The thought of spending 24 hours a day in our homes was initially quite scary, many of us resisted the idea of complying at all. Then, reality of the awful impact that would ensue if we didn’t accept this new way of living hit home, and we moved to action, making a reluctant mental shift to ‘We are in this together, we can do this!’
Then, the sun came out and for those staying home, the tone quickly changed to ‘I could get used to this staying home all day’ situation. With the news of an extended lock-down, the positive energy has started to wain once more, and the feeling of frustration has once again set in.
With the clients I have been coaching over these last few weeks, the themes have been consistent. The financial concern that comes with the uncertainty around employment, deep emotional grieving for the life they once enjoyed, and an inability to sleep.
In the field of interpersonal neurobiology something that is very well researched is the importance of ‘integration’. This is a process that, when done well creates a ‘strong mind.’ If there’s one thing we can choose to work on and use to our advantage during times of adversity and uncertainty, this is it!. And, the great news is, it cannot be taken away from you, it’s wholly yours. However, it’s only helpful if you know how to use it to your advantage.
Integration as a process, can be created in many ways, such as, the connection our body parts have with each other or how energy integrates to flow around our body. In relation to developing a ‘strong mind’ it’s simply making sure all the separate parts of our mind are well connected, and communicating well with each other, so it can perform at it’s very best. Think of it like a team in conflict v’s one that works really well together. The latter will always produce a better outcome.
When we feel like we are in a rut, it’s highly likely that the activities we are doing each day are 1) not balanced, 2) not integrated, 3) both
In the same way I wouldn’t recommend eating cake every day, all day. I would also not recommend you spend all of your time on only one type of activity, that’s certainly not balanced or integrated. Like a well-balanced meal it’s important to get the ingredients right for YOU.
Mental well-being is firstly about increasing your awareness of all the ingredients you need to create the best version of you, you can possibly be, in any given moment. Imagine putting the wrong mix of oil in your car or bike! you’d soon find the machine becomes slow, sluggish, and eventually breaks down. Your mind needs the same level of care and attention if you want it to operate at peak performance!
In terms of ‘staying fit’, I love running, it gives my mind and body everything it needs to stay strong, yet my son would much prefer a long bike ride. When it comes to ‘Turn off time’, I enjoy daily meditation, and my daughter enjoys a slow walk in the countryside.
So here’s the thing – Our mind is embedded in our own internal connections with the environment and with each other, and this is unique to each of us. Just like, the oil example I gave earlier, if we are not mindful of the mix it will soon curdle into a sticky mess eventually causing us to deteriorate into a slow, sluggish and lower performing version of ourselves. You can’t impose your mix on another person – Their engine is different to your’s, but another mix most certainly will work and you can help them create it.
These recommendations will help strengthen your mind by ensuring the connections internally are coordinated and balanced with each other, the amount of each you include is up to you.
Map out your day and work out how much time you are currently spending in each of these activities. Take a moment to decide if that ‘feels okay’ for you. If it doesn’t feel okay, then create a second line on the map below which shows what does ‘feel okay’ for you and then make a plan for your day that includes all of those ingredients.
Here’s a bit about each activity and why it’s important;
Staying Fit – When we move our body, especially aerobically we change our physiology which immediately changes ‘state’. Try feeling miserable whilst doing 10 high energy jumping jacks. It’s biologically impossible! Why? because oxytocin is released into our mind, boosting the feeling of happiness.
Turn off – Quietly reflect internally without anything to do or anywhere to be, allowing your mind to wander. Meditation is a great way to get your ‘turn off time’. This helps the connections in the brain integrate and recharge .
Relationships – Connecting with other people and appreciating the natural world around us helps activate the brains relational circuitry. The human connection element of this could be through phone, video calling or face to face contact with the people. It’s one of the basic needs of the human mind. To love and feel loved.
On the ball – Being productive, focusing on tasks and embracing challenging projects for a period of the day, this not only helps create deep connections in the mind but it also releases endorphins, this is like a happy hormone jumping around your mind!. The endorphin release happens on task completion, so make sure you don’t overfill your list!
Nothing time – This is time to sleep, it’s really important to allow your mind time to recover from the day. Your mind is a muscle like any other muscle in your body. Imagine training your bi-ceps with heavy weights and not giving them time to recover!. You would not strengthen the muscle, you would injure it quite severely!. An adult needs approx. 8 hours sleep and a teenager needs approx. 10 hours of sleep in every 24-hour period.
Goof Island – Just be silly! Jump on the sofa, let your creative juices flow, bake a cake, draw a picture, dance in the kitchen, make spontaneous decisions. Playtime is NOT reserved for children only, we all need some time to goof around and be silly. It strengthens the connections in the mind.
Create an image like the example you can see below and mark on the line how satisfied you are with the amount of time you’re currently spending in each activity. 1 for not very satisfied at all – 10 very satisfied. You will end up with a spider diagram. This will give you a reflection point to move forward and structure your days in a new way, to ensure you have the mix YOU need to create YOUR ‘Strong Mind’.
The most important points here are;
- Raising your awareness to yourself
- Create the right mix for you
- Continually review your map
- Create a daily plan, which matches the mix you want to create