Anyone who has seen my presentation this year has heard me talk about how to practice mental health and the 4 circles. People seem to be responding positively to this, and I frequently get requests to email the slide, so in recognition of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought I would share it along with a brief summary!
There are 4 circles: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. The concept is that mental health is a practice, and we do that by doing at least one thing in each of the 4 circles every day, and that one good choice tends to lead to another. With time and practice, our good choices become good habits, and those good habits (or daily practices) help us to feel happier, healthier, more connected and content.
I struggle with depression and anxiety and have been doing this ever since I read about it HERE, and I can tell you that I’m feeling my best when I’m practicing this consistently. I have noticed dramatic shifts and improvements in the past 6 months.
Physical – Do something to move your body for 20 or 30 minutes every day. This is one of the best things that you can do for your mental health – mind your body, heal your mind! My favorite activities are running, walking, riding my bike and yoga. I also like to do some free weight and body weight routines.
Emotional – Anything that helps you understand, process or express your feelings can go here. Find some way to express your thoughts and feelings, don’t keep them bottled up or buried inside. I still write in a journal almost every day, I see a professional therapist twice a month, and one of the first things I go to when I’m feeling stressed, depressed or overwhelmed is my guitar, even if it’s just to practice scales for 10 minutes, it helps.
Mental – Anything that “stretches your brain” can go here. Brain games, puzzles, word searches, crosswords, etc. I like to read (fiction and non-fiction), and listen to podcasts (Marc Maron, James Altucher, TED radio) and one of my favorite things to do is to write down 10 ideas each day. Doesn’t matter what for. Doesn’t matter if they’re good or bad, the point is the practice. What you’re secretly doing without telling your brain is improving problem solving skills and boosting your creative thinking.
Spiritual – Anything that helps you feel connected to something bigger than yourself fosters hope, connection and purpose. Music is deeply spiritual to me, and transcendent, so this goes in my spiritual circle as well as my emotional circle. I practice gratitude daily by writing down 3 things that I was grateful for because I am not naturally a “glass-half-full” kind of guy and I want to see the good things in life. I meditate for 10 minutes every day, and this has been one of the most helpful and powerful practices in my circles. And I pray. I’m not a religious person, but I am a spiritual one, and it helps to put my thoughts and intentions and fears and hopes out there for me. This is particularly helpful when I’m feeling extremely overwhelmed, disconnected or lost.
So those are my circles and my practices for the past 6 months or so. I encourage you to check it out, have fun, experiment, find what works and feels best for you in each circle, start small, keep it simple, and take your time. Big, massive, overwhelming changes don’t seem to last in life (and can add more stress, which is totally opposite of the point). You can download the blank slide below. Give it a try if you’d like and feel free to share your thoughts and progress along the way, and of course, share with anyone you think this might be helpful for.
Special thanks and credit to James Altucher for inspiration!