I thought today would be a good day to share some mental health well-being practices that are resonating with me this year.
The Basics: Sleep & Nutrition. In the midst of a busy life, I struggle with both of these. But – a small tweak that has helped is taking supplements to assist. Take melatonin to help with sleep— it is a simple over-the-counter supplement that helps, and the kids version has been a huge blessing with our children.
I’ve noticed that I have a much better mood and less anxiety when I take a multi-vitamin and vitamin D Supplement. There’s a number of research studies linking B and D vitamins to lower anxiety–and I generally notice the difference in myself in a day or two. Bonus – some studies indicate that vitamin D is linked to lower Coronavirus risk.
Count your struggles. Most people know the benefits of gratitude, and how counting your blessings can improve your mood and outlook. But–for me-that often feels forced, and I don’t do it. A piece of advice I received (and am appreciating this year) is to count my worries, struggles, anxieties, and frustrations instead–literally write down index cards, or keep a spreadsheet, of the things you’re worried about. The columns in my spreadsheet (titled “Worry Tracker 2020”) are Date, Worry, What I thought Would Happen, What Did Happen, Was I right or wrong? and Did worrying help?.
I think this has three benefits. First, it gives me an action step for when I’m worried about something -> I can put it in the tracker. Second, it gives me perspective when I come back to the tracker and barely remember the things I used to worry about, or need to fill out the columns on what actually happened and whether worrying helped. Third, I think writing things down helps me plan how I can prepare for or mitigate the consequences of the worries if they happen. Great TED talk on that here.
Read biographies. Charlie Munger famously suggests reading biographies to learn. So this year I made a few attempts, and noticed another benefit–reading biographies give tremendous perspective. Great people in history faced mundane frustrations, seemingly insurmountable obstacles, financial pressure that no one remembers later, and had worries about the future that didn’t pan out. This year I specifically enjoyed the biographies of Ben Franklin (his autobiography, and Isaacson’s biography) and Alexander Hamilton (by Chernow). Note – you don’t have to finish the book to get the benefits; read while you’re enjoying and move on.
On that note, here’s a few examples. In the 36 years from 1865 and 1901, three US presidents were assassinated. Imagine that. That’s much worse than today. I ran across that fact in an article about how Teddy Roosevelt, who became president in 1901, was also shot a few years later on the way to a campaign event. Helps put today’s politics into perspective.
Mindfulness, in the sense of time affluence. Honestly, meditating doesn’t resonate with me, and–even after a few serious attempts–hasn’t taken yet. But – taking some time to slow down does. So take some time to slow down, enjoy a few deep breaths, and appreciate the beauty around you. Fred Rogers had a habit of gently introducing poeple to this, and his commencement address at Dartmoth in 2002 is a great example.
Exercise outside, gently. I’m lucky enough to live about 3 miles from a beautiful lake. But – a 5 mile run is a bit much most days. So some days I walk for parts, particularly by the lake. And it really helps with my sanity.
Being outdoors is known to have positive impacts on anxiety and stress. And, as a bonus, you might run into other people doing things for their mental health. Yesterday I passed two women in lawn chairs on the sidewalk sketching the flowers in their yard. There’s a few regulars I catch whenever I go for a sunrise run, and wave hello. And a few months ago, a paused biker pointed out a few specks on the horizon (“BUCKS not DUCKS”) swimming their way across the lake. Good reminders that the world is bigger than my worries.
I hope these practices encourage you this week. Take care!