Think about who you spend the most time with. Who are these people and how are they influencing you? The people we spend the most time with impact our thoughts, feelings and energy, and shape our life direction. I’ve learned to trust the wisdom of my body when making decisions about people in my life—how do I feel when I leave the interaction? Do I feel joy? Uplifted? Lethargic? Drained? Sad? Resentful? Hopeful? Angry? Inspired? Excited? Loving? Not good enough? The mind can rationalize and justify many things that are said but the body is intuitive; the gut reaction you have towards someone is a very powerful indicator of how the relationship will turn out. I’ve met numerous people who can say all the right things, deliver compliments with false sincerity, make promises with no intent to deliver, and can lie to your face without blinking an eye. When the time for action comes, they will disappear with no accountability or remorse. Such people discard you as soon as you discover their real agenda and/or are of no use to them anymore because they did not genuinely care for you in the first place.
How do you recognize such people early on? I’ve observed that there are behaviours you can look for and the common denominator is respect. People who respect you value your time, energy, skills and personality. If the answer is no to the following questions, it is best to minimize the time spent with that individual, even if they are family or have been in your life for a long time.
Invest in people who invest in you. People learn how to treat you by the behaviours you tolerate. Setting clear boundaries and communicating what is not acceptable is key to attracting and maintaining healthy relationships. Choose to spend time with people who leave you feeling uplifted, inspired and encouraged. Engage with people who value your personality, strengths and skills, and make you feel optimistic and confident about the future. Avoid people who are harsh, critical and speak negatively. Because if they talk to you about other people in a negative tone, they will have no problem discussing you in a negative tone with others.
If you have people in your life who treat you well even if they know you would forgive them if they didn’t, consider these people as diamonds in the rough. Cultivate self-love by spending time with the right people.
Self-care is an important part of maintaining a healthy mind. It is easy to slip into "auto-pilot" at the beginning of the day when you don't take the time to centre your thoughts and engage in a spiritual practice. Failing to feed the spiritual self on a daily basis can result in burnout, pessimism, lethargy, repressed emotions, unbalanced/ unhealthy relationships, and distorted expectations of the future.
My favourite form of self-care are retreats. In September I had the opportunity to visit a retreat centre in Ontario for 4 days for an self-directed retreat. I engage in a retreat at least once annually as a form of energy clearing, contemplation and planning. The energy of being near the lake and out in the forest for an extended period of time assists me in coming up with fresh ideas to old problems, and to replace stagnant energy with a renewed vibrancy. The healing effects are superior to visiting the lake or a trail for a day because on the retreat you have the benefit of having the property to yourself and just a few other guests. The privacy aids in emotional release. You may speak your deepest thoughts and emotions out loud to release to nature what does not serve you and at the same time breathe in that fresh energy to create a brighter future.
Walking the labyrinth is a particularly powerful way to receive new insights and ideas, to aid in healing and transformation. I find that it assists me in getting rid of stress, replacing self-doubt with self-compassion and being able to see people and relationships in a more forgiving light. At the beginning of the labyrinth, you ask a question you are seeking guidance regarding, or state feelings you are trying to let go of. You may also ask how to make a certain trait a stronger part of your character, if you have lost touch with that part of yourself. Some people choose to repeat a word, phrase or statement repeatedly as they walk, or others just walk being open to any guidance that may arise. In the centre, you take some time to integrate any revelations that came to you as you were walking.
I'd like to share some photos with you of my retreat and hope you will find the time to take one of your own soon.
Thursday October 10th 2019 is World Mental Health Day, a time to reflect on how powerful it can be to share your authentic feelings and experiences with someone whom you can trust. People often see physical illness as worthy of empathy because it is visible. For example, you would not fault someone in a wheelchair for not being able to run at a certain speed. In contrast, because mental illness is invisible, it is less likely to garner that same extent of empathy. Other people may blame someone with clinical depression or anxiety for not being able to work because they perceive that person to be lazy. People are more forgiving of physical illness than a mental illness, even though on a global scale, one in four people will experience mental health issues at some point in their lives.
There is a lot of pressure exerted on individuals to put on a strong face; to give the impression that everything is going well in their lives despite adverse, unfair, unexpected and traumatic events that have happened or continue to happen. It can be painful to suffer in silence, or to think that even if you screamed, other people would pretend that they could not hear you. Someone may be brave enough to speak their truth on a public forum, and notice that some of their social media 'friends' or followers have unfollowed them. Or perhaps you make people aware of an injustice happening at school, work, or other public setting, and other people term you "unprofessional", minimize contact with you, and/or inflict unfair punishments simply because they have the power to do so. Systemic power imbalances perpetuated in society allow certain people and organizations to get away with horrible things on a regular basis and rarely do these people show any remorse for what they have done or continue to do. It shows great strength of character when you stand up for yourself in the face of opponents with considerably more resources than you.
Especially today, remember that speaking your truth allows you to step into your personal power, regardless of how other people label you, or what consequences are inflicted on you. On a daily basis, you need to define your own self-worth, and not let this be determined by other people's opinions and projections. It takes courage to share your story, knowing that you may not get the outcome you want or you may be criticized or ostracized for doing so. Sometimes people label someone as 'negative' or a 'troublemaker' because they were brave enough to call out the evil and immoral actions of other people. At the same time, you know that in the future, other people in your position may be in a stronger position to tackle the injustices you faced. There is tremendous potential for change in sharing your personal narrative, whether it is in person, online, in the media, or through the written or spoken word. Everytime you share your story, you influence other people, and those people influence other people. You never know how large your circle of influence really is or who you are indirectly influencing at any given time. If you have overcome your own personal mental health stuggles, or are currently working through them, please do share your story. You never know whose heart and soul you will touch in the process.