Phone: 03 8822 3723

Changing your Mindset is the Secret to Improving your Mental Health

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 21 April 2020
Hits: 2871

This is an article we asked our trainer Kim Logan to write about as she has some incredible skills and knowledge in what is arguably the most complex and difficult topic relating to health and fitness being stress and mental health. Kim shares some very personal stories in this very detailed article she spent considerable time putting together knowing just how important this is to so many people right now. I hope you enjoy this article and spend the time to really digest all the information Kim shares about how to change your mindset and stay in control through these very challenging times.

9 Strategies I Use To Change My Mindset & Beat Negative Thoughts for Good

We are almost a month into the Coronavirus lock-down and no doubt many are feeling the negative mental and emotional effects by this point. While this lock-down is essential to prevent the spread of Coronavirus through our community, individually many are feeling like they are losing control over their lives and facing serious loss leading to high levels of stress. With all of this uncertainty happening combined with the unusual stress of isolation, now is the time to be focusing on our mental health to ensure we come out of this in good health.

I know from my own experience that this is easier said than done when it comes to taking control of your mental health. I wish it were as simple to say “feel better” and “think positive” as we wouldn’t have the high rates of depression and anxiety that we have now. I’m not claiming to have all the answers, but I have experienced being in a situation where I thought and felt everything was outside of my control and that I was stuck in my life with no way out. I would love to share with you my experience and what I did to get myself out of my mind and fix my situation.

I’ve struggled in the past a lot with my mental health, particularly between the years 2013-2018 and things got to the point where I quit work for 6 months because my mind couldn’t function normally anymore. I had zero motivation or energy to “keep doing life” as I phrased it then, the thought of doing the most basic things to take care of myself was exhausting. I spent my weeks, months, years saving all my energy for work then had absolutely nothing left to give when I left my job at the end of the day.

It hit a point where I couldn’t even give energy to work anymore which for me is unimaginable because I am that person who isn’t living life if they’re not working, work was the centre of my world so you can imagine that making the choice to leave work wasn’t one I was jumping for joy over. I sent my self into a forced isolation to exclusively work on my mental health and boy was it journey!

By this point I had already been in therapy for about a year but now I had zero distractions and I had the space to dig deep into all thoughts and patterns that put me into this place. Alongside therapy I found some strategies that helped me overcome the thoughts and patterns that kept me stuck and actually kept me on track maintaining my mental health. These strategies helped me to do a 180 in my own life and that’s what I like to share with my clients and friends.

I can imagine a lot of people maybe even yourself can relate to my experience and are maybe even experiencing something similar now, it is an awful place to be in, and to be blunt there isn’t a quick fix to this. I am not a psychologist and I do recommend that if it is possible to see one, do it!

The strategies I am going to share with you helped me get on and stay on the right path to maintaining my mental health are all about learning how certain parts of the brain operates. I had to force myself into isolation to change my life but now the way I see it we’re all given time and we can use that time productively to change how we do things.

Imagine if you could come out of this stronger and more resilient than when you went in to lock-down, you could have the ability to not only hit the ground running but thriving rather than struggling to get back into normality. Okay let's get stuck into the 9 strategies you can use.

1: Take Care of your Body

Your body is the foundation for how you feel and function. Without a good foundation you can’t build a strong house that will stay standing, same goes for your life if your body isn’t healthy you don’t feel good which takes a toll on your mental health which impacts your mindset. Without an unshakeable mindset anything that happens externally could bring you down, mind and body connect together give your brain the right food it needs to function.

One person I started following on my own journey for inspiration was Jim Kwik, he’s whole career is teaching people how to effectively learn and use their brains and he shared a list of the best brain foods that help overcome mental fog and fatigue https://jimkwik.com/kwik-brain-005/

2: Exercise

Here is some pictures of me working out this week at home.

Make sure you also get enough exercise we know that exercise releases a lot of “feel good” chemicals like dopamine (the happy hormone) and endorphins which reduce your perception of pain. Not only that but personally the reason I chose to become a personal trainer is because getting into exercise at 16 helped me get out of depression being an inactive then going on to achieving things physically made me feel like unstoppable.

The sense of accomplishment you can get from achieving something physical that you never thought you could like running for 5 minutes straight or doing 10 push ups on your toes can give the highest confidence which is the base of achieving anything in life.

We know that exercise can boost our mental health. It helps us become more socially active, it boosts our confidence and provides an opportunity to meet people. These are all great things in helping us to establish and maintain social connections. 

Recently I read Nick's great article about exercise for mental health and he referred to several studies and books. The one that stood out to me was by by Brad Stulberg that examined the results of exercise with depression. In his article he provided some great research and insights into the results of studies about this complex topic. He raised some good questions about why people do not exercise when they are suffering with depression. A great quote that stuck with me was,

“Lots of studies show that the more someone exercises, the less likely they are to have depression. Yes, people may not experience depression because they exercise. But it’s also quite possible that people don’t exercise because they are depressed.”

