The good doctor offers sounds advice for your own mental health
Perhaps you, like me, come across a multitude of lists explaining how to be happier, or more mindful, or better at this or that. Some of them can be helpful and offer little gems for a life well-lived. Over the years I’ve created my own, and have gathered a few “tips” for you here. So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite “How-To’s For a Mentally Healthy Life.”
How to Ask For Help
Lots of people have difficulty with this one. But it’s important to realize that you are not an island and you don’t have to do it all alone. If you’re still trying to get that “A”, or if you’re still trying to please your parents, it’s all a lot of unnecessary energy which could be put to better use. And that’s where you begin. What’s this uber-independence all about? What early-life messages taught you that it’s not ok to ask for help?
Sometimes we just need to practice. I brought both pups to the vet the other day for their annual check-up and shots, etc. Big mistake. Getting them out of the car with their high energy and anticipation, leashes that got snagged on every crevice of the vehicle, pillars to walk around between the car and the front door (who’s idea was that…did the architect think that all dogs will walk in unison on the same side of six pillars?), it was worthy of an I Love Lucy episode. Or YouTube. Then, in a V-8 moment, I realized: all I had to do was go in and ask a technician to assist us. Ugh.
Tangled leashes aside, let’s be clear: this doesn’t mean you can’t be a productive, successful person. In fact, the most successful people on the planet surround themselves with the wisdom of other hard workers because they know they can’t do it all alone, no matter how brilliant, creative or powerful their vision may be.
How to Say No
Regular Shrink-Rappers have read about this before, especially around the holidays when stress can become overwhelming and we’ve said “yes” to all sorts of tasks that may be better to delegate, or omit altogether. But saying no is a learned skill…one anybody can achieve with practice and a few deep breaths.
Experiment with these: “No, but thank you for asking me.” Or, “I’d love to, but I can’t make that big a commitment. Is there another way I can help?” Or, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t agree/take that on/help you just now. Is there someone else you could ask?”
What you risk is the feeling that, temporarily, you may be disappointing someone. But ultimately what you gain is a bit more self-confidence for having taken care of yourself.
Author Suzy Welch recommends saying yes as much as possible when you’re young, to gain experience. Over time, as life’s priorities take shape, start saying no, with discernment, so that what you do with your time reflects how you want to live your life.
How to Motivate Yourself
We all have times when, despite our strongest intentions, we have trouble revving up the ol’ engine to get some chore done. Or we have a psychological obstacle (i.e., writer’s block) to work through. Or we’re feeling the stress that comes with procrastination—that dark cloud hovering, reminding you of what you don’t really want to do.
Consider this: Take a break from it all. Replace the pressure with pleasant, perhaps inspiring, distraction. And give yourself a specific amount of time for this “play.” Go to a park and laugh at the antics of the little kids (or a dog park, which is endless free entertainment!) Call an elderly relative or friend, and ask them some questions, absorbing their wisdom.
Take your best friend to lunch. Go to a gallery or favorite store or spend a couple of hours window-shopping and people-watching. Turn up the music and dance—wildly and without inhibition. Eat some ice cream on the back porch and listen to the sounds of nature. You get the idea: Get off your own back, reduce the stress, and return refreshed and recharged.
How To Show the Love
Whether you’re in a relationship and the “love bank” is a little low; or you’re single and yearning for intimate love; or you just want to improve the quality of your friendships and family relationships, my suggestion is to think love.
Some people feel loved by the words you say. Some by the deeds you do for them. Some by the amount and quality of time you spend together. If you want someone you care about to feel the love, think about them for a moment. Think specifically about how they best absorb kindness and love. Is it through simple gestures, like giving them a call, or sending them a sweet note? Is it by verbally expressing appreciation for all the ways they regularly enrich your life? Is it by spending time together—taking in a movie, or a romantic dinner, or going for a walk in the woods?
If we’re not present-minded, not focused on the other person, we risk a type of giving that we think they’d like, rather than what they’d really like. By giving love tailored to the other, we begin a positive cycle of thoughtful, conscious giving and conscious receiving. And we find that there’s plenty of love to go around.
I hope these tips have helped. In future Shrink Raps I’ll offer others. Meanwhile, take care of yourself, and those you hold dear.
Until next time, from author/poet Diane Ackerman, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”
Dr. Rick Pimental-Habib, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, author, minister, and educator in private practice in Chattanooga. Contact him at DrRPH.com, visit his wellness center at WellNestChattanooga.com