BE BOLD, BE BRAVE AND BE AS KIND AS YOU CAN POSSIBLY BE. THEN YOU CAN NEVER GO WRONG.
Here are 17 things I have learnt in my life so far that I feel play a significant part in my mental health and wellbeing. Perhaps these are lessons that you have learnt too, or you could maybe learn something from this post today!
- Mindfulness is so important. Having a favourite place to go to, whether that’s outside or in your own home, is so beneficial. I have a couple of favourite spots where I can drive out and simply appreciate the beauty of the world around me and take in what I see, smell, hear, touch and taste. It helps calm anxiety when you take a step back and focus on just those 5 senses. I find it easiest to do this in a country park because there is so much to see. Whenever I’m feeling particularly low or anxious, I can take myself off to these spots and just practise mindfulness for a while. It doesn’t cure everything but it really helps to take away some of those feelings for a bit.
- Having your heart broken is an important life lesson that everyone has to go through. Nobody wants to go through this, it’s absolutely HORRID. I’ve had my heart properly broken twice so far in my life; my first teenage boyfriend and then my first long-term boyfriend. They both ended our relationship out of the blue and I cannot describe that terrible pain that you feel in your stomach, your heart and your head. It takes time to move on from. But it teaches you incredible lessons, such as what sort of person you want to be, how to be independent, how to love yourself and how to think about the future that you want for yourself that cannot be dictated by anyone else. I have a new partner now and I am very happy, but I can rest a little easier knowing that I’ve gotten over heartbreak twice before and I know if it ever happened again, I can get through it.
- Go to the gym even when you don’t want to. I used to despise exercise. I hated PE or the cross country at school, so the thought of going to the gym repulsed me. People told me it would do me good both mentally and physically to go, so I’d drag myself there and hate every second. However, I started to like that feeling when I finished because I knew I’d achieved something, and the more I went, the more I started to actually like it. As I got fitter and stronger, I found a new confidence in my own body and it’s abilities. I started lifting heavier weights, running further and challenging myself more. Not only this, but exercise releases endorphins that lifts your mood and genuinely does make you feel happier! If you don’t fancy a gym, there are lots of fun ways to exercise; YouTube has LOADS of fitness videos that you could copy in the comfort of your own home.
- Eat the chocolate, or the cake, or the ice cream. Whilst I do think that fruit and vegetables should be a staple of your everyday diet (to keep your body and your mind healthy), I would never turn down a sweet treat ever. I don’t believe in not allowing yourself treats in moderation. Sometimes I do overindulge… but you know what? Life is too short to not treat yourself. If you fancy a greasy takeaway tonight, you go ahead and eat it and don’t worry about how you’re going to work it off. Healthy eating does contribute to your mood though; if you eat good foods (and I’ve also heard to eat lots of nuts!) then it can help anxiety. Click here to go straight to the Anxiety Disorders Centre website where it gives you more information on foods that help or hurt anxiety.
- Do something kind for someone and expect no reward. I saw a post on Facebook the other day where a girl I know bought a homeless person a coffee and a sandwich. That’s a wonderful act of kindness, but I did wonder why she had to announce to her 600 Facebook friends that she’d done it. I’m sure she meant it in a very genuine, caring way, but when she posted it I felt like she needed people to know she’d done something kind and receive some kind of clarification for it… I don’t believe in doing nice things for people to get recognition or something in return. I believe in doing nice things because you genuinely care and want to make a difference, no matter how big or small. That could be something as simple as smiling at a stranger or going as far as treating someone to a holiday! I’m not saying to go out and buy everyone you know a present, I’m saying just to try and do something nice without expecting a thank you or anything in return. It will make you feel great and trust me, people do remember it.
