Anxious. Unsettled. Uneasy. Agitated. Frustrated. Tense. Racing thoughts. Obsessive thoughts. Rumination. Headache. Heartburn. Chest pain. Lump in your throat. Clenched jaw. This list could continue on and on. And it does continue within us. These are some of the things…
While I'm not one to tell people what to do, I will say this anyway: You need to celebrate stuff every day. Intentionally seeking things to celebrate on a daily basis increases your sense of wellbeing and your life satisfaction.…
Wellbeing and mindfulness aren’t just for retreats, spas, and other calm environments. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. While placing yourself in a soothing environment, like sitting in a favorite room in the morning while enjoying a cup of tea, is important for calming mind and body, the power of mindfulness can be fully experienced in the midst of chaos.
As parents, teachers, and caregivers of children, we are constantly focused on each child’s wellbeing: “Did you brush your teeth?” “Did you finish your dinner?” “Did you put on sunscreen?” But, are we concentrated on their mental wellbeing? It’s an important question to pose, as mental health should be valued as highly as our children’s’ physical health. Alarmingly, according to experts, 70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. Good mental health provides children with the life-long ability to cope with difficult circumstances and situations.
Among the many types of freedom, mental freedom is perhaps the most important of all. Every year in early July, the United States celebrates Independence Day. Many nations joyfully observe their own independence at various times throughout the year. Regardless of where one lives, an independence day is a day that celebrates freedom from unwanted control. The significance of this day goes far deeper than the political realm and touches each and every one of us on a personal level of being and impacts our mental freedom and wellbeing. .
To live well and embrace a life of wellbeing, we need to experience mental freedom. When we feel as though we are under the control of anxiety, depression, trauma, eating disorders, brain injury, toxic relationships, or so much more, we often feel caged. Our mental health and happiness suffer. Just as entire nations have broken free from unwanted control, so can we as individuals who want to live quality lives.
Today is Memorial Day.
For many, it marks the beginning of summer. Some schools have already dismissed, the academic year officially over. It’s the unofficial first camping weekend of the season. It’s a day of picnics and barbeques, of gardening—planting and nurturing vegetables and fruits that will nourish us in the moment and through the next seasons as well as planting beautiful flowers to appreciate and enjoy mindfully.
Memorial Day weekend—the weekend, not the “Day”—is this, yes. The dedicated day, however, is beyond this. Today is a day that we remember, honor, and appreciate soldiers who sacrificed their lives standing for the freedom they valued for everyone. It began in 1865 at the end of the Civil War and continues today as an honor those who have continued to preserve our way of life for 153 years and counting.
To appreciate beauty, to be able to pause, take in the world around you, and enjoy the myriad beautiful things around you is empowering. Appreciating beauty is many things at once. It is a:
- character strength, something inherent within us that we can develop and use to enhance our lives and the lives of others
- mindfulness technique to rein in your thoughts and attention to the here-and-now
- grounding experience that connects you to the physical world (versus the realm of your thoughts and emotions)
By doing the simple act of savoring splendor, you stop your anxious thoughts, worries, stressors, depression, all mental health challenges, and physical health struggles. Certainly, these problems don’t automatically stop and retreat forever when you pause to appreciate beauty. It would be nice, but it doesn’t work that directly. What happens when you pause and appreciate beauty is that you experience a shift in focus and perspective. What happens, though, when it’s hard to find something beautiful to appreciate?
Mindfulness. What, exactly, is it? We hear the term often, yet there is much about mindfulness that remains a mystery. Beyond living in the present moment, what is this practice we call mindfulness?
May 15th, the middle of Mental Health Awareness Month, is the first day that the physical copy of The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety is available. Whether you’re catching this on the launch day or far past it, mindfulness is relevant. The more we know (I’m always learning), the better we can use it to decrease anxiety or other challenges and cultivate our lives of wellbeing.
Social anxiety prevents us from fully living our lives. All anxiety does this, of course, but social anxiety does a particularly good job of blocking our movements along the path to our quality life. This anxiety disorder is more of a spectrum of experiences than it is one single form of anxiety. It ranges from shyness (which isn’t a diagnosable disorder) on the mildest end of the spectrum to avoidant personality disorder (this one is so pervasive that it’s categorized as a personality disorder rather than an anxiety disorder.
Social Anxiety Isolates the Real You
“In response to human interaction, either I clam up and can barely speak, or I click into intellectual mode so I can explain something and be done. Idiot.” —Brian Cunningham in My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel.
Social anxiety gets in the way of our human interaction, which includes our interaction with others and with ourselves (because despite how it feels sometimes, we are human and we interact with ourselves.) It involves the fear of judgement; a lack of self-efficacy, that inability to believe in ourselves and capabilities; the habit of overthinking every component of every interaction; a very unhealthy dose of negative, harsh self-talk which of course only fuels the anxiety.