As unique individuals, we all have our own mindset, or way of interpreting circumstances and viewing the world around us. And this mindset can greatly impact our mental health in either a positive or negative manner.
Your brain is a living, active organ. The neurons can be rearranged and your brain can be re-wired regardless of your age. In other words, it is possible to change your mindset at any point in your life. Every day is filled with choices that allow you to set the course of your life. What wonderful and empowering news!
How Your Mindset Developed
Your mindset is made up of thoughts and beliefs that influence your view of reality. It impacts how you feel about yourself, the world around you and how you solve problems. And as a result, it greatly affects your mental health.
When you were born your mind was a blank slate. You experienced stimuli and emotions but had no words to formulate thoughts. Then as you grew, you observed the adults around you. You internalized their thoughts about the world, based on their words and actions.
When you think back to your childhood, did your parents model a positive or negative mindset? Healthy or hurtful interactions? Did they encourage or discourage trying new things? Was their view of the word optimistic or did they convey gloom and doom?
Your early role models and experiences have a significant impact on whether you embrace or avoid challenges. If you remain stagnant because of fear of failure, low self-esteem and depression may emerge. It is so important to recognize that you have the power to break out of this pattern and improve your mental health, as well as the quality of your life.
How The Brain Works
If we think the same thoughts repetitively, they become ingrained in our mindset. We are basically reinforcing neural pathways by continuously repeating the same thoughts, much like wearing a path in the carpet by walking back and forth in the same direction.
Caring for the mind is just as important as caring for the body. We know to avoid junk food whenever possible…so let’s consider those negative thoughts as nothing more than junk food for the brain! We need to replace them with healthier options.
The Connection Between Mental Health And Mindset
Your mindset determines how you react to events in your life and in the world. Two people can react completely differently to the same event depending on their individual mindset.
For example a newly retired person might think “The better part of my life is behind me.” Another may think “I am so excited about this new chapter. The best is yet to come!” The former will likely feel depressed, and the latter, energized.
It is important to know that you have power over your thoughts and ultimately your mindset. As you observe your thoughts, ask yourself “Does this thought support me, or discourage me?” “Does it empower me, or does it create anxiety?”
A Fixed Mindset Versus A Growth Mindset
Those with a fixed mindset believe if they are not good at something they never will be, and that they have no over control over that. This creates feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness…building blocks of depression.
Those with a growth mindset believe that they can change, learn and grow. They aren’t afraid to try new things and they view setbacks as part of the growth process. A much more empowering mindset!
You Always Have Choices
The “Growth Mindset” embraces that you always have choices. You realize that you have the power to choose your life by the decisions you make…both big and small. Once you understand this you can eliminate excuses and focus your energy on growing and thriving.
Ways To Shift Your Mindset
Simply reciting positive affirmations won’t work if you haven’t dealt with your underlying limiting beliefs. Here are some steps you can take to start shifting your mindset.
1. Acknowledge and Reframe the Thoughts that Keep You Stuck. For example if your are thinking “I always cave under pressure,” reframe the thought to “It’s OK for me to feel frustrated sometimes.” Become aware of those negative thoughts without judgment and then challenge them. Spending less time berating yourself will free up the energy to move forward with a productive action plan.
2. Try Interrogative Self-Talk. Challenge your inner critic by turning accusations into questions. For example, ask yourself “How have I handled similar situations effectively in the past?” Self-inquiry ignites the problem-solving functions in your brain.
3. Be Mindful of Your Vocabulary. Words have energy. If you speak with harsh, negative words you will distress yourself and those around you. Choose words that are positive and kind in every situation.
4. Be Patient with Yourself. Understand that changing your engrained mindset is a process that will get easier with time and practice. You are paving new pathways, and that won’t happen overnight.
5. Allow for Quiet Time. Take some time to clear your mind of the negative chatter. Try deep breathing, meditation, or go outdoors and enjoy the beauty of nature.
6. Unplug. Limit what you consume on social media and television. Doomscrolling is so detrimental to mental health. We feed our minds with more distress as we continuously search for information and come across disturbing news about the pandemic, the economy and political division.
7. Denounce Perfectionism. There is a barrage of images online that portray impossible standards. Try to ignore them, because they are false. No one is perfect, and you are as worthy of love and happiness as anyone else.
8. Celebrate Your Wins. Shift your perspective away from negative, self defeating thoughts by and focusing on the good things…your accomplishments and achievements, big and small. From completing a project at work, to shoveling your neighbor’s sidewalk.
9. Practice Gratitude. When the negative thoughts come knocking, think about all you have to be thankful for. A loving family, your pet, good health, a warm bed, the changing leaves. If you take a moment, you can probably create quite a list!
By making a habit of acknowledging, challenging and reframing negative thoughts you can create new pathways in your brain, increasing your levels of internal control and your ability to cope with stress. You don’t have to be a victim of your circumstances. You always have choices to shape your best life.
Your mind can play tricks on you and focus on what is wrong or missing, especially if those thought patterns are ingrained. At any given moment you can challenge and reject the thoughts that don’t serve you, allowing you to forge ahead with productive choices and actions. Once you understand that “thoughts are thoughts” and not reality, it can be very liberating!