Like many, 2020 has been problematic for my mental health. I made the decision early on in the year to try new ways of combating my struggles. I’ve changed some of my habits and learned new methods of self-care which have helped me substantially over the last few months. Here are my top four which I’m excited to share with you:
A year ago I was one of those people that believed “I could never do meditation because I get distracted too easily.” In acting school, we’d have classes focussing on meditation and breath, and I always struggled with allowing my mind to be calm. I’d become frustrated and ultimately concluded that I sucked at meditation.
In the last few years, however, I kept meeting people who praised meditation and encouraged me to give it another shot. I knew I couldn’t just meditate by myself. "There’s absolutely no way I can sit in silence for ten minutes! Are you mad?"
Essentially, I needed help. So, I looked on Spotify and youtube for some guided meditation tracks. I figured there would be a much better chance of me paying attention to some random voice than complete silence.
I started practising regularly and after some time, I finally started feeling the benefits. I encourage everyone to find a meditation practice that works for them. It might not work immediately, but with patience, I’m certain you’ll see results. (I mean, I did, and if meditation can work for me, it can work for anyone.)
2. Limiting social media first thing in the morning
I used to have this habit where I’d wake up, check my phone, grab my coffee and breakfast, and then peruse my laptop while eating and caffeinating. One day over the summer I decided to switch things up a bit. After waking up I’d still check my phone for notifications (I mean, what if someone SUPER important was trying to reach me?!) But, instead of perusing my laptop while eating and caffeinating, I listened to an audiobook. This ended up be such a huge benefit to my mental health that I continued to do it. It’s no secret that social media is detrimental to your mental wellbeing, and limiting it in your everyday life can be extremely beneficial.
3. Practising gratefulness
Honestly, if you told me a year ago that I’d be writing about ‘practising gratefulness’ I’d almost certainly be rolling my eyes at you. I never thought I’d be that person who meditates and practices 'gratefulness.' Ew. Except, here I am. Gratefulness is something I did take from my mediation practices. Also, if you’re a fan of the Netflix adult animated series Big Mouth you’d know that they touched on the subject in their most recent season. (Honestly, though, if you haven’t seen Big Mouth I couldn’t recommend it enough, especially for the way they handle subjects around mental health.)
If you don’t know what practising gratefulness is it’s a pretty simple concept: you list things that you are grateful for. It especially helps with combating depression and anxiety because it forces you back in the present, whereas feelings of depression and anxiousness typically stem from being lost in the past or the future. It’s called “practising’ gratefulness because it is something you need to practise. The more you do it the more it becomes natural.
4. Releasing expectations of happiness
Do you know what the problem with all these self-help books and ideologies are? They give you the impression that you need to be happy all the damn time. I spent so much of 2020 researching ways to help make me content and happy. I looked at all the self-care methods and gushed in jealousy over all these people I found online who found their “perfect” method and are now absolutely and wholly content in their lives. I kept hearing people say “happiness is a choice,” so I tried so bloody hard to choose to be happy before I realised: I’m HUMAN! It is practically impossible to be happy all the damn time! Those content people cannot be and are not always happy. They have their bad days as well as their good days, like every single person on this planet. Instead of being in a constant state of joy, they might just have an overall more content quality of life. They’ve found methods to help them achieve happiness, but they’re not completely absent from misery.
Meditation, staying off social media, and practising gratefulness are all excellent tools that have helped my mental health. However, I think what’s been most beneficial to me is realising that there is absolutely nothing that can cure me from being human, and negative feelings are unfortunately apart of that.