Two years ago, I was working in a job I hated. I dreaded going to work, and started to develop mental health issues. One day, I decided that enough was enough: I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I didn’t want to live in fear, or be impacted by someone else’s mood swings.
So I eventually quit that job. In doing so, I realized that I never wanted to be in that situation again. I wanted to make lasting changes in my life. I wanted tools I could use to stay centered, each and every day.
That’s what I’d like to share with you today: five ways you can center yourself so you feel great!
How to center yourself
1. Running or walking every morning.
A few years ago, I could barely run for the bus. I wasn’t overweight – just unfit! I kept reading that exercise helped with mental health issues. So I gave it a try. I started a 30-day challenge: running for 20 minutes every morning.
I didn’t manage it every day, but you know what? By the end of the 30 days, I’d gained confidence, improved my running, and – most importantly – started a habit that I continue to this day.
It’s true what they say: working out is good for your mental health. I don’t love working out. But I do it because the days I do are so much brighter than the days I don’t.
What 30-day exercise challenge can you start? It doesn’t matter how small it is. Just get started, and build it up from there!
2. Spending time in nature.
When I quit my job, I took a course on finding your passion. One of the recommendations was to go live in harmony with nature each day for an hour, sit, and do nothing. Don’t listen to music, don’t write, don’t read, don’t talk on the phone (or even look at your phone) – just do nothing.
At first, I scoffed at this. How will I fill an hour just staring into space?! What good will it do? I didn’t understand how much this would change my life – but it worked.
The practice clears your head. It connects you with nature. It allows your brain to switch off. You leave feeling refreshed and “whole” again.
Don’t panic if you can’t do an hour a day. Do what you can – even 30 minutes or an hour a week is helpful! Get outside. Do nothing. Center yourself. Breathe…
3. Watching comedy.
I heard about a groundbreaking (and successful) study done on people with depression. Not only did participants work out for 30 minutes a day, and place stickers around their home to remind them to think of positive thoughts, they also had to laugh for 30 minutes a day.
The laughter element really stuck with me – what a great addition to your day! Who doesn’t like to laugh?!
Now I listen to comedy podcasts when cooking dinner, for example, or on the way to work. I watch a comedy show in the evening with my partner. I look out for things that make me laugh during the day – a dog with a funny expression, a baby with her foot in her mouth, etc.
4. Taking note of what you love.
Many people commend the benefits of journaling, but it doesn’t work for me. Instead, I have a notebook with two simple lists: what I love, and what I don’t love.
My “Love” list includes items like: browsing stationery stores; drinking tea on my balcony; sending a friend a surprise gift in the mail, etc. My “Don’t Love” list includes: running late and feeling rushed; not getting dressed when I’m working from home; how my teeth feel after I eat candy, etc.
Center yourself by finding ways to increase the things you love, and decrease the things you don’t. I aim to arrive 10 minutes early to avoid feeling stressed (it doesn’t always work, but I try!). I still love candy, but I eat less when I remember that feeling on my teeth.
Most of the time, we can’t go after the things that bring us joy, because we don’t know what they are. So be aware and take notes. Adapt as necessary.
5. Practicing kindness.
This sounds small, but it’s often overlooked. Focus on other people. It moves attention away from your problems and gives you perspective. For instance, I spend a few minutes thinking how I can cheer someone up and make someone else’s day better, such as:
- Sending a supportive SMS message to a friend going through IVF.
- Mailing a funny greeting card to a friend I don’t see often.
- Connecting with a writer I love, to tell them how their work has impacted my life.
Take a minute to think about someone you know who might be experiencing a difficult situation. Consider what you could do to help or support them. Think of all the people you are grateful to have in your life. Send them a message today and let them know why you love them.
Doing this consistently helps you center yourself, as well as allow you to become a change agent who would spread cheer around the world.