May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We will go to the doctor for a physical checkup, but how many of us engage in a mental health checkup? The goals of my process, InsideOut Empowerment, provide us with ten things we can do to improve our well-being and increase our happiness.
1. Assess the strength of your needs while learning to obtain the proper amounts for happiness. We all have five basic human needs — connection, freedom, significance, survival and enjoyment. While we share that in common, the strength of our needs vary. So for example, one person may be high in connection and enjoyment, while another person might be high in significance and freedom. The key to happiness is to engage in behavior that brings you the precise amount of each need you want. Having too little leaves you feeling deprived and having too much can leave you feeling oversaturated.
2. Understand and take responsibility for your choices. You have choices in every situation. You may not have any "good" choices or choices you like, but there are choices nonetheless. You are doing whatever you're doing because you chose it, not because someone forced you. You may be doing it to keep your job, please a loved one or to save your life ... but you are choosing it. When you let go of the victim mentality and embrace the choice aspect of all you do, you will feel empowered.
3. Make the connection between your behavior and your progress or lack thereof. We often look to outside "causes" for our success — or lack thereof — and forget to look at what we, ourselves, are doing or not doing to move us toward our goals. When you begin to take charge of your own outcomes instead of giving that power to others, you will feel much happier.
4. Understand the power of your perception and how to change it. We often make up stories about people and events in our lives that have nothing to do with the facts of the situation. They are simply our interpretation. Your interpretation can cause you great unnecessary turmoil. If your perception isn't serving you, change it! Make up a better, happier, more generous story.
5. Find the balance in all things. Everything that happens to you has equal positive and negative qualities; a ying and a yang, pros and cons. The problem is our perception again. We tend to label things as good or bad, positive or negative, painful or pleasurable. The truth is, both sides are always present. It just depends on where you place your focus. Seeing both sides equally will improve your mental health.
6. Distinguish and choose between what feels good right now and what will feel even better later. We often engage in a battle of what we want right now versus what we really want. As a general rule, those who can delay gratification achieve greater satisfaction than those who always indulge themselves in the moment. But there is another option. See #7.
7. Expanding either/or thinking to a both/and approach. In our Western culture, we often tell ourselves that we must choose between two options. But I say, "Why not have both?" Now, I do realize sometimes there really is a dilemma and a person must choose, but those times occur less frequently than you think if you begin to ask yourself, "How can I have/do/be both?"
8. Uncover your self-sabotage, while learning to minimize its hold on you. We all have some negative thoughts about ourselves that were installed in our psyche before we were old enough to distinguish fact from fiction. The fact that these negative thoughts most often came from those you trusted made it even harder to dispute. However, if you want to succeed at your goals, then you must bring your self-sabotage out from the dark of the subconscious to the light of day where you can examine its veracity. If you determine it simply isn't true (and it usually isn't), then you can let it go. Don't attempt to "do battle" with the ideas, as this gives them more importance than they deserve.
9. Accept others exactly as they are. They aren't likely to change — or at least not because you want them to — so you are only frustrating yourself with the effort. Know that everyone has one life to live in this go around and gets the option to spend it however they choose. If you don't like the way a particular person is choosing to live his or her life, then limit your involvement with that person. Stop trying to get people to change to fit who you want them to be.
10. Move toward your goals at a pace that is challenging, yet doable, for you. When you set goals that are too easy, you can become bored. But on the other hand, if you make it too difficult, you may give up. Finding the right pace for you is essential to your success.
Take these ten steps and get your mental health tune up today!