Category Archives: physical health

How Emotions And Thoughts Can Affect Your Mental Health

How emotions and thoughts can affect your mental health. Mental health consist of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Mental health is usually used as a substitute for mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia, but according to the World Health Organization, mental health is: “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his/her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his/her community.”

Thoughts are our mental perceptions, our ideas, our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. They include views and aspects we bring to any situation or experience. Although thoughts simply appear in our minds, we don’t create them, and life experiences and education have great influences on them. But we have control over how we think, and we can resolve to change how we think.  As for our emotions, we can view and experiene them as the flow of feelings. And while they are universal, but each one of us experience them and respond to them in a different way. Emotions are influenced by our thoughts and perceptions, and the way we perceive an event or interpret a situation gives rise to corresponding feelings. Emotions which can be experienced or conveyed without any reservation, attachment, or judgement gravitate to flow smoothly; on the other hand restrained emotions such as fear, guilt, hurt and negative feeling are able to kill our hope and  mental energy and cause us a lot of physical and mental health problems. Consequently when we become aware that our thoughts and emotions can affect our mental health, and have great impact on our attitudes, our behaviours, and our relationships, then we can choose to adjust and regulate our thoughts and emotional responses to any triggering events. There are few positive feelings which can simply change the emotional effects of negativity and increase psychological abilities that enrich a successful life:

  • The value of Positivity: Anyone can tell you that one key to living a healthy, happy and flourishing life is having positive attitude, and experiencing positive emotions. But I also know that we all have what it takes to deal with difficulties. That is what winning a positive attitude is about. It is about strengthening ourselves mentally to fight with our own negativity.  People who are generally positive have problems just like everyone else. What separates them from everyone else is that they know that their problems are simply part of the process of life”. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson discovered that: “Experiencing positive emotions broadens people’s minds and builds their resourcefulness in ways that help them become more resilient to adversity and effortlessly achieve what they once could only imagine. With Positivity, you’ll learn to see new possibilities, bounce back from setbacks, connect with others, and become the best version of yourself”. Emotional benefits of positivity reduce stress, lower levels of distress, better psychological and physical well-being, minimize rates of depression, improve sleep and enhance a greater sense of overall happiness. “Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Forgiveness: Forgiveness is about releasing our own feelings and finding meaning in the worst of life’s events. We practice forgiveness to be free of the inner violence of our rage, anger, fear, and resentment. Forgiveness is an act of acceptance that negative situations can happen and by letting go of the negative emotions surrounding those situations, we can learn to become less anxious, angry, bitter, stressed and depressed. As we let go of grudges we’ll no longer define our life by how we’ve been hurt; and we might even find compassion and understanding in our hearts. Forgiveness not only improve our mental, emotional and physical health, but also lead us to healthier relationships, greater spiritual and psychological well-being and higher self-esteem. “It is time now to let go of the past and embrace all that awaits you”.
  • Gratitude: Gratitude means thankfulness, counting our blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that we receive. Gratitude is essentially the recognition of the unearned increments of value in one’s experience. The benefits of gratitude are extreme and powerful. Studies demonstrated that being grateful improve both physical and mental health, psychological wellbeing and attitude, and our relationships with others. Gratefulness makes us feel good and increase positive moods such as joy, interest, alertness, determination, and optimism as well as improve our self-esteem. By practicing gratitude we become less depressed and stressed, more likely to help others, and make greater progress toward achieving our personal goals. “When people in great numbers choose to practice, integrate, and embody gratitude, the cumulative force that is generated can help create the kind of world we all hope for and desire, for ourselves and for future generations”.
  • Emotional Resilience: Emotional resilience simply means one’s ability to adjust to stressful situations or crises. Resilient people are able to adapt to adversity of life without lasting difficulties, while less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes. To some degree, emotional and physical resilience are something we are born with. Some of us have always been the “sensitive kind” while others are not bothered by anything. However, psychological and social research have shown that emotional resilience can be learned or improved upon, no matter what level of it we are born with. We can gain and build on our emotional flexibility by practicing perseverance, optimism, learning from our mistakes, sense of humour, managing our strong feelings and impulses, avoid seeing crises as hopeless problems, accepting that change is a part of life, Moving toward our goals, taking decisive actions, nurturing a positive view of ourselves, taking care of ourselves, and maintaining a hopeful outlook. “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved” —Helen Keller


