Nothing is more important than your mind. Everything you experience, from the thrill of a roller coaster to the love of your family, comes to you through your mind. The things you need to enjoy life change depending on your passions and priorities – you’ll need (or want) money for your new boat, good health for your hiking hobby, good friends to play games with. But your mind is the one thing that you need for each and every one of these things. Without a healthy and happy mind, you won’t be able to properly live your life.
So make your mental health a priority! Give your mind the mental (and physical) health care it needs, stimulate it with challenges and hobbies, and protect it from dangers. Here are a few keys to an active and happy mind.
The Doctor is in
When we talk about your mind, of course, we’re talking about your brain. And while we don’t always think of it in this way, your brain is a part of your physical body.
You care for your body by going to the doctor. So why wouldn’t you care for your mind in the same way? Don’t hesitate to treat your brain to the care it needs.
This is easy enough to understand when you’re dealing with a brain issue that is clearly physical. When a doctor tells a patient that they have a brain tumor and need the help of a neurosurgeon, that patient is unlikely to say that they can “figure it out for themselves.” But when the problem seems to be mental – depression, for instance – we too often become tough guys and science skeptics. We don’t want to admit we need help.
That’s silly, because mental problems are physical problems – your brain is a physical thing, and physical processes are what create your thoughts and feelings. Just as we have neurologists and neurosurgeons to deal with brain tumors, we have psychiatrists to deal with issues in our thoughts and feelings. Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors, just like neurosurgeons. Turn to them for depression, anxiety, eating disorders, mood disorders, and family psychiatry.
Stimulate your mind – and relax it
Your mind isn’t a muscle, so you can’t really “work out” with it – despite the claims of “brain game” app companies, you probably can’t grow smarter by playing games. But a mind that is challenged often is a mind that is rarely bored, and we all feel a little quicker in the late morning than we do when we first wake up, so there are still benefits to staying sharp and keeping an active mind.
So while you may not raise your IQ by doing the crossword every day, you will have fun, get better at crossword puzzles, and learn new things. And don’t limit yourself to pen-and-paper activities, video games, and apps – your mind is also involved in hobbies like dancing and martial arts. Teach yourself skills or let your mind embrace the peace of hiking or yoga.
Speaking of mental peace, relaxing your brain is good for you, too. But don’t do this by vegging out and watching mindless TV – instead, do something mindful like meditation. Meditation has been shown to be great for mental health. It’s a common hobby among successful businessmen and woman as well as happy retirees and young people.
Stay away from things toxic to your mind
We’ve already established that your mind is a physical thing – your brain – so it makes sense to stay away from things that disrupt your brain chemistry. Limit your intake of alcohol and other legal drugs, and steer clear of illegal drugs. Drugs work by altering your brain chemistry, limiting or enhancing the effect of certain substances and receptors. They can depress you or elevate your mood, but when they leave, your brain is left unbalanced and longing for the effects of the missing drug.
And not all toxins are physical. Your mind can be affected by other things, too, from negative people to depressing situations. Don’t allow yourself to keep the company of others who bring you down (if those others are in your family, consider group therapy to keep everyone happy and together). If you’re prone to seasonal depression, speak to a doctor about tanning booths, which help some people. If you feel more at peace in the wilderness than in the city, then live outside the city and commute to work, or plan a weekend camping trip.
Your mind is your most essential tool for experiencing and enjoying the world. Make sure you care for it! Rely on professionals, stimulate your mind with great hobbies, and keep away from substances and situations that negatively affect you. These are the keys to being mindful of your mind.