When it comes to mental health, there is a plethora of misinformation floating around on the web. People selling self-help programs and books want you to think that your problem is simply a lack of willpower. Medical professionals want you to think that your issues stem exclusively from chemical imbalances. Random internet ranters want you to believe society is at fault and everything is rigged to create misery, so it doesn’t matter what you do. All of these people are wrong to a degree. A lack of willpower, chemical imbalances, and ridiculous societal norms are all symptoms of a larger problem. That problem is that we are living in a way that is harmful to our mental health.
The structure of the workforce, smaller and smaller family units, lifestyles that demand sitting for eight hours a day (yes, that was a jab at the education system), “health” food that makes us sick, junk food that makes us sicker, toxic chemicals that cause hormone imbalances are slathered all over everything we touch and eat and breathe, and a medical system that suggests medicating away feelings of discomfort rather than addressing the problem that is creating the discomfort all mingle together to produce a population that is struggling.
The good news is that there are countless simple things you can do to radically improve your mental state. Just because something is common does not mean that it is normal or okay. You don’t need to accept feeling stressed or anxious or depressed or completely out of control of your life.
This tip sure is simple, but man, it can get hard. It turns out that fragrance is an ingredient that can mean a lot of things, but in particular, it means a chemical that alters your hormonal balance. Any product that has fragrance in it, be it a perfume, deodorant, candles, cleaning products, or beauty products, is harming your hormones. Since your hormones regulate your mood, energy levels, appetite, libido, sleeping habits, and fertility cycles, this can wreak havoc on your mental health, and by extension, your life. Out of balance hormones cause skin problems making you feel self-conscious, motivation problems making work more difficult and less rewarding, resulting in poorer work performance, relationship problems due to irritability and lack of patience, financial problems due to erratic emotional spending, and weight problems due to cravings for junk food. Look for fragrance-free options and steer clear of anything labeled “scent-free” or “unscented,” as this often means more fragrance was added to cover up the scent of the product.
Humans are pack animals, and when we’re not interacting with other humans and our bodies aren’t picking up on pheromones around us, our bodies decide that we’re not going to survive. We evolved in a symbiotic way, meaning those of us who worked with other people and had lots of people around thrived, whereas those of us who went off alone died. Yes, technology and modern conveniences mean that we’ll keep living, even if we’re not interacting with other people, but our bodies don’t know this. Talk to people in person. Meet people if you don’t like the ones you already know. Friendship and falling in love are vital elements of human health. One of the fastest ways to drive someone insane is to put them in solitary confinement. It’s considered one of the most effective torture methods. Really think about the implications of that.
One of the worst things that ever happened to the mental health movement was positive thinking. Yes, thinking positive help if things are mostly going good, but you’ve had a bad afternoon. In more serious situations, thinking positively actually means repressing negative thoughts and feelings. This can do way more damage than good, as every feeling you have is a part of your being trying to care for another part.
For example, anger is often a reaction to the feeling of being threatened. If you ignore that feeling, you might be putting yourself in mental, emotional, or physical danger. Even if the thing you feel threatened by isn’t actually dangerous, ignoring feelings of danger is only going to result in anxiety. If a child was scared, would you tell them simply to ignore it? No, you’d offer a hug and maybe a snuggle or a friend to face the fear with. Think of each feeling that arises as a guide, even the ones that make no sense at first. Social anxiety can be a terrible burden, but if you listen to it, you might discover that part of you is trying to protect yourself from social embarrassment. If you negotiate with your social anxiety, you might discover there are other precautions you can take to prevent feelings of humiliation in a social setting, like not drinking or not hanging out with that one friend that always makes you feel like you said the wrong thing. Emotional regulation is the opposite of repressing emotions. Never tell your feelings they’re stupid or unwarranted. You feel that way for a reason. Address the reason.
The above tips are all simple adjustments to make in life that can drastically improve your mental health. Again, don’t ever let someone tell you your feelings are not valid. If you’re feeling them, they are.
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