Practicing Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to things as they are.  Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is the energy that helps us acknowledge the conditions of happiness that are already existing in our lives. We don’t have to wait ten years to experience this happiness. It is present in every moment of our daily lives. Mindfulness is when we are truly there, mind and body together. We breathe in and out mindfully, and we bring our mind back to our body. When our mind is there with our body, we become settled in the present moment. Then we are able to identify the many aspects of happiness that are in us and around us, and happiness just comes naturally.

“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you” – Lao Tzu

Practicing mindfulness enable us to recognize that our thoughts are just thoughts; they don’t necessarily represent reality. We can observe them rather than being dependent on them. It helps us to take in the richness of the moment instead of going through life with half of our attention on the past or future or our own mental gabble. By becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, from moment to moment, we give ourselves the possibility of greater freedom and choice; we become enlightened to be more intentional in choosing priorities and actions that fit our life mission.

“Refuge to the man is the mind, refuge to the mind is mindfulness” – Buddha

In this busy, hyper and connected world, we spend so much of our days lost in thought, rushing around from one activity to another, and often trying to do several different things at the same time. We often fail to notice the beauty of life, lose our connection with the present moment. And we all too often miss out on what we are doing, how we are feeling and what our bodies are telling us. We also become vulnerable to anxiety, stress, depression and reactivity. Research shows, in fact, that the more our minds wander, the less happy we become.

With mindfulness, we have the chance to really slow down and appreciate everyday activities with new eyes, new senses. By learning and practicing mindfulness and deep meditation we gain the power of familiarizing ourselves with our thoughts and our patterns, and we can shift our thoughts away from our usual preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment and a larger perspective on life. In other words, the more mindful you are the happier you are.

In order to get the best results by practicing mindfulness and deep meditation, our mind has to be relaxed and free from all worries about past and future.  We can learn relaxation techniques to help us managing stress and teaching us how to quiet our mind.

One simple way to start practicing mindfulness, is to concentrate on our breathing without trying to change it. We just focus on our breath coming into and leaving our body. As we practice this, our mind might wander, but we can gently, without any judgement bring our focus back on our breathing again. As we begin to feel success with this task, we may wish to extend our focus to sensations we feel in our body, without judgment or trying to change these sensations. And then we can apply this practice to sounds that we hear in our environment. There are many guided mindfulness meditations online that can assist us in learning and practicing, and soon, we will experience the benefits of mindfulness in our day-to-day lives. “Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life” – Marcus Aurelius

 In addition to formal meditation, we can also cultivate mindfulness informally by focusing our attention on our moment-to-moment sensations during everyday activities. Whether we are doing the dishes, flossing our teeth, waiting at the traffic lights or going for our morning walk, we may slow down the process and be fully present as it unfolds and involves all of our senses.  Any routine activity can be made into a mindfulness practice when we bring our full attention to it.

Mindfulness improves physical health:

  • Help relieve stress
  • Treat heart disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Improve sleep
  • Alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties

Mindfulness improves mental health:

  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Couples’ conflicts
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Mindfulness can literally transform our entire world from the inside out. It may help us discover the feelings of fulfilment, peace and wholeness which have been within us all along. To find fulfilment and meaning in life, we need to learn how to really experience the moment and then go deeper into ourselves, and ask questions like “What is important to us, what makes us fulfilled and what do we want to do in our life?”. We need to take time away from our busy lives and allow ourselves to reflect, experience and make sense of our life.

“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”– Thich Nhat Hanh