judgement on things. Genuine conversations are an exploration, articulation and an openness to ideas. You’re listening and talking, but mostly listening. Listening is paying attention to the words of a story. It’s amazing what you can learn when you really listen. Sometimes people will even tell you what’s going on with them at an emotional level. Sometimes that can help you work out how to think differently about something that is troubling you. True thinking is rare.
Emotion check: “What emotions am I feeling? Has anything triggered me today? How does this feel in my body?”
#6 Get fluent in emotions
How are you feeling right now?
Which emotions have you felt in the last few days?
Did you answer the first question with “Fine” and struggle to name more than a couple of emotions for the second? Many of us have not been brought up to identify, label and express the emotions we are feeling. More often than not as children we were actively encouraged to shut down our strong emotions - especially those that are viewed as negative like anger, sadness or loneliness - so we have not developed the vocabulary or coping skills to describe and understand how we are feeling.
“Big boys don’t cry” so what can you do with that emotion? And can we express the sadness, fear or anger that we were feeling? Do we hold it in our body? Or shut it away in a ‘box’?
Viewing our lives through the lens of our emotional needs and emotional triggers can have a powerful impact on the decisions we make and the actions we take. If we always consider the emotional impact of our choices would we make better choices for our wellbeing?
Remember: 1. There are no good or bad emotions. They are simply an indication of what is going on for you. Learning to read your emotions can help you respond in a new way.
2. No one can MAKE you feel anything. Your feelings are yours. No one can tell you that you are not feeling something.
Minute 7 and 8
Send a Message/leave a voice note: tell one or two people how you are feeling. Check in with how they are feeling. Connect to important people in your life.
#7/8 Surround yourself with good people
Make friends with people who want the best for you. Connection and friendship is a reciprocal arrangement. If you choose people who want things to be better for you they will support, rather than undermine, your upward aim.
If you have negative, critical, unhealthy people around you it is a reflection of what you think you’re worth. Or it’s what you’re used to. Or comfortable with.
It is toxic for your life.
Leaving behind unhealthy relationships is one of the most challenging, courageous life experiences. You have to be brave enough to be lonely. You have to make space for the healthy relationships to come into your life. You have to trust yourself, be patient and listen to your instincts.
Think about building your own ‘family’.
But remember: people treat you how you allow them to treat you.
Show people the way you want to be treated by the way you treat yourself.
And trust your gut feelings.
Nourish to flourish: Take your vitamins with a big glass of water - nootropics give your brain happy chemicals
#9 Think About Brain Health
The state of your brain today is a real indicator of how you will feel tomorrow. You need to nourish it to flourish.
Did you know that your brain controls your physical health as well as your mental health?
If you start taking care of your brain, you start taking care of your future health.
I believe in the fundamentals of true, science-based, wholistic mental health:
I also know that sometimes all those things just aren’t enough to transform your mental wellbeing.
I believe in targeted solution-based supplements that can transform your life because I’ve seen it in myself, in my family and in my clients.
For me, taking supplements isn’t necessarily about filling gaps, it’s about optimising your current and future wellbeing.
Where some see supplements, I see a healthier future.
Giving your body and brain that little extra something that it needs so that you feel your best, be your best and live your best life is the power of supplements.
Dream: “What does my life look like when I am full of health and happiness?”
#10 I wonder what you would do if you had all the energy that you would like every day?
To feel mentally well needs our mind, body and brain to be functioning in balance. Transforming your brain health has a cascade of benefits that can take your wellbeing journey one step further. Not only can you feel great but you are getting one step closer to living the life you want.
Health opens doors. Health transforms lives.
Visualise where you would like your life to go.
In 10 minutes you can make the small daily choices that will redefine your thinking patterns and expectations of what it feels like to flourish, be happy and feel healthy. They can transform your mental wellbeing.
How you feel tomorrow, starts today.
Let’s start today.