Healthy Mental Habits That Will Reduce Your Anxiety
Got any bad habits? I know I do! However, I’ve made it a priority in the last few years to engrain mental healthy habits into my daily life. These mental healthy habits allowed me to start recovering from my anxiety disorder. It was all about making these thought patterns a part of my daily life because the way you approach anything in your day to day is usually out of habit.
Bad habits can be deadly if they’re not spotted early and consciously tackled. It’s so easy in today’s world to pick up unhealthy physical habits for example. Wanna stream 5 hours of TV? Yes! Wanna order a 12 inch pizza instead of cook? Yes!
I’ve been there…
Here’s some physical unhealthy physical habits that I used to (and sometimes still do) allow myself to slip back into;
- Eating junk after a long day
- Not Exercising regularly
- Slouching leading to back pain
- Staying up too late at night
We all know that we should exercise more and eat the right foods. Once you spend a week eating junk because you’re too tired to cook, you get used to it. You actually get conditioned to the repetitive habit. I won’t lie and say it’s easy to break.
It’s the same for unhealthy mental habits.
When I was looking around at ways to ease my daily anxiety (about every single situation I would find myself in) a theme starting popping back up.
My anxiety was a habit.
I’d behaved this way for most of my life. It was the only way I knew how to act and I didn’t know any different. I had no clue how to be happy or how to be confident, for example.
I spent my whole life thinking in a box and only seeing things from one point of view – the only one I knew and had lived.
How Much Of Your Day Do You Remember?
If you had to tell me about your day, what would you remember? I’m not talking about the events that made you laugh or scream in anger. Not the big, easy to remember events.
How did you feel on your drive to work?
What were you thinking about when you were standing in that queue?
How about when you were eating your sandwich on your lunch break?
If you had to answer you probably say either, anxious (which might be why you’re here) or more likely that you don’t remember.
The thing here is, we spend most of our day on autopilot.
We know we need to go to bed
We know we need to wake up at X o’clock
We know we need to get dressed
We know we need to eat
We know we need to go out the house
We know we need to come home
& we know we need to go to bed again and repeat the cycle.
There’s not many parts of the day when we’re mindful of what we’re actually doing or feeling. We’re not checking in with ourselves and remaining on a conscious level.
This isn’t to say we need not to relax, but it does mean we need to try and connect with ourselves and adopt this healthy mental habit.
This is a core basis of mindfulness for example. Checking in with yourself and being aware of your thoughts and sensations in your body. It’s amazing how this can make you feel more present and alive in the moment.
1. Mindfulness Is A Real Thing
The art of mindfulness is being able to allow your negative thoughts and feeling to come in and then flow right back out without attaching any long lasting judgments or negative tags.
It’s also about connecting with your surroundings and being able to feel sensations in the present moment allowing you to feel calmer and more in control of your mind.
Mindfulness is great for those moments that you don’t normally pay much attention to in your day. Maybe you’re on your drive to work like described above. You could use this time for example to check in with yourself instead of listening to the news which can continue the routine auto-pilot mode most of us find ourselves in.
How are you feeling on that drive? What are you thinking about?
Maybe you’re worried about the workload waiting for you or you could be worried about what you forgot to do before you left the house. It’s these thoughts that will plague your mind for the duration of the day if they are not released from your racing mind.
How do we release them? There are plenty of mindful ways to do just that.
Here’s one mental healthy habit that I like to use;
The Body Scan or as I like to call it – The Full Mind To Body Re-wire!
Why do I call it this strange name? It’s because scanning your body for it’s natural sensations reconnects your body to your mind, allowing you to feel more grounded.
It’s an important healthy mental habit that doesn’t take too long and is simple to do. This exercise is normally done by lying down to have the full peaceful effect, however I’m a busy guy, you’re busy and my cat is busy.
I don’t want to only reserve my healthy mental habits if they’re only going to be when the kids are in bed and I have total silence (which is hardly ever!).
How it’s done;
- Start by focusing on your breathe. Don’t slow your breathe down on purpose but mindfully notice how it feels and sounds.
- Move your attention to your feet. How do they feel? Do they tingle for example? Feel sore?
- Now focus on your legs. Do they feel heavy? Achy?
- Concentrate on your lower back. Does it feel comfortable in your seat? How does the seat feel against it?
- Move your attention to your stomach, chest, shoulders and into your head.
- Now pay attention to your mouth, eyes, nose, jaw and rest rest of your features
There is no set timing for how long this should take you. Simply allow yourself to notice the sensations that run through every area of your physical self. These physical sensations bounce back to your mind reconnecting body and mind.
The idea here is to at no point pass judgment. We’re only noticing our sensations in our body without labelling them ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
2. Say Goodbye To ‘Likes’
How many people liked your Facebook picture or watched your Instagram story today? Who cares! At least that’s what’s worked for me…
The physical act of needing to check Facebook throughout the day is more than just boredom. It’s habit. Whilst Facebook was designed to connect people and entertain, it’s lead to increased depression and anxiety in people of all ages.
