Activate a Great Mental State.
Scientists have concluded that one of the best ways to beat overwhelm, boost energy and achieve the seemingly impossible – which is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g time – is to do get up, get out and go do what makes you happy.
That’s right. Because a great mental state can be all about attitude and activity. About being happy and optimistic. About being on the go and involved. Engaged and active. About stretching your social, spiritual and personal muscles along with those physical ones.
According to UQ clinical psychologist, “We discount how much joy the little things can bring us. We need to have rituals and routines which help us check in with the positives,” she said.
So, while getting something good going in your life does mean getting up off your bum, it doesn’t have to be about slogging away at punishing exercise routines. Or running half-marathons in your lunch break. (Though those certainly have their advantages)
Feeling slow and stodgy, exhausted and apathetic is not a normal healthy state.
It simply means you’ve allowed yourself to stagnate. To get stuck in a rut to the point where your enthusiasm for life is waning and your energies are dwindling to an unacceptable low.
And make no mistake, the times you tend to bog down worst are when you’re busier than ever –and mindlessly following the grooves into which your life is set. Endless to-do lists – so we’re told – definitely stop you smelling the roses. Whereas a recent Harvard study showed that participants who took note of the small happy things in their lives were 25% happier and more contented than those who ignored them.
So, it makes great sense to care for your mental (and physical) health by getting up fifteen minutes earlier and taking a stroll around your neighbourhood.
Forget work. Forget planning the day. Just open your eyes and your senses. And yes, do stop and smell any roses that are conveniently broaching someone’s fenceline. Look up at the clouds. Out to your horizon. Feel the grass beneath your feet. Sense the sunshine and the breeze. Visually explore the gardens and the greenery. Watch the early birds doing their thing. Then trundle on home and start your day with a fresh outlook.
But that’s just the beginning. Having activated your positivity, you need to keep it going.
And it’s so easy. Start by consciously changing your default expression from grim/frowning/fierce or whatever it is that shocks you when you catch sight of yourself unexpectedly – and change it to an upturn. (Dr Brian Cox is brilliant at this!) Soften up Sunshine. Smile at people when you pass. That soon leads to an involuntary social interaction aka little random conversations that will do wonders for your mental state.
As you go through the day, take a micro break each time you’re about to start a new task. Stand up look around and up and take a deep breath. If you can walk from one point to another, do so. Hold the moment. Then refocus.
*And remember – human bodies weren’t made for sitting, slouching or lying on couches. Not for any length of time anyway. Sitting is low energy and risky in that it makes our bodies think we are in energy storage mode. This starts a chain reaction that ultimately reduces levels of good cholesterols while increasing the bad ones.
The explanation for this goes deep into the cellular level of the body, where we find the mitochondria, those tiny, energy-producing organs found in every cell of the body.
The more you move around, the more mitochondria your body makes to meet your energy needs. The more mitochondria you have, the greater the boost to your metabolism, and the greater your ability to produce more energy. So simple.
So – the more activity – the higher your energy levels.
The old 10,000 steps a day program that’s probably mouldering on your smart-phone somewhere definitely has a lot going for it! If it’s genuine physical exercise you’re after, you can’t beat walking, jogging, Park Run, dog clubs, fitness groups, gym programs, swimming, surfing, kite flying and heaps more that’s on offer in practically every neighbourhood.
And to stretch your mental muscles there are lots of ways to change your current mental state. All good time, good fun things that will keep your happy juices flowing.
Reach out to someone – ring your Mum; call a friend; email someone you haven’t seen in a while; set up a coffee date; join a club; read a book – or a real newspaper; by pass gaming and instead play scrabble; do a crossword; start to learn a language; volunteer as a visitor (or more), read to little children, arrange some flowers, paint a picture or take the time to see a movie.
No time for this? Nonsense. Activity creates energy. And energy lets you get a lot more done easier and faster.
* Research, from the University of Leicester combined the results of 18 studies and nearly 800,000 people. It found that prolonged sitting doubled the risk of diabetes and heart disease, and that the risk wasn’t eliminated for those people who took regular exercise.