Whether we're in the car, sitting at our desk, or on a walk or run outside, you can cultivate the healthiest possible mind possible by creating distance from it.
Mental health is something that I take for granted and assume I possess. I get through each day and sleep (most) nights. Of course, some days are better than others. But is "getting through" and having "some good days" really the best that we can do?
No, that is not the best that we can do. Our mind, just like our bodies, needs exercise. That's why there is yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. It helps us change our relationship with our minds to build something stronger and healthier.
What is a “healthy mind”?
A healthy mind is not a happy mind, or a mind free of anxiety or obsessive thoughts. It's not even a mind free of a mental health diagnosis.
According to many spiritual teachers, including Byron Katie, Michael Singer, and Eckhart Tolle, a healthy mind is a mind that we have stopped believing.
When we start seeing that we’re the watcher of our thoughts, we’ve begun a healthy relationship with our minds.
I know that may sound incredibly radical, or even nonsensical, but this one concept, alone, has changed my life, and many others' lives, permanently.
1. Find the ground.
Feel the ground beneath your feet or the chair beneath your seat. Lay on your back to feel more ground supporting you. When we’re lost in a hypothetical worst-case scenario in our heads, finding a physical connection to the ground brings us out of our head-spin and back into the moment.
2. Find your breath.
Feel coolness as you inhale and the warmth of your exhale. Our minds’ activity slows when we bring awareness to our breath. While incredibly simple, it’s also incredibly effective: slow you breath and you slow the mental spin.
3. Find connection.
We are human beings on a rock circling a ball of gas, on a tiny planet for a very short amount of time. We are all part of an experiment called, "life," and in this way, we are all connected. Connect to the human condition we share to pull ourselves out of the isolation that results from chasing rabbit holes in the mind.
4. Give safety.
Ask: what do I need to feel more safe? Perhaps it's 15 minutes outside, an evening away from roommates or family, or a warm blanket around our shoulders. Respondin to our bodies’ basic need for safety aligns us with the animal that the body, and away from the chaos of an overactive brain.
5. Accept permission.
Where do we need a permission slip to feel how we feel, to need what we need, and to be who we are. Every emotion carries an important message, and our needs are valid. Providing permission to be who we are is radical self-acceptance, acknowledging that our big brains are only one part of our identity.
Here's a quote from Elena Brower that I never tire of hearing: “You belong here, and your presence is needed.” Belonging is not "fitting in" or pretending to be someone we are not, but accepting the circumstances of our lives. We belong to our problems and our triumphs. In the words of the Sufi poet, Hafiz: "The place where you are right now God circled on a map for you." The mind would have us believe that our lives are all wrong and we're screwing everything up. When we consider that maybe nothing is wrong, that maybe we belong, precisely right here, for a very important reason, we connect with a higher purpose beyond the understandings of the busy mind.
The mind loves to maneuver, manipulate and strive. Basically, it seeks to control the outside world as if life were a chess match that can be won. In reality, we can't control the weather, our health or if the one person we love loves us back. We can give into our minds’ impulse to control, or we can just. Let. It. Go. When we surrender to what is happening, in this moment, we release the impossible job of maintaining constant control over everything. We cede the fiction that we ever had control. We move away from the mind, and toward inner peace.
8. Tell the truth.
What truth needs to be told? The practice of telling the truth, if only to our own selves, is not only radical, but mind-bending, too. Whether it's the truth of how we really feel about a job, a relationship or our finances, honesty is the business of the heart, body and soul - not the mind. When we stay committed to the truth, we are no longer subject to the wavering debate of our waffling minds.
Photo by Paul Hoelen