My mom used to always say, “Garbage in. Garbage out.” It was a saying and I am sure she was not up-to-date on the latest brain research. But she was laying the foundation (and I was ignoring) self-care for my mind. I didn’t get it then but as an adult I totally understand the importance of caring for your mind.
What we put in our minds, becomes the whisper in our heart and the way we live our life out loud. Garbage in. Garbage out.
If you follow Jesus like I do, you understand that there is an evil prowling around like a lion and he attacks us in our minds and our beliefs about ourselves. When you find yourself angry, bored, sad, disconnected, irritable, worried, discontented, or with continual negative though patterns about yourself or life, then it is time to take control over what you feed your mind and beat the prowling lion.
Here are 4 easy ways to begin caring for your mind.
Start and End your Day Screen Free
I used to wake up and immediately look at my phone. I’d start scrolling social media, checking email, returning text messages I fell asleep prior to reading, and basically just filling my mind up with noise.
My day ended exactly the same, staring into my phone, iPad or Netflix until I fell asleep. It became a habit my brain craved even though I wanted to be reading, writing, creating, or checking something productive off of my to-do list.
I didn’t realize that my brain was craving the dopamine hit of the instant gratification that technology provides. When I started my journey of self-care, the first habit I formed was setting my phone aside for the majority of the morning to write in my journal and read a book to go to sleep at night.
How to do this:
Set an alarm clock instead of your phone.
Plug in your phone across your room.
If you still need to use your phone for an alarm, simply get up, walk across your room, turn it off, and walk away to start your day a different way.
Plug in your phone away from your bed at night and put tv remotes far away.
Pick up a book or journal instead.
Remind yourself that you are caring for your mind. You can do hard things.
Stop Watching and Reading the News
It doesn’t matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there is something that is bound to make you angry or frustrated. If you keep following the story, engaging in social media arguments, and bringing it up at work and family functions, you are going to keep staying angry.
It’s true that there are some crappy things going on in this world. It is true that we don’t all agree on health care, marriage, taxes, women’s bodies or much of anything else in this world. But if you personally are suffering from a poor life outlook and need to pull yourself out of a rut, it is important to heal and help your brain.
Walk away from the news for a time. Then journal and pay attention to how your mindset shifts. I promise. Give it a try.
Did you know that if your body operates in a shallow breath on a daily basis, it sends a signal to your brain that you are in fight or flight response? Cortisol and adrenaline wash over the brain when we are in a stressful state.
This means the way you react to normal everyday stressors are going to include an intense amount of emotion, fear, or anger along with it. In turn, you remain in a fight or flight response as the brain tells cortisol to course through your body.
Deep, belly breaths calm the limbic system and allow for more thoughtful, peaceful reactions to what could otherwise be negative triggers. Screaming toddler? Bill that didn’t get paid? Spilled coffee all over your work outfit 3 minutes before you have to leave?
Practice deep breathing at all points throughout the day to get in the habit of deeper breathing. You will notice when you aren’t and eventually train your body to engage with deeper breath and limit your intense reactions to normal, everyday situations.
Meditate-Connect Before you Consume
A lot of research has been done recently about the science of meditation. It has been said to actually shrink the part of your brain that is responsible for fight or flight. So for people who are in constant stressful, anxious, and negative state of mind, meditation is absolutely necessary for walking into a more peaceful frame of mind.
Meditation is simply focusing your mind for a certain period of time on one thing. It can be in total silence or with quiet music. But the purpose is to relax your mind and clear it.
How to do this:
Turn down the lights to reduce sensory inputs.
Play instrumental or nature music. I have a few perfectly customized Pandora stations on Rain Radio and Native American Radio that I play either through my television or phone (on a dresser or table away from me)
Sit in a comfortable position. If you lie down, you may fall asleep and that is not the point of this exercise.
As a Jesus follower, I like to focus on a verse that is important to me at the moment or silently repeat a list of affirmations in my mind.
I usually have a timer for 10-15 minutes set, because this is a part of my morning magic and I can easily stay in this state for a long time.
When I first started this summer, it was difficult to calm my mind and not focus on my to-do list or worries. But the more I practiced, the better my brain got at turning off and calming. I even do this at night for a few minutes if I have had a particularly stress filled day in the classroom. It automatically calms my mind and helps the rest of my body relax for better sleep.
Remember that you are a mind, body, and soul connected together as one human. But the key to wellness and health begins in the mind.
Take time for self-care and find a way to make these 5 ways to care for your mind work in your own home.
Let us know in the comments how you are caring for your mind.
Self-care is good. It makes us better parents, partners and people.
Keep making your house a love filled home.
High five for home.