In recent years, mental health and self-love has become something we hear often. But what does it mean? What is self-love? Mental health? What is a personal journey?
Well, despite the fact that these terms are actually named pretty aptly, they're so mainstream that they've lost their own definitions. Mental health is the state of your mind's well-being. It's not just a term we can throw around if we're sad, because sadness can be healthy. It isn't a shield we can hide behind to excuse actions, either. Just like when you're physically ill, we should not use our sickness as a reason to be lazy or to cease further pursuits of goodness. Mental illness is a tricky game, since it's so new to the realm of medicine, but it is able to be navigated. I believe all sickness is rooted in stress. After all, let's break down the word "disease." Dis-ease. A state of not being at ease. If ease is peace, then disease is stress. We know today that stress contributes to sickness heavily; that it lowers our immune systems and makes us susceptible to infection. If we apply this practice to how our body functions, we can pretty easily understand that being in good mental health is the first step to good health overall. How do we reach a state of peace? Well, we technically don't. I'm not one of those people who tell you happiness is a choice, because it isn't. If it was, nobody would ever choose to be anything else. Choice is easy. However, happiness is the result of a series of lifestyle choices, that put you into a better position to be easy.
By all margins, the most pressing factor is your environment. Would you get on a ship right now and move to Mars? Not some fictional version of Mars where things are provided for you, not some business deal where you get a suit and everything, but just you, as you are, moving to Mars. You wouldn't. You know why? Because you can't breathe there. Now let's take a less obvious example: would you live in a city where you know the air is so polluted that you know it'll cause complications? I'll bet you said no--unless you're that one guy who says the wrong answer because you think it's funny. Don't be that guy. Anyway, it's clear that you wouldn't want to do that, because you know it's unhealthy. The thing is, we have tools and technology that can detect air pollution and we can see things like smoke, that we know isn't safe to breathe. It's a little less obvious with mental environments, but it is traceable if you learn how to listen to your intuition (which is just your subconscious mind) and detect things that are not good for you long-term. Can I teach you how to do that? Not really, no, but I can try. Your environment controls everything around you--even physically. If you live in a place where there are more fast food restaurants than markets, you'll probably run into more burgers than fruits. If it's difficult to make decent income, you'll probably have to buy cheaper, processed foods to eat instead of buying much healthier alternatives. If gas prices are high, you can't afford to buy things that make you happy as often, because your money is being drained in transportation. All of these factors play a role on your life, because you live with them. I can't get you closer to fresh foods, or give you more income, but I can help make you aware of these factors and encourage you to calculate your options carefully. Before I move onto your mental environment, I want you to think deeply about how your physical environment affects your physical relationship with the world. It's good practice for the mental comparison.
Now then, I'm going to move on. A mental environment is the culmination of beliefs, ideas, and opinions that surround you. What contributes to these? Well, like how living in a forest gives you an abundance of fruits and vegetables, living in society gives you an abundance of opinions. In fact, society has evolved to much that now we can never escape it. It's in our pockets! I encourage disconnecting from the internet every now and again to refresh your perspective on the world--the real world, which you only see when you're sobered up from all of the distractions. Why? Because we get irritable when we're shoulder-to-shoulder with people, and we've created an environment where it feels like that all the time even if we can't see it. The thing is, all of reality is filtered through our perception of it. Like, colors don't exist in the way we see them. That is how our eyes respond to certain wavelengths of light, which acts as it does. Dogs can't see the same spectrum of light as we can, after all, and some birds can see in the ultraviolet. If we take this concept and apply it to other senses, like our minds, we can pretty quickly see how our perception shapes all things in our world. Let's take fear, for example. We would feel pretty afraid to know someone is chasing us down the street with a knife. We'd feel equally afraid to think it, though. Your brain's oldest area does not know the difference between that fiction and that reality. It just sends signals either way. So whether we're right next to someone having a conversation or texting them from afar, it feels the same. Our rational minds know that it is not the same, but this dichotomy actually creates a dangerous situation. We can sustain social interactions for a while, really, but we need a break at some point, or we lose the opportunity to reflect on those interactions. If the first thing we do in the morning is read our phones, and the last thing we do before bed is interact over the phone, then we are creating an environment in which we are always in an interaction. This takes us off of our course to reflect. It takes us away from a personal journey and throws us onto an interpersonal journey, which can have its benefits, but does not lead to satisfaction in the end. After all, it's dependent on other people! I love to break down words, so real quick, let's take on "distraction." Dis-traction. The removal of traction, which is a firm grip upon the ground. Distraction, then, can be viewed as the thing that takes us off of our path. Away from what grounds us--reflection. If everything has an equal and opposite force, then "reflection" for us is just being equal to nature, as nature is equal to us. We are nature, after all. Nature spent time creating us, spirituality aside, for it had to pick from its own resources to make your DNA. It fed the parents that made you, and what was eaten while you were in the womb fueled your growth, and as you went on into life, you fueled yourself with nature's bounty. Reflection is just bouncing off of the earth to see yourself. Looking at your interactions with nature--other people included--so you can be aware. And why is awareness so important? Because nothing happens without it. You can't make a choice without awareness. Only accidents happen without awareness, good or bad.
Self-love, then, is not only having love for yourself, but actively loving yourself. What is love? (Baby don't hurt me!)