The article examined results of several studies to see if there was a correlation with exercise preventing depression in people who were active but with no symptoms of depression. In all there were 49 such studies that followed 267,000 people and included different types of exercise.

They found that exercise reduced the chances someone would experience depression by between 17 and 41 percent! This is a very large number when you consider how many people it observed across several countries, ages, and sexes. They concluded,

“Put simply: exercise helps prevent depression. Just because you exercise doesn’t mean you won’t ever become depressed, but it certainly reduces the chances that you will.”

Make sure you watch the video below and read the articles Nick wrote about this below

3: Get clear on your Motivation to Improve your Life

Now that you’re working on your physical health you have to have a strong reason to keep you motivated. One motivation problem I see with clients is that they pick something short term like an upcoming event or even just losing weight. The problem with these goals is that they are finite, once the event is over or once you’ve lost the weight what keeps you going? You have to pick a reason that comes from you.

The tough part about finding internal motivation is that most people don’t value themselves enough to be their own number one priority. That’s not say people don’t care about themselves at all, but I usually hear something like work, kids or friends coming up as a reason to stop. I can actually relate to this many times I’ve put work above myself and as you read at that start clearly doing stuff like that didn’t end well. Learning to prioritise your health is much easier said than done but reality is you’ll keep facing the same problems if you don’t make that change for yourself.

Brene Brown another person I started following on my journey for inspiration and she said in an interview “the most compassionate people I have ever interviewed over the last 13 years were also the absolutely most boundaried”.

This was life changing for me, because I want to be there for people and help them when they need me but absolutely cannot give others my best if I’m tired because I didn’t sleep well or I’m low every because I’m not eating properly or exercising.

When I’m tired and not feeling well I’m focused on just that, feeling terrible and if I’m focused on feeling terrible I’m not focused on the person in front of me. If you focus your motivation on how you feel, and how you function, then your head-space isn’t taken up with thoughts of how bad you feel or how you are unhappy with the way you look. You can use all that brain power for something more productive.

4: Start Evaluating what Messages your Taking In

Everything you watch, listen to and read shapes how your see the world and how you respond to it. There’s a part of your brain called the reticular activating system and its job is to take all the information around you at any given moment and filter out the stuff that isn’t useful and keep everything that’s important.

Who does it decide what’s important? By what you focus on. What you focus on becomes your goals and that’s where your energy is spent, just like I said before if you’re focused on how bad you feel your goal becomes how feeling bad and that’s where your energy goes. It’s exhausting to live like that!

Now that you’ve gotten clear on where you want your life to go start taking in information that supports that goal. I got very into the idea of surrounding yourself with who you want to be, Gary Vaynerchuk yet another person I started following on my journey said.

“Your personality is made up of the five people you spend the most time with”.

Now it may be unrealistic to for you to change the group of people you spend time with especially in lock-down, Personally I started watching all the people that inspired me to be better on YouTube and Instagram.

I start most of my mornings with listening to or watching something motivational because your brain is the most receptive the first hour you’re awake, so take advantage of that time and watch or read something that will motivate you.

5: Change your Perspective

Again I know, easier said than done this is another thing that takes time a practice but is life changing. When I was 16 and wanted to become a more positive person I started playing the switch game (I thought I was such a genius turns out it was already a thing) every time I had a negative thought I would turn into a positive one. I even extended this game to judgemental thoughts every time I thought something judgemental about another person I just turned the thought around into something positive or tried to think about their situation.

I’ve been told many times that I’m an open minded positive person and honestly I put it down to learning to change my perspective through the switch game. Being a positive or negative person is a habit, even when I was my most depressed I still have people telling me I was the most positive person they ever met, I put that down being in the habit of speaking positively. Does it fix everything? No clearly I had other areas in my life that were putting me in bad place like nor prioritising myself but like learning to be positive or learning to put yourself first it’s a series of small actions and thoughts you repeat that turn into habits that become who you are.

Something you can do for yourself is write down a reoccurring thought you have and next time it write down all the other ways you could see that same thought. Another way you can change how you see things is ask different questions, if you are in the habit of asking questions like “why is this happening?” or “why do I keep doing this?” try to re-frame that question into a way the offers a solution like “what can I do to change my situation?” and then write next to it every answer your brain comes up with.

For more ideas read Nick’s article – Simple strategies to help overcome stress

6: Set a Realistic Expectation and Small Goals

Now that you’re working on your motivation and your energy you can use them to take action. One reason people lose motivation is that they set massive or vague goals, you have to know what you’re working towards but also you need to know how you’re getting there and how long it will take.

Another problem I’ve seen with clients is that they set massive goals and an extremely short period of time to achieve them, which in the past has led to disappointment and loss motivation when they haven’t achieved them. It’s even more disheartening when someone is starting from zero, it’s unrealistic to assume you can go from being inactive to running a marathon in a few months.