- Don’t worry too much about money. I know, I know. This one is a hard one, especially if you do struggle financially. I struggled all the way through university and was the only person I knew that had to work part time at the same time as studying simply to be able to afford the rent on my student accommodation. Ever since then, I’ve still been struggling to pay off my overdraft and student credit card; but that’s life for me. My parents have always had little money and I know the value of it. That’s how I can say; don’t worry too much about it. It isn’t the be all and end all. Yes money can buy you nice things (and don’t get me wrong, I treat myself with a lot more than I can afford at times!) but it doesn’t go with you when you die. If you want to buy the dress that will mean you’ve got to eat beans on toast until payday, buy it. There will be another payday. Work up some overtime to make up for it. I’m not suggesting to not be responsible with your money; I have a monthly allowance for how much I’m allowed to spend on ‘me’ and how much I have to save in order to pay back student debts. HOWEVER, I’m simply saying don’t let it bog you down.
- Speak to a therapist. Everyone needs one. We in the UK are so lucky to have the NHS because we can receive so much for ‘free’, including talking therapies. Despite the long waiting lists, it is so great to know that those things are available to us. Since I began opening up to my friends about mental health, it made me realise just how much we all go through in our lives. Everyone has their own problems and anxieties, such as work stress, money, relationships and family issues. I think everyone would benefit from seeing a therapist once in their life to just help put things into perspective a little! Talking to my therapist helped me realise that I’m not crazy for feeling anxious or depressed and that it’s totally normal, and with someone who is able to rationalise your internal feelings, it really helps to dig deep at the cause and how to help you feel better. There is absolutely no shame in seeing a therapist. I also find that mums and best friends are the best therapists too!
- Don’t feel guilty for having a duvet day. Duvet days are essential every now and again! Find a great film, get some snacks and cuddle up in bed or on your sofa ALL DAY LONG. I find the best duvet days are on days when you have a bit of a hangover from the night before and you can’t really be bothered to do anything. I love having copious amounts of tea and biscuits, watching girly films and just chilling out! It’s not a wasted day if you feel chilled and relaxed. Why not even go the whole way and get yourself a face mask on, wash your hair and paint your nails (better still, get someone else to do it!).
- Learn to forgive and forget. This is crucial. I find that one of the things that can really weigh us down are grudges that we are holding against people. Hating somebody takes a lot of negative energy and can be really draining, trust me, I’ve been there. I held a grudge against my ex boyfriend for a long, long time because he hurt me so much and every time I thought about him I would get angry. The rage I felt was not healthy and I never felt any better for it, so instead, I chose to forgive him for hurting me. We aren’t friends now and we don’t speak, but I know if I see him around, I can say hello and smile without feeling that instant anger towards him. This also goes for friends and family; we all make mistakes and can hurt people whether we mean to or not. If you can find a way to forgive them and move on, do it because life is too short and you don’t need any negativity dragging you down.
- Don’t let fear hold you back. This lesson was suggested to me by a friend and to be honest I thought it was quite an obvious lesson at first. Then I thought more about it, and thought about my mum. Two years ago my mum was a size 24 and was incredibly overweight; she hated herself and the way she looked. Clothes shopping was a nightmare for her. When I asked her why she didn’t go to the gym or exercise, she said she was too scared of what people would think of her. She had lived many years miserable at her appearance until one day she let go of that fear and went to her first exercise class. Now she has dropped 6 dress sizes and almost 6 stone in weight and is SO much more confident. She was once too scared to go running in fear that people would laugh at her and now she participates in weekly Park Runs and is part of a local running club! It’s amazing how far you can push yourself if you let go of your fears and just go for it!
- Say no when you want to. It’s too easy in this life to try and please other people but sometimes you can get to a stage where you are saying yes to things that you don’t actually want to be doing, or people are starting to treat you like a doormat. Are you the kind of person who will go out of your way for someone because they’ve asked you to, yet it never feels like it’s appreciated or reciprocated? Have you ever gone out with a bunch of people that you don’t really like that much or to a place you don’t want to go to, just because you feel you have to? That’s not okay – don’t be afraid to say no. My boyfriend taught me this; he said he never does anything he doesn’t want to or that won’t make him happy. If he doesn’t feel like going to the pub with his work friends, he says no despite them calling him boring. If someone is constantly asking for favours and all he wants to do is chill at home, he’ll simply say no. You don’t have to be unkind, but you do have to be mindful of yourself and think about whether what you are doing is dragging you down or making you feel good.
