It’s natural to feel a drive to overhaul your health in January. The holiday excesses combined with the cold weather (and this year a serious health pandemic) foster an innate desire to “get healthy”.
But what does healthy really mean? Sure, if you’ve been living on a diet of booze, cake, pizza and Netflix, then nourishing your body with some movement and vegetables is a good idea. But, is a 10-day juice detox actually what you need when it’s the middle of winter and it’s making you absolutely miserable?
You see, the body is very good at detoxing itself, all by itself. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have survived as a species. The liver does nothing but detox, 24/7.
So if you’re in a detox mindset this January, I’d love you to consider focusing on the part of you which is AWFUL at detoxing itself – the mind.
The mind holds on (ferociously) to damaging thoughts, negative experiences and painful feelings. Our ancient brain thinks it’s keeping us safe by doing this – remembering what hurts, it figures, will help us stay clear next time we encounter something similar. This is very useful with things like fire. It’s less useful, however, when it comes to holding onto painful mental thoughts and attitudes, which ultimately does us more harm than good.
2020 was an exceptionally difficult year. I can best compare it to standing in the shallows of a really rough sea, where it felt like every time I stood up, another wave would knock me back down. The year challenged us all, and 2021 continues to do so.
More than ever we need strong, flexible, robust mental health. So, here are a few ideas of how to eliminate anything that chips away at that.
Steer away from stressful situations or people
We can’t necessarily cut people or situations out of our lives entirely, but we can take some action and regain autonomy over the amount we interact with them. Don’t let yourself get caught up in drama and stress – ask if there’s an alternative approach available instead.
Action steps: I’ll bet that just by reading the above you have an idea of who/what you need to move away from… Take stock of the people and situations in your life and see where you can make changes to make things easier or more enjoyable for yourself. (FYI: whatever you do, don’t try to change someone else’s behaviour, it’s futile and 99% of the time only leads to more stress.)
Let go of past failures
Still thinking about that time you didn’t get the guy/girl/job? Look, failures are part of life – they make us who we are. But if we hold onto them, they hold us back. I don’t want you to sugar-coat your difficult experiences, however in order to use our failures to grow, we must see them as opportunities, (or at the very least as part of the natural fabric of life).
Action steps: Do an inventory of the past failures that are still niggling at you. Write them down and then write next to them the lessons they taught you or the unexpected benefits of the direction they sent you in. Remind yourself of these daily, until you feel their grasp begin to loosen.
Limit exposure to social media and/or traditional media
This point is obvious, and two-fold. First – the constant comparison of social media does nothing good for our mental health. It encourages us to compare ourselves to a heavily filtered reality, one our ‘regular’ lives will never match up to. Second – while it’s important to have an understanding of what’s going on in the world, we all know by now that fear inducing information is what sells papers or keeps people clicking on news sites.
Action steps: Set yourself a time limit for both, I suggest 20 mins a day total (and definitely stay clear in the early morning and right before sleep).
Restrict anything/one that diminishes your confidence & self esteem
This point is also obvious, but often it’s not actually obvious to us who or what is draining our confidence. We shouldn’t instinctively run away from difficult situations, however if someone, or something, continuously grinds down your sense of self, then run a mile.
Action steps: Over the period of a week, note down each time an interaction with someone or something makes your confidence and/or self esteem plummet. At the end of the week, see if any patterns emerge and then (where possible) take steps to restrict your interactions with those people or situations.
Curb unproductive or excessive demands on your time and energy
In the same way that a cold or virus can seriously affect the health of someone who is already unwell, a small setback or upsetting encounter can do the same to someone who has excessive demands on their time and energy. What is draining you?
Action steps: Take stock and decide where and how you can make some changes to free up that precious energy and time for yourself and your loved ones. You won’t be able to change everything, but small shifts can make a huge difference here.