May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a perfect reminder to be aware of your own mental health. By homing the mindfulness skill of awareness, you can decrease anxiety and stress for deeper wellbeing. Simply being aware of your mental health, emotions, and thoughts is an important part of thriving. Read on to learn three reasons why and gain five tips for how to boost your awareness of your mental health during mental health awareness month and beyond.
3 Reasons to Be Aware of Your Own Mental Health
Mental health awareness month is about much more than eradicating the stigma associated with mental health challenges and mental illness. While that mission is important, the reason it’s important is very personal: Each and every one of us deserves to experience positive mental health and wellbeing.
That wellbeing, that sense of inner peace and contentment despite obstacles and challenges, largely begins with awareness. Three specific reasons explain why awareness of your own mental health, including your thoughts and emotions, is vital.
- Awareness helps you move from vague to defined. Many times when we’re experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, or other unwanted states of being, we know we don’t feel right but can’t quite pinpoint what’s going on. To be sure, we can often label negative moods, but we don’t usually go deeper. Having only a general idea of how we’re feeling makes dealing with challenges much more difficult.
- Awareness positions you to take action. When we increase our awareness of the state of our mental health in any given moment, going beyond “stressed,” “anxious,” or “depressed,” we can better deal with it. Greater awareness of the nature of your thoughts or the state of your mood allows you to take targeted steps toward deeper wellbeing. For example, when you can recognize that you’re overwhelmed and explore why, you can devise a plan to feel more calm and in control.
- Awareness brings peace. Awareness is the opposite of avoidance and struggle. Our natural reaction to difficult emotions and thoughts is to either avoid them (and what’s causing them) or to tangle with them by ruminating, denying, or trying to argue and change them. Both avoidance and tangling keep us hooked on the negative, stuck in problems. Awareness, in contrast, is freeing. It allows us to move out of the fight-or-flight stress reaction to problems. With awareness, we can recognize a difficulty and consciously decide to shift our attention to different things or to face it directly through positive action.
Awareness lets us off the hook of whatever is damaging our mental health. It can be surprisingly difficult, though, to deepen our insights into what is holding us back from true happiness. Try these five mindfulness strategies to help.
5 Mindfulness Tips for Increasing Your Awareness of Your Mental Health
Mindfulness, a way of being that involves paying attention fully to each moment of life rather than remaining stuck in our thoughts and feelings about the past or future, is very much about cultivating awareness of what really is (rather than what we think about how things are). These mindfulness tips can help you cultivate awareness of yourself and your mental health.
- Make it a habit to pause and breathe. Often, we’re so stressed and busy that we don’t have time to be aware of ourselves and the state of our mental health. We might know that we’re “off” or somehow out-of-sorts, but we’re so busy our awareness remains vague. When this happens, our negative emotions grow stronger and we begin to feel out of control or overwhelmed. Regularly pausing to take a few slow, deep breaths can reset our nervous system and dampen the body’s stress response. Then, we can become present in the moment and shift our focus.
- Notice and name. As you pause and breathe, tune in to yourself. Name what you’re experiencing to move it from vague to defined.
- Stay with whatever feeling you have. Pushing negative thoughts and feelings away or denying them or trying to change them is a natural reaction. Why would we want to allow something negative to be present? However, allowing is what brings peace and reduces stress and anxiety because it stopes the running and the struggling.
- Get curious. Now that you’ve paused and breathed, noticed and named, and allowed your thoughts and feelings to be there, you have the opportunity to expand beyond them. You’re unhooked from them, which means you can notice other things. What else is going on within you and around you? Be present with these other things. It’s okay if the negative stuff is still hanging around. You’re shifting, not struggling.
- Shift your attention. Be present with these other things that your mindfulness and your curiosity have revealed to you. It’s okay if the negative stuff is still hanging around. You’re shifting, not struggling. You are effectively taking charge of your mental health by allowing other things in.
Cultivating mindful awareness of your own mental health truly is calming and freeing. It doesn’t automatically eradicate problems, but it changes your relationship with them and with yourself so you can create true wellbeing–joy, gratitude, and peace despite difficulties.
Some useful tools for cultivating self-awareness for deep well-being during Mental Health Awareness Month and beyond! Learn more and find links to treat yourself to them here.