- Allow yourself to feel sad if you need to. ‘get on with it’ ‘pick yourself up’ ‘get a grip.’ Yes, we have heard them all. Is that helpful? I went for some reiki a couple of weeks ago and when we had finished, the lady performing it asked me if I had been upset recently. She said she felt so much sadness within me and told me I need to let it all out! I need to take some time to really feel sad and just sit and cry. Whether you believe in spiritual things or not, I do feel that she is right. We have these emotions for a reason and if we keep bottling emotions up, one day the bottle will be so full and it’s going to explode. If you need to take some time to feel sad, do that in the way you feel most comfortable. There’s no shame in letting yourself feel these emotions. I always feel better after a really good cry!
- Be spontaneous! Sometimes our lives can fall into a boring rut – work Monday to Friday, same old weekend routines, back to work and always counting down to booked holidays. BREAK THE ROUTINE and do something crazy! The most spontaneous thing I have ever done is booked flights to Greece with no hotel to stay in and just went. I had a fantastic time and it was great, even though we had the initial panic of wondering if we’d even have a hotel to sleep in! I also love spontaneous nights out; I once went to meet a friend at the pub after the gym so I was sweaty in my gym clothes and hadn’t washed my hair in days. Then someone suggested a night out and all I had time to do was whack on a dress and you know what, usually I spend hours getting ready for a night that turns out to be just okay. That night we had such a good time! I’m not a spontaneous person because I do like plans that are set in stone, but don’t limit yourself to be stuck in a boring rut. Do something fun, you won’t regret it!
- Don’t compare yourself to other people. How important is this one?! Comparison really is the thief of your own personal joy and social media makes it far too easy for us to compare our lives (but remember social media just portrays positive aspects of people’s lives and rarely the negative). If you’re my age you may be finding that people are getting married, buying houses and having children, or if you’re older than me you may find people getting promotions or their children are getting into university and it seems that everyone else is far more happy and successful than you. The holiday snaps get me; why can everyone else afford lavish holidays but I can barely afford a day trip to Skegness?! The mind boggles. Anyway, you have to stop right there and remind yourself that everyone is different and everyone’s lives go at a different pace. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing as long as you focus on your own happiness and your own goals. Your goals may be insignificant to some, but they’re yours so never be ashamed if you see someone you perceive as being better than you. They probably look at you and wish they were like you!
- Your job won’t care for you when you’re sick. Your friends will. It’s easy to fall into the trap of working hard and sometimes I feel like it’s a competition between people on who can work the hardest or who works the most hours in the week or who is the most stressed at work. Yes it’s so great to be career driven and wanting to do your best, but it’s just a job. The job pays the bills, it fills your days (which is why it’s important to do a job you enjoy) but it doesn’t give you cuddles when you feel low and it definitely won’t be there to hold your hand through tough times. People do that; so it’s SO important to stay in touch with your friends and family (especially if you live far away from them). Set aside some time to enjoy your friends and family without looking at your work emails and without worrying about what’s happening whilst you’re not there. I’m a teacher so I am often thinking and working when I’m not in school; I can’t even go shopping without seeing something and thinking how it could fit into one of my lessons or how it could help in a child’s intervention. But I make sure that I take time completely away from work and don’t even allow myself to think about it whilst I am with the people I love. Not only that but your children don’t want to remember you as always working and giving them money; they want to have memories of you spending time with them (and not checking your work phone the whole time).
- Prosecco won’t fix things but it makes me smile. This is just a personal one for me. I do love Prosecco but more because when I drink it, I’m usually with my best friend. Spending time with my best friend can lift any mood that I’m in and sitting out in the sunshine with a glass of fizz is what we enjoy doing together. Everybody deserves a great friend who will pick them up when they’re down!
- Be prepared to always learn new lessons. Life is all about learning as you go and figuring out who you are, and who you want to be. Sometimes there are struggles; some worse than others. Just know that no matter what you are going through, or whatever you go through in the future, will pass. Always believe in yourself and always remember there’s only one you, so take care of yourself and embrace each day that you wake up.
I hope you enjoyed reading the things I have learnt – I’m sure there are many more things I have learnt along the way! If there are any things that you want to share that you think is super important, please share in the comments box below. I’d love to hear from you!