This applies to any goal you could set for yourself, don’t overload yourself one thing I’ve always said to clients is fitness is a life journey take your time. This applies to all areas of health as well as mental, this takes time and you’ve got your whole life to achieve it start small and don’t progress forward until you can achieve that small goal and maintain it which means doing it that one thing is easy it doesn’t take a lot of mental or physical energy.

A great article to read with ideas on this is – Goal setting, motivation and willpower secrets

7: Meditation

I want to give meditation its own point because it is often (in my opinion) poorly explained which is why people don’t do it because it seems unrealistic or too hard. Too many times I’ve heard meditation explained as “clearing your mind” if you’re anything like me a recovering anxiety queen, control freak, people pleaser that’s an impossible and ridiculous thought.

The best explanation I have heard for meditation is separating you from your thoughts, imagining yourself as a mountain and your thoughts as clouds floating by.

Anxiety loves to catch any thought in our minds and run with it, meditation teaches you how to just let that thought go straight past you. I’m yet to meet a person who could sit still and mediate for more than 2 minutes on their first go because it’s not easy to hold your focus on just your breathing or not catching thoughts for long when you’re not practised at it. It is important to take your time with it start extremely small and be patient because you probably will get lost in thought when you first start.

When I started making meditation a serious part of my routine I used an app called smiling mind (which I recommend to everyone who’s interested in mediation) they have intro course to mediation which literally has 30 second guided mediation as the first class. Headspace has an article of all the scientific backed benefits of meditation like reducing stress, aggression and symptoms of depression as well as increase your focus, mood and sleep quality.

8: Set time for yourself

Ideally the morning is the best time to set for yourself, your brain is the most receptive and you can set your day in the right direction with your goals and priorities set clear in your mind before you deal with anyone else’s problems or ideas.

Make sure you don’t look at social media or emails they’re just places for other people’s agenda for your time, the morning is now your time. All of the strategies listed about can be done in the morning, even if you only have 10 minutes which I would say is ideally particularly if you are just starting out. 

9: Extend Compassion Towards Yourself

At some point you’ll probably have a bad day and you might not achieve something you wanted to that. A bad day doesn’t mean you’re off track, putting a lot of pressure on yourself to accomplish something can drain any joy from achieving your goals which will inevitably take you off track. Its ok to have a bad day, one bad day and six good days is still progress.

Beating yourself up over on mistake or one “failure” will take that valuable mentally energy you have and waste it which won’t leave you with much to pick yourself back up with. You can use that bad day as a learning experience, one of the many notebooks I have is my learning journal and I write down anything that I learnt from a mistake that I can use to avoid it happening again.

For example this week I spent one day going back into an old habit and overworking, not the worst thing because it was only one day but I looked at where I went wrong that day and gave myself a strategy to make sure the rest of the week was better so I wouldn’t finish my day feeling drained. Call it a cliché, but if you can learn something from an experience it is not really a failure, you’ve just discovered another way that doesn’t work for you.

Summary

These are tough times we are living in and no of these things are quick fixes but they will put you on path that you want to be on, you can come out of this lock-down a version of yourself you want to be. You will come out of this with a solid foundation with the capacity to pick yourself up and take every opportunity to grow that is presented to you.

You don’t have to use all these strategies and you don’t have to spend hours of your day trying to tick off each task, you can start small with 5 minutes of exercise, 30 seconds of meditation and one simple task to complete that day. Remember that any start is a good start it doesn’t have to be perfect it just has to be manageable, if something doesn’t work for you change it and keep trying until you find something that fits for you.

If you haven’t heard this recently I want to finish the article with I believe you can do this which sounds very emotional but practically I don’t believe there is any reason in the world other than your own mind that will hold you back from being a stronger person.

F.A.I.L = First attempt in learning.

Resources To Help You

If you require more help with your exercise and nutrition we have a huge array of FREE REPORTS you can download. Below you will find two of our best online reports you can instantly download with tons of information and program ideas that relate to many of the things Kim discussed in this article . Click the image of the report you want to download. 

  

Currently we are closed due to the lock-downs of the Coronavirus and are conducting Online training sessions. If you are interested fill in this contact form and we will get back to you within 24 hours with details of how our online training works.

About The Author

Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training and has over 14 years’ experience as a qualified Personal Trainer, Level 2 Rehabilitation trainer, Level 2 Holistic Life Coach, Accredited Tai-Chi instructor, CHEK practitioner, and Level 2 Sports conditioning Coach. Based in Melbourne Australia he specialises in providing solutions to injury and health problems for people of all ages using the latest methods of assessing movement and corrective exercise.

Additional References:

  • Movement - By Gray Cook
  • How to eat move and be healthy - By Paul Chek
  • Spark - by John J Ratey
  • Precision Nutrition
  • Breaking the habit of being yourself - Dr Joe Dispenza
  • Kiss that Frog - by Brian Stacey