I used to be this way.
I don’t know if I was bored or just wanted something interesting to find. I found myself looking for that ‘something’. That one post that would make me laugh or inspire me. Instead, what I quickly found myself doing was being envious of others, judging myself against other peoples lives, and spiralling down further into anxiety and depression.
It’s been documented in many leading studies that overuse of social networks has extremely damaging effects that lead lack of confidence, lack of self worth, anxiety, and depression.
Are you trying to find something? That one thing that will make you feel better?
Here’s the thing – when I first started using Facebook back in 2011, it was new, it was fun and it was something that I wanted to get my teeth into. I wanted to be involved in the conversation.
It’s fun to connect with others after all…
Soon enough, the honeymoon effect with FB wore off, however by this point I was still checking my feed like a mad man throughout the day. My friends were still active on there but I guess I grew up. I wasn’t sharing funny memes or voicing my opinions on subjects aimlessly anymore.
However, I was still feeling the need to check in. The need to see what the whole world was doing. Why?
It had become a habit.
The joy and excitement of getting a notification or a ‘like’ had worn off but I still came back for more. I was addicted to the habit of Facebook. Opening my phone and scrolling. I didn’t even know why I was doing it.
Think about how much time you scroll through Facebook on autopilot. You’re consciously doing it but you’re not really aware of why. How much time are you spending on it?
It’s not uncommon for people to spend at least two hours (and that’s low for most) on FB a day.
That’s 14 hours a week and 56 hours a month!
When you start to break it down, you can start to see how much time is wasted aimlessly scrolling for entertainment or that instant gratification.
Now I’m not trying to aim at Facebook solely, but I talk about it because I know it consumed my spare time and for many others I know.
The healthy mental habit I had to adopt was to end the constant search for instant gratification.
I had to stop wanting to find that ‘something’ that was going to please me. I realised I was so uncontent inside that I was turning to technology and other people.
That was the time I stopped myself from checking my news feed. I made a conscious effort to ignore what others were doing and saying because it added no benefit to me or what I was doing. If I wanted to see what one of my friends was doing, I’d contact them directly.
I changed what I did in that ‘scrolling time’ and became more productive which lead to new mental healthy habits like learning. I learnt about more anxiety busting exercises, learnt about websites and how to put them together and started to discover things I didn’t know I liked.
Healthy Mental Habits & Daily Habits
We spend our days living like we did the last. I know I’m guilty of it too. It’s comfortable to give in to your habits and it’s familiar. We’re creatures of habit as humans. It’s what we do. We repeat patterns. Our actions become habits that we live by.
So what if you became mindful of this?
Take a look at your day to day.
What if you woke up earlier?
What would happen if you did some exercise on Mondays and Wednesdays?
How would you feel if you smiled more?
What if you made a meal instead of ordering it?
It only takes breaking one habit to change everything. Every action has a reaction. For example;
What if you woke up earlier? – You’d get more done
What would happen if you did some exercise on Mondays and Wednesdays? – You’d have more energy
How would you feel if you smiled more? – You’d have more conversations
What if you made a meal instead of ordering it? You’d feel more productive
Any of these end results would then lead to a different sensation or feeling that would be out of your normal routine. If you completed these for one or more days, you would start to change your habits…and it’s really as simple as that.
What Holds Us Back From Changing Our Habits?
What holds you back from eating better? Feeling less anxious and trying anything new? It’s sometimes will power, but always safety. Doing the same thing day after day creates a safety. We know what we’re doing and we feel more in control.
Ironically, it’s that same safety that can lead to high levels of anxiety and we can end up feeling less grounded. There is a certain fear that comes with trying something new – the fear of the unknown.
What we don’t know and don’t understand is often scary. How will we cope? How will we react to this new thing? How will this new thing make us feel?
I myself have always liked the safety of my daily routine. I’ve also liked being at home in surroundings I know. Trying new things has always scared me.
I found however, forcing myself to change just one habit can lead to a ripple effect into other areas of my life. For example, blogging regularly (which I lucky don’t have to force myself to do because I enjoy it) has lead to meeting and talking to new people and connecting with those who I might not have done before.
It’s made me put myself out there and allowed me to practise the skill of writing that I otherwise wouldn’t of know I enjoyed.
The #1 Unhealthy Mental Habit We’re All Guilty Of
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand times again before I’m done. The worst mental habit to get into is living on autopilot, never checking in with yourself or disrupting the negative thought patterns you may have become accustomed to.
Being mindfully aware of this is the first step. It’s about taking the time to actually understand how you feel and what you’re doing with yourself. I’ve learned that many people like to think they know themselves but in truth they know very little. They don’t know what they want in life and they don’t know where they want to go, physically and mentally.
Use the mental healthy habits in this post, there’s plenty more to come.
Here’s to your success – Sean