Several years ago, when my anxiety was stuck in its intense phase, I decided to give mindfulness, the act and state of being of living fully in the present moment rather than stuck inside our mind, another try. Yes, another try. In my quest for the holy grail, that one thing that would miraculously poof away all of my social anxiety and generalized anxiety, I had tried many things many times. Mindfulness as a technique for soothing so many things, including anxiety, is something that was and continues to be hailed as effective in decreasing anxiety.
I’ve practiced mindfulness for over a decade. I was first introduced to the concept when I was hospitalized in a behavioral health center following a traumatic brain injury. Since then, it’s become a key element in my mental health and wellbeing, and it’s allowed me to both reduce anxiety and live well in spite of any residual anxiety or anxiety flares.
Mindfulness is so much more than trying to find time in our busy schedules to sit and meditate. In fact, while sitting meditation and mindfulness can go hand and hand, mindfulness doesn’t have to look like that at all.
Sometimes, life—our inner world, outer world, or both—is drab, dull, lackluster. When that happens, create happiness anyway. Carry your own colors with you.
Every March 20th, the world celebrates International Day of Happiness. This is just one of 365 days in a year that we can choose to embrace happiness in our lives and to spread happiness around us in a world that seem to need it now more than ever.
Ah, there’s the thing. We face personal struggles: physical health, mental health, financial health, relationship health, and more. The world is unhealthy in many ways, too. Has “happiness” become extinct, no longer anything more than an artificial construct in a psychology research lab?
Happily (and I use the word intentionally), the answer is an emphatic no. To see why happiness is alive and well and in reach of everyone, it helps to know a couple things about what happiness is and what it is not.
In the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), life can feel chaotic. There is so much to sort out, and doing so isn’t easy. By knowing what losses TBI brings, we can take action to turn loss into opportunity.
TBI can affect people more profoundly than (almost) any other injury. It can impact our physical and mental wellness, who we think we are, how we think, how we feel, how we act, and what we do. The brain is our control center, and when it is injured, we feel much of the damage in the form of loss.
Sometimes, the best way to overcome our mental health challenges is to, rather than focusing on the problem(s), turn away from them. Shifting our focus and perspective can empower us to transcend, to rise above, any problem we face.
Perhaps a clarification is in order before going forward: Changing focus isn’t about avoiding or ignoring or even getting rid of problems. Avoiding, I learned from my own life experiences as well as through working with others, tends to make problems bigger. Fighting problems to make them disappear doesn’t work, either. Some things, such as mental illness, brain injury, and chronic health problems, don’t fully disappear.
Communication is a vital part of wellbeing, mental health, and a quality life. The single word, though—communication—can be complex, difficult, and overwhelming. Communicating is deeper than talking. Communication is words, and it’s more than words, and it is vital for wellbeing and life satisfaction.
Avoidance is a common human behavior that has good intentions but can spiral out of control until, before we realize it, we’re trapped, boxed in by anxiety and blocked from fully living (see What is Avoidance Doing to You?) Avoidance is fear- and anxiety-based. Whether we avoid one situation, such as making or taking phone calls, or almost every situation, such as anything that takes us out of the house, we are letting anxiety limit our lives.
Is “letting” the right word? Do we actively permit anxiety to cause avoidance? Of course we don’t actively invite anxiety and avoidance into our lives. The vast majority of people who are plagued by avoidance, including avoidance in its most extreme form—avoidant personality disorder—do not want to avoid and are not actively choosing it. The problem is this: avoidance, once started, quickly takes over thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It looks like this:
Recently, I had the privilege of appearing on HealthyPlace’s Facebook Live show. Host Emily Roberts, aka Guidance Girl Em (amazing!) and I talked about anxiety. (If you missed it live, catch the recording.) During the live show, audience members asked questions, and some of the questions were about mental hospitals, including what they’re like and how to know when you need one.
Avoidance is a behavior that is hardwired into us. It’s an instinctive reaction (think: fight-or-flight response, specifically the “flight” part) that in theory keeps us safe from danger. And sometimes avoidance, or flight, does just that. When we avoid walking across dark parking lots alone at night (whether we’re male or female, young or old), we keep ourselves out of risk of significant danger. What happens, though, when our brain tells us there is danger lurking here or there, and we avoid good things because of it?