Exercises for mental hygiene

There are moments when the mind is too influenced by various negative factors, so we find it very difficult to maintain a normal rhythm.

There are many ways to fight these factors and each of us can identify the right one that works. There are 3 mandatory criteria to be met for a solution to be constructive:

    1. Do not harm others – if you had a fight with your partner and you tempered yourself by hitting the other one (or by calling names, making accusations) it doesn’t mean you found a constructive solution. You may hit a wall, after you put a glove or protection on your hand (otherwise you might end up in hospital, depending on the wall). Or even better, go to gym and exercise. It does miracles and you can reiterate the discussion with the partner another time, with a different approach
    2. Do not harm yourself – using the same example with the fight, if you go straight into a bar and drink your mind, it still doesn’t mean you found a constructive solution to calm down
    3. The solution to work – meaning that it leads you to constructive results. I would say this is obvious, but I’ve noticed that many people think in terms of “good / bad”. The dichotomy of “good / bad” can be misleading sometimes.

I will choose 4 of the main factors that can influence us daily, suggesting for each of them an approach.

1. Factor: “Negative” emotions (fear, fury, depression, bitterness, obsession, paranoia, panic, hate, disgust, criticism, confusion, shame, jealousy, pain, frustration, anxiety, sadness, envy, being sarcastic / moody / manipulative, etc.)
Approach:
a. Step back, don’t act on it in the first moments – breath in / out; drink slowly some water; wash your face, take a short walk around the office, read a joke, look at a fix point for 30 sec, anything that works 
b. Identify the specific emotion – as I mentioned in another post, the main issue is to mistake one emotion for another: for example, to say it is fury when is fear combined with egocentrism)
c. Each emotion brings important information to us, I’ve talked before about this in “The emotions’ role in our life”. Identify the message for that specific situation (important because usually that specific info is not revealed by intellect / intelligence). Some generic examples:

  • Fear = something around us can hurt us a lot, we need to search what it is, analyze the potential of being hurt, prevent if the case
  • Fury / anger= I wrote about it here: Anger as emotion
  • Aggressiveness = something around us already hurt us a lot + the desire to hurt back
  • Depression = a long situation that hurt the person and drained the energy out of him / her. I wrote more here: Depression.
  • Obsession = there is a need that is not fulfilled, usually unidentified; identify the need and search for alternative ways to fulfil it
  • Sarcasm = intellectualized aggressiveness
  • Confusion = the mind is overwhelmed with stimulus; remove some of them and continue with fewer

d. Make a plan according to the message and act on it, complying with the 3 criteria above.

2. Factor: Ruminations (=endless thoughts on specific topics, even after the subject is in the past) >>> it means something still bugs you but it’s almost impossible to put the finger on it
Approach:
a. Let the ruminations go along for 15 minutes – try not to interrupt them at any cost. Do nothing, just let the thoughts come to your mind.
b. Force yourself to think of something you like for 2 minutes
c. Let the ruminations back for 12 min
d. Force yourself to think of something you like for 5 minutes
e. Let the ruminations back for 7 minutes
f. Think of something you like without paying attention to the clock
. See what happens. You can repeat the steps if you feel the need.
Ruminations won’t disappear instantly but the exercise will give you time to weaken their power and build an adaptive behavior

3. Factor: Impulsive behaviors (when you just can’t help it) & destructive patterns in behavior
Approach:
a. Identify very clearly most of the moments when you know you just “lose” it + keep them in mind. You can do that by re-winding different moments when you had the same reactions or by asking close people to give you hints and examples.
b. When “lose it” moment appears – freeze 30 seconds. Don’t say the words, don’t move and so on.
c. Ask the other person to re-phrase what he / she just said. Ask especially when you are extremely convinced that you understood
d. Ask detailed questions even if you strongly believe you perfectly understood.
e. If you feel like having the same reaction go back to point a. and repeat the steps
f. Only after decide your next reaction
The behaviors won’t change all of a sudden, but every small change will generate something new (a new thought, a new emotion) that will help you balance your behavior gradually.

4. Factor: Being too influenced by others’ mood / thoughts / behaviors
Approach:
a. When you admire / like the person

  • Identify the person’s “areas of expertise” (what that person is very good at)
  • Listen to the person’s opinions only when it comes to those areas
  • Find other persons to consult when it comes to other topics

b. When you despise / don’t like the person

  • Identify 2-3 abilities / qualities the person has (everybody does) and you don’t
  • Focus during the interactions on learning how to develop for yourself those qualities, by learning from that person. The interactions will seem easier to tolerate.

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