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Be Kind, Don’t Rewind, and Practice Mental Hygiene:

Kindness is a virtuous characteristic and a learned behavior that is often instilled by our caregivers at childhood. It is an interpersonal skill that often requires courage, strength, and occasional sacrifice.From a young age we are taught to be considerate, compassionate, and thoughtful towards others, either through direct interaction or by observation. Our heroes, whether fictional or real, often exhibit selfless and altruistic qualities that inspire us to hope, dream, and be our best.Thus, kindness and compassion can become instinctive behaviors that we learn to exclusively associate with others while forgetting about ourselves. Even our heroes often practice self-sacrifice at the expense of their well-being. By focusing on kindness as an act that is meant for others we tend to exclude the ideas of self-care and personal compassion from our daily routines.

Life can be wonderful, surprising, and fulfilling while also hectic, chaotic, and emotionally draining.The hustle and bustle of daily living can further push the ideas of self-care and personal kindness out of one’s mind, especially in the face of responsibilities. What people tend to forget is that we all have a limited amount of physical and emotional resources that we can allocate. Unfortunately, when allocating resources towards life and its responsibilities we tend to leave little, if anything, for ourselves thus often neglecting our psychological well-being and mental hygiene. Furthermore, we tend to downplay the importance of mental hygiene in lieu of physical health.

When it comes to mental and physical well-being people tend to play favorites, often prioritizing physiological health while ignoring their emotional well-being. From a young age we are taught to brush our teeth, eat our vegetables, and go to sleep on time. These healthy habits then become lifelong routines that motivate us to actively take care of our physical appearance and bodily health. Unfortunately, mental hygiene is often neglected as similar habits do not exist and are not practiced by many when it comes to emotional well-being.Physical health tends to be favored because the idea of a body and mind connection often goes unemphasized in society as we are told to “just shake things off”, despite the existence of a large body of evidence supporting the opposite. Various scientific studies have successfully demonstrated that sadness, depression, and anxiety can all lead to physiological harm and eventual death. Studies dedicated to anxiety, stress, and depression have all demonstrated that prolonged and untreated psychological wounds can lead to hypertension, high cholesterol, poor digestion, irritability, sleep-deficiencies, and suppression of the immune response. Additionally, studies successfully demonstrated that chronic loneliness can increase chances of early death by 14% and yet mental health and hygiene tends to be left by the wayside in our everyday lives.It is thus ironic that we are socially conditioned to instantly respond to illness and bodily harm while constantly ignoring the impact of psychological damage.

In fact, over our lifetimes, we sustain more psychological injury and trauma than any sort of physical damage.Our daily social interactions expose us to constant emotional harm and damage, both small and large, which goes largely ignored. Over time these untreated psychological injuries fester, become internalized into our thinking and world views, and color our perception of ourselves and the world around us. Being constantly exposed to psychological damage without seeking help leaves us vulnerable to our own ways of thinking, which becomes distorted by the very same psychological injuries we sustained and bottled up. Thus, we create a cycle that feeds into itself, often leaving us feeling stuck and helpless. But luckily, we can also be more mindful or our emotional health and break this cycle through personal compassion, kindness, and self-care.

What does personal kindness and self-care look like:

  • Learn to recognize emotional pain:It’s helpful to be more mindful of your own emotions. Be careful not to confuse emotions with reality. Painful emotions can distort your perception of yourself and others. Seek professional help when feeling overwhelmed by pain.
  • Learn to recognize negative thoughts and emotional distortions: Try challenging your negative thoughts and emotions by thinking or acting against them. Play the scientist and explore all possible alternatives to a given scenario, circumstance, or action.Sometimes we can get stuck in certain thinking patterns that negatively influence our emotional health and thus thinking outside of our negative box can be helpful.Notice any instances of black and white, all-or-nothing thinking, catastrophizing, or filtered thinking. Notice if you tend to blame yourself often or assume the worst possible outcome.
  • Try not to internalize negative thinking:It can be difficult to recognize negative thinking as oftentimes it can become so routine that it feels like a natural state of being. Learn to take a break from negative thinking if even for 5 minutes. Alternatively, try positive thinking for a short duration of time and see if it feels any different to you.
  • Practice compassionate self-talk:Try not to focus on your weaknesses but rather seek out your strengths. Be more aware of your inner voice. Does it sound judgmental, harsh, or discouraging? Remind yourself that you are not a failure and release all judgment of yourself and others. Monitor your inner voice and notice how it makes you feel.
  • Do not ruminate: Try not to rewind the past like an old VHS tape. Let painful memories pass rather than linger. Do not dwell on loneliness, rejection, or failure as these painful feelings can become a personal benchmark. Look to see past personal fault rather than set them as your limit.
  • Manage emotional resources: It’s valiant to want to be there for everyone but it might not always be a feasible reality. Mind your emotional capacity and be empathic to yourself. Know your limits and when it’s time for you to recharge. Note that taking time off for yourself doesn’t mean that you have failed your duties or shirked your responsibilities.
  • Practice self-care: You are the glue that keeps your world together. You can’t properly work, love, or enjoy yourself if you are feeling emotionally drained. Take time out of each day for yourself, even if it’s something minor that only lasts a short period of time. Remind yourself that your mind fuels your motivation and affects your body.

-Aleksandr Vinkler

"It is never too late to be what you might have been." ~ George Eliot