Love is a state of understanding. So, by extension, loving something is understanding it coupled with caring for it. Having a mutual understanding, an agreement, to nourish that thing. Self-love can then evolve into a lifestyle. Actions that you do daily to protect yourself from stress (disease) and to propel yourself into peace.
How do we do it? We need to control our environment. Do not give unnecessary time (notice that I said unnecessary: don't quit your job just because your boss is a dick) to people who drain you instead of energize you. Do not listen to the opinions of people who cannot relate to you--but don't be so quick to decide that someone doesn't understand what you're going through. Oh, my! Too many contradictions. How do I navigate this?
Breathe. There are a lot of contradictions, I know. You need to trust yourself, yet you need to understand that you cannot trust yourself implicitly. That you can be wrong. There is a middle ground. That is what reflecting is for; it shows you the way to the middle ground.
Controlling your environment can mean moving, if someone in your immediate life is not good for you. If they make you feel bad about yourself instead of encouraging positive changes, or if they do not support your way of life without a good reason (sometimes, your way of life is wrong, but there are healthy ways to promote consideration!) or if they generally just inspire chaos in your life. If those people are your family, you are not bound to them. Your game is on hard mode for sure, but you can still remove yourself from them. Start taking steps to be independent and promoting positivity. I know it's easier said than done, but hardship does build character!
If that person is an employer, you can start looking for a better career path with people you can generally agree with, even if your goal is just a healthy working relationship.
If that person is anyone else, you might want to consider letting them know that you may not have room in your life for them anymore. They're on their own journeys, too, so be mindful not to insult them or vilify them. Some people are in bad places, and sometimes, you're the reason for it, too! That isn't your fault, but if the two of you don't mix, you need to stop mixing! Sometimes, one good thing meeting another good thing makes a really bad reaction. Strawberries are great. My strawberry-allergic cousin is great. Do you see where I'm going? Nothing is wrong with either of them, but they will surely devour each other if they force themselves into a position they don't belong!
What else can you do to tidy up your mental environment? For one, as mentioned earlier, get out of the social media prison. You don't have to go to the extremes by deleting all of your apps, but you should try to give yourself designated times for something else. The healthiest way to destroy one habit is to create another--the ol' Indiana Jones trick! Swipe one object and throw another in its place!
Let's destroy that extra hour of screen-time you give yourself and replace it with reading. Why reading? Because, let's be honest, most of you use the closed-caption option for TV shows anyway (weirdos) and if you're not watching something on social media, you are literally reading it anyway. Come on!
Oh, yeah, and also reading is, um, SUPER GOOD FOR YOU? Yeah. It improves focus, creativity, expands your horizons, builds patience, and a whole bunch of other good stuff. Seriously, it is exercise for your brain. If you think you don't like to read, you are either wrong or you have a reading disability like dyslexia, in which case, I'm not qualified to give you advice on an alternative. Just do something else that's healthy instead, like the points I'll make next! Anyway, not all books are for me. Not all books are for you. That's okay. You really do need to find the right one. What shows do you like? Find books in those genres. What topics excite you? Find books about those things. It will take some getting used to. I'll be honest: it took me over an entire year to get into a regiment of dedicated reading. Now reading has become something I enjoy so much that I get irritable when I don't get the chance to do it weekly! Turn your phone off if you have to, or on Do Not Disturb, or whatever you have to do. Get out of the notification prison.
What else can you do? Work out. Go for a walk. Journal. Draw. Make music. Feed the local ducks (just don't feed them bread, it's actually bad for them). Literally anything productive. Those things will give you a much greater sense of accomplishment than looking for it online, where everyone is playing the same game. By the way, you will never win that game. It's all about "I," and games like that can't have a victor. Think of it like this: you get one vote for an election. You are in the election. If you don't vote for you, you will surely lose, because everyone else is using their one vote on themselves, and you will then be the only person with 0, who was responsible for the one person with 2 votes winning. Something to that effect. The point is that everyone wants the same validation you are seeking on social media, so they're not paying attention to you. They're paying attention to whether or not they can get you to like them.
I reiterate: get out.
Once you leave that little box, you get to explore the real world and meet real people. That's not to say you can't make friends on the internet; what I mean by "real" is genuine. Someone not playing the game. Those people are the best!
Other than that, the best way to keep your mental environment clean is to meditate. Meditation and reflection go hand in hand. Meditation is clearing your mind not in the sense of emptying it, but of "wiping it clear" so that you can see through it with clarity. Understand? It's navigating it without the fog. Seeing through it for what it truly is, not getting rid of it for a while. The first step is accepting. Maybe you've done some bad things, maybe you're a little too hard on people, maybe you're judgmental! It's okay. It already happened. The best thing you can do now is improve. Accept it, study it, break the cycle. Break the cycle and become the best version of yourself. It doesn't matter who stays or who goes. What matters is that you have yourself. That you take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone or anything else. Otherwise, you will be doing everyone and everything a disservice, anyway. There is only one of yourself. Everyone else is already taken! You can't be them better than they can be them, and they can't be you better than you can be you. So be you. What makes someone amazing isn't the qualities or the quirks someone has; it's their authenticity. Be yourself so you can study yourself so you can understand yourself so you can nurture yourself.
That's all I have for you today. I post blogs every Thursday, so be sure to subscribe if you want to get notified when they drop! Let me know in the comments what you think about a healthy mental environment.
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