Over the past week, as my 31st birthday quickly approached, I found myself thinking less about the excitement of my birthday, and more about how far I’ve come over the past year. I really don’t care much that it’s my birthday, but what I do care about is the mental wellness progress I’ve made in the last twelve or so months. In my 30th year, I’ve experienced a total shift in mindset & headspace. I feel at peace & content, I feel motivated & empowered, I feel confident & cool. Basically, I’m feeling good. And I don’t think these lessons are tied to my particular age. Rather than my 30th year magically transforming my life, I believe that turning 30 happened to coincide with several areas of my life, mindset & philosophy falling into place. So let’s just take the number out of it.
Although I do a lot of reflection, a birthday is the perfect opportunity to reflect on an entire year, so I’m going to use this moment to do a deep dive into the past year, and to think more in depth about my positive mental transformation. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and have majorly adjusted the way I think and the way my mind works. It’s something I’m proud of, and it’s been actually really fun to break down the ways in which I was able to make it to this place. So, in honor of my birthday, your birthday, everyone’s birthday, I’ll share the key ways in which I’ve made this transformation.
Now, don’t misunderstand me – this place of mental peace & contentment didn’t just happen. I’ve worked HARD to get to this point. I’ve had successes that motivated me and failures that educated me. I’m also not saying that my life is “figured out” from this day forward. Far from it, honestly. I am fully prepared to continue working hard at my mental wellbeing and to make adjustments in response to life’s curveballs & uncertainties, both big & small.
So now I’d like to share with you lovely humans the 12 major ways that I’ve positively transformed my mindset, mental wellbeing and sense of self over the past year or so. Let’s get after it, shall we?
1. Perspective is everything
As someone who thrives on having control, the uncontrollability of life can be particularly stressful, overwhelming & debilitating. But I’ve learned to focus my need for control on what I can control – my perspective. My perspective in any given situation is 100% controllable. By mindfully shifting the way you see a given situation, you can turn any scenario into a more positive, teachable & productive moment.
2. Therapy is a game-changer
I’m not a stranger to seeing a therapist, but in my adult life I haven’t made it a priority. This year I finally committed to weekly therapy sessions with a virtual therapist, and this has significantly contributed to my mental wellness. Having someone who’s objective, removed from my life and trained in this field, to thoughtfully listen as I vent and to help me breakdown negative emotions/scenarios/occurrences, has allowed me an essential outlet where I feel heard, safe & nurtured but without the emotions or agendas that can come with talking to those closest to me.
3. Gratitude is invaluable
I find myself regularly stopping in the middle of doing something mundane, whether watching tv or mindlessly working on something, and thinking about how grateful I am that I have the luxury of zoning out & relaxing without any real worries. Sure, in life there’s always something going on that causes some level of stress or anxiety, but to be able to recognize when stresses & anxieties are of the everyday variety, and to be able to feel gratitude for only having to deal with these small issues in a given moment, is to find contentment, peace & happiness in the smallest & most insignificant times.
4. Prioritize self-care
It’s true, you can’t take care of others when you yourself are not taken care of. While it’s noble to be selfless, always doing things for others and pushing time for yourself to the sidelines, are not doing anyone any good. I always prioritize time for myself to do the things that make me feel nourished, peaceful & happy. Whether I choose to meditate, exercise, get a pedicure, read a book, journal, nap, watch reality tv or watercolor, I don’t allow myself to feel guilty or unproductive when I take time for myself, even if that means saying “no” to doing something else. Life is short, do you and enjoy it.
5. When in doubt, simplify & minimize
If there’s one activity that relaxes & refocuses me, while also allowing me to feel productive, grounded & mindful, it’s simplifying, minimizing & organizing. It’s become an obsession, one of my favorite pastimes. When I’m not sure what to do with myself, when I’m bored or I don’t have the energy to be an extrovert, I choose an area of my home or office, turn on some tunes and go to town. Whether it’s a front hall closet, those dusty bins of stuff under the bed or the catch-all cabinet in the kitchen, when I minimize, simplify & organize my belongings, I feel a sense of freedom. By eliminating “stuff” that doesn’t bring consistent value to my life, and reorganizing the items that do bring value, I am paying attention to what’s important to me, and removing attachment to things that are unimportant, toxic or useless.
6. Less is more
It wouldn’t make sense for me to love simplifying & organizing while still taking part in the consumer culture we’ve been forced into. The consumer culture is a trap. The truth is, you don’t need a million tank tops that come from unethical sweatshops. You don’t need a million cheap lipsticks filled with toxic chemicals. You don’t need that plastic trinket to remind you of a vacation, and you don’t need that trendy kitchen appliance that serves just one purpose. Because of this way of thinking, my product-consumption has been drastically reduced. When buying ANYTHING I always focus on quality over quantity, and each time I make a purchase I am mindful of where this item will be stored, how much use I will get out of it and under what conditions it was made. This is mentality is a useful tool to reduce attachment to meaningless, physical objects and to break free from the consumer culture’s idea that having more makes you happier. In my experience, having fewer, better things makes me far happier.