BE KIND TO YOURSELF
“You just keep a positive attitude no matter what comes in your way – challenges, roadblocks – don’t let it faze you, and you can overcome anything” Rose Namajunas (MMA Champion)
We can all be our own worst critic – but being harsh on yourself isn’t adding to a positive outlook, so ditching the critical voice in your head is really important for long-term happiness.
We’ve all been there – the voice that says you can’t do something or you’re no good at this: “Why bother trying, you know you’ll fail…” It’s obvious this isn’t helpful to our mental state when we’re thinking such unhelpful thoughts, but the impact goes far deeper than that.
A 2014 study of HIV patients and their attitudes to their condition is revealing. Researchers identified eight positive behaviours and taught a randomised number of patients amongst a sample of 159 how to practice these behaviours (the others took a general support course)
Amongst those who took the behavioural course, those who practiced these skills carried a lower load of the virus, were more likely to take their medication correctly, and were less likely to need antidepressants to help them cope with their illness.
In short, their positive attitude and ability to be kind to themselves helped both their physical and mental health significantly.
By the way, those positive behaviours the researchers taught are mostly very relevant and worth noting:
■ Recognize a positive event each day.
■ Savor that event and log it in a journal or tell someone about it.
■ Start a daily gratitude journal.
■ List a personal strength and note how you used it.
■ Set an attainable goal and note your progress.
■ Report a relatively minor stress and list ways to reappraise the event positively.
■ Recognize and practice small acts of kindness daily.
NURTURE AN INTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL
“Success Is Due To Our Stretching To The Challenges Of Life.
Failure Comes When We Shrink From Them” John C. Maxwell (author)
Locus of Control describes how someone sees the world in two broad categories – internal and external. In short, someone with an external LOC believes things – and life – happens to them and that they have little or no power over what happens.
For example, they may believe that depression happens to them and is down to external factors such as the environment they live in or poor relationships bringing them down. Having an external locus of control is strongly associated with poor mental health.
Someone with an internal locus of control, however, has a different perspective – they believe they are in control of their life and have power over things that happen to them in aspects such as work and relationships. They have confidence that they will prevail and it’ll be most likely down to their hard work and skill.
So, it’s obvious that developing an internal locus of control is key to continuing good mental health – but it needs work. Thrive Programme founder Rob Kelly didn’t enjoy flying and frequently talks about overcoming this fear by learning how to fly himself (and subsequently becoming a world class paramotor pilot).
Rob identified his fear and worked hard at overcoming it by gaining power over this experience. Flying was no longer arduous and became fun, thrilling and a positive life event – all the time adding to an internal locus of control as he processed his achievement and new-found skills.
Developing an internal LOC in this way is one of the most powerful things you can do for your long-term mental health. So pick something in your life where you know you have a very external belief system – maybe you’re terrified of driving on motorways or in the rain?
Think how positive you’ll feel when you conquer this fear and how, instead of being a drain on your mental health, it’s a long-term gain.
CHECK YOUR PERSPECTIVE
“Perseverance and perspective until victory”
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (Cuban-American lawyer and politician)
Every day, every hour we take a perspective on something – and that perspective is either positive or negative. A negative perspective on even a small event or process has a cost to our mental health – just as taking a positive perspective is good for our wellbeing.
So really think about how you view events on a daily basis and consider how this view is impacting you personally. Is your perspective adding positively to your mindset… or is it a negative factor in your mentality? If it’s not helping, change it.
We know that language has a powerful affect on our mental health, and our language is a product of our perspective.
So changing your baseline perspective on something as simple as a commute to work – boring and frustrating, or a chance to read / listen to the radio and relax? – will also help change your language around this, and thus help foster mental wellness.
This is more important than you might think – recent studies have shown that people with an optimistic perspective on life actually live longer, just as being positive towards yourself helped the HIV patients in the study mentioned earlier.
In this study of more than 70,000 women, optimists were less likely to get fatal cancer, heart disease, lung conditions and stroke in their retirement years.
And the best bit is that we can all learn how to develop a positive perspective on life – it just takes a bit of practice in identifying the areas where we can change our outlook and working on making that change.
Developed by Rob Kelly, The Thrive Programme is a leading mental health training course with tens of thousands of graduates worldwide. It can help treat anxiety, depression, phobias and general poor mental health with a series of evidence-based tools and techniques via a book-based course or one-to-one Consultant-led sessions.