Mental Health and The Growth Mindset is an article that aims to provide you with evidence-based tools you can use to improve your chances of implementing change into your life. Yet another year has passed us all and 2018 is upon us. With it, 2018 brings our hopes of change and growth. My name is Dr Annahita Nezami, and I have a counselling and psychotherapy practice in Hampton, Middlesex and Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey. Even, though I am a psychologist, I can relate, I have some personal goals that I am striving towards in 2018. We all want to resist the temptation of going back to old dysfunctional patterns and commit to psychological growth. Some of us will be filled with hope at the start of the year and others may have given up on their goals entirely. What we all want to know is: how do we change certain behaviours that no longer serve us? In order to help us all along our way I have devised a little counselling psychology DIY plan for 2018 on ways you can improve your mental health and initiate a growth mindset.
- Do not avoid your emotions, in the long term you will regret it because that can lead to future mental health problems. Embrace your emotions, get to know them, understand them, feel them when appropriate, process them and learn to manage them. Validate your emotions, pay attention to the physiological reactions you have in relation to your emotions. Your emotions are part of you and in order to process events in your life and for true and meaningful growth to take place you need to get to know how you feel and why you feel that way. Sometimes when we experience an intense emotional reaction to something or someone it is not solely due to the current trigger but also our past.
- Understand the continuum of emotions and the effect of accumulative emotions. One example is anger, understand the anger continuum and the emotions/feelings at different points on the anger continuum. On the lower ends of the anger continuum we have annoyance, irritation, frustration, then on the higher ends we have, anger and rage. By doing this you will learn more about the things that trigger intense emotions in you and how emotional tension can build-up and erupt over time.
- Practice mindfulness. There are so many wonderful mindfulness clips on You Tube. Go on have a browse! My recent favorites are Tibetan throat mediation, vagus nerve stimulation music, and self-compassion meditation.
- Substitute a competitive and fixed mindset with a growth mindset. Embrace the journey of becoming as oppose to reaching your final destination, aim to grow and learn and try to enjoy the process by engaging with it.
- Surround yourself with people who exhibit the behaviors you want to embrace. That does not mean to say you should dump the friends who do not, but make sure you are around those who do also.
- Self-care. You need to ‘know yourself’, learn to show yourself self-compassion, appreciate the work you and your wonderful internal constellation commit to each and every day in order to survive and function. This means understanding yourself, your body, your internal states and your emotions. To do this practice loving-kindness, meditate, and practice body-scan exercises.
- Set small goals. I think one mistake we all make time and time again is to set unrealistic goals to reach in unrealistic timeframes which overwhelm us. Such goals require massive shifts in our life. Everyone is different, but sometimes with some clients I find it is more effective to help them make little changes over time that lead to something bigger. So if you want to lose 5 stones, rather than aiming to do that all in one go, aim to add one healthy thing to your lifestyle and engage with that activity. This can be as small as I want to drink more herbal teas. If your healthy activity is joining the gym, take a day to visit the gym and connect with it, pay attention to the things you like about the place and what you will gain from attending it, yes I said connect with your gym!
- Devote your energy to creating ‘cognitive dissonance’ or a conflict of beliefs. If you do this you are more likely to instigate behavioral change that is tangible and sustainable. For example, if you want to exercise more in order to improve your health try and focus on changing how your feel about exercising, create a different energy field towards the act of exercising, explore what exercises appeal to you, take time to plan the steps and take time to visualize the goal and all the big and small, short and long term benefits. If you associate negative things with exercise, such as I hate it when I get sweaty, or I hate the gym because it is so monotonous you are more likely to avoid that actively. Avoidance can be a conscious effort or a subconscious one. For example, we might create subconscious barriers to attending the gym such as not packing a gym bag the night before, making alternative plans last minute or returning to activities that light up the reward pathways such as drinking alcohol or binge eating. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, your mind is subconsciously trying to protect you from what you loath or fear.
- Set small goals and add something new to your life as oppose to removing something. So instead of saying I will never drink cappuccino again, say I will start exploring herbal teas. Then do this task mindfully and with intention until you discover your brew. Personalise the experience, romance with it and connect with it. By doing this you will begin to help your brain associate the activity with a reward, and therefore activating the reward pathways whenever you think or participate in the chosen healthy activity.
- Connect with nature. Again, this can be done very casually to begin with. Implement mindfulness skills. When out, remain aware of your everyday natural surroundings. For example, pay more attention to the birds, the trees etc. Pay attention to not just the sights but the sound and touch also. But when I say pay more attention, I am talking about connecting with nature, allowing it to surprise you, allowing it to inspire you….This activity will help keep you grounded and focused.
I hope you enjoyed reading Mental Health and The Growth Mindset. I wish you all a smooth 2018, and hope you allow yourself to be more self-compassionate and commend yourself for all your efforts little or large. If you want to complete a little more reading on how to stimulate a growth mindset please follow this link to Psychology Today.
Contact me to arrange an appointment for counselling and psychotherapy or browse my website for more information on the services I offer.