The most difficult thing perhaps is that despite the effects of mental illness on the sufferer's life and relationships, it is up to them to do something about it. When all levels are at their lowest, when the support network doesn't want to know any more, when there is no-one but the face in the mirror, finding that drive to go out and do something about it can be really difficult. Never-the-less, many people each day turn to medical services, counsellors, therapists, and charities to help them fix their mind and life.
Making a choice to find the good in life and experience, despite the mind's best efforts to say other-wise, is tough. When the levels of serotonin and dopamine are at a low, plucking out a positive thought from the knots of negative ones is, as Lord Byron may have said, like finding a diamond in a pile of glass. Making a choice to identify with positive thoughts is a process that requires continual practice and application. If mental health issues have persisted for a long time, the negative thoughts about it that we accommodate within ourselves become habitual and if remain unchallenged eventually make up our subconscious intuition.
For these reasons, it is important that time is used appropriately, and a core understanding of the healing process needs to be fully understood in order for any improvement to occur. The thinking patterns which create problems in life are present in layers, like an onion, which when peeled away at take time to manifest in their new dimensions. Patience and continual application of effort is required in order to bring about healing from the effects of poor mental health. A therapist can be essential for finding the core reasons behind the repeating negative thinking that goes hand in hand with the natural chemical imbalances which create mental health trouble.
As healers of ourselves, we need to train our mind to begin thinking positively. This will coax a more positive neurochemical response over time through learned behaviour. It can take a long time, and depending on how low the levels of pleasure releasing chemicals in the body are at, various degrees of prolonged effort will be required.
It's no secret that life is tough, and in every direction of it, there is suffering and want. People are treated poorly, and that from time to time includes ourselves. There is suffering on every street corner, as the Buddha noted in his early years. We need to find a way of coping with the natural levels of discomfort that present themselves without dissociating from the world entirely. Finding the balance between feeling good and knowing of the bad in order to act against and avoid it, is essential. Perhaps with some mental health problems, the bad has just been the focus for too long.
Tipping the scales is important, and there are certain things in life that are easier to find the positivity in than others. Getting out and about can be tricky, and with motivation levels at a low, pushing ourselves into change is a challenge. Here's some examples of life's more positive themes, and how we can find healing from them.
Other people are often seen as a stressor for people with mental health problems. Our own issues make it difficult to make friends, and reach out to new people with trust and understanding. We can find it easier to stay by ourselves. But when we begin to appreciate the other people around us and learn to accept their hospitality and generosity, life becomes a more enjoyable experience. We naturally extend equal care in their direction as time goes by, and bonds can be formed. We need to choose to see the benefits of friendship rather than the troubles caused by the extra layer of thinking required. When we make a positive choice to accept and appreciate people for being in our lives, we discover that most of the time, things go pretty smoothly.
Boundaries need to be set, and when we find it difficult to relate to others, or stand up for ourselves due to anxiety or other problems, setting boundaries can be a real challenge. Getting it right can be difficult, but in the process of establishing them, we learn to appreciate who we are more. Sometimes it can be hard, especially with particular people, and going over someone's head to get a boundary set is something that we can all do. The back lash of standing up for ourselves is often a source of unnecessary fear, and most of the time, individuals are very responsive to external pressure if they're shown to be in the wrong.
Understanding others' needs is very rewarding, offering a compassionate and empathic bond with a person who also needs help can be a positive experience for both people. Finding these people shouldn't be a mission or a job, we don't need to go looking for people to help, but when we discover that we share similar feelings on life and equally as challenging issues, this common ground can be a foundation for a joint effort of getting back into the swing of having a good time in life. Remember to be patient with yourself and with the others, as everyone is on their own unique journey.
Food is always good, and when we can afford to enjoy something better than usual, it's easy to feel pleasure. Moderation is of course important, but the odd treat and special rich dinner might be just the thing to put a bit of skip in the step for a day or two. The act of preparation, planning, or simply ordering can be as fun as enjoying the meal itself.
Making or buying gifts for others is a fun and rewarding thing that can take up time and effort to do. Once we set about making, or looking for that perfect thing to say hello, or thank you, or I like you to someone we know, be-it their birthday, Christmas, or just a spare of the moment decision, the reward for ourselves is good. It feels good to give, and it also helps us to bond with people too. Knowing we are being a good friend, or family member, by making an effort to bond and build a relationship with someone is a good thing and helps us to feel good about who we are.
The elderly and the very young both require extra care in life, and from the eyes of a typical able bodied adult, seeing the extra needs of more vulnerable people can be enlightening. When we see a tiny baby, totally reliant on the care of loving adults, we appreciate their world as one of total dependence. Their level of understanding is so limited and their wants are basic or primal, and when we consider ourselves and our life, having so much more power over our own destiny and outcome can be a rewarding thought. We know that in time, these children too will find their legs and stand able to choose their own paths too. In elderly people, the opposite relationship occurs. When someone is very old, their life experience speaks louder than anyone else's, and they have seen more change and problems than most people. When we consider them as vital resources of insight and intuition for pattern and change, it gives the process of getting older a much more positive light.
Our suffering can be a doorway to further enlightening thought about what really matters to us. When we suffer, or have suffered, we can take experience from it and be able to appreciate the same suffering in others. Getting to grips with feeling good can be easier when we have something negative to bounce it from and compare it to. If we have previously suffered, depression and anxiety can be prevalent so being aware of how different it is now to then can be a beneficial keystone to building further on the process of healing.
Nature holds many mysteries and dramas that can give us wisdom, entertainment, and pleasure in any season. Finding the calmness and pace of the natural world reveals a hidden theatre of animalism and herbaceous interaction. When we adapt our perception of the world to flow in time to the seasons and the timetable of the local wildlife, we notice a hidden magic that flows around us. We can find joy in the act of being in or working on the garden, walking through a natural scene, it is possible to feel a connection and appreciation for all the things that surround us. Thinking about or meditating on the vastness of Earth and the incomprehensible reality of the natural process that resulted in our being can be an intense but truly positive experience. Knowing that out of all the billions of possible things that could have been , we are one of them, makes a healing thought.
Art is another way of finding pleasure, healing, and friendship that results in a better experience of life. Finding art that heals and not hinders is important, and when we have a negative imbalance in life and subconscious thinking due and leading to mental health problems, it can be difficult to resist art expressions that validate our unhelpful thinking patterns. Everything has its place and there is no inherent harm in any form of art when used appropriately and in front of the right audiences. When art is used as a method of healing, finding pleasure and beneficial thinking is the end goal of this activity, as with all others mentioned.
Life can be rewarding, and when we consciously choose to allow it to feed us with positive experience, and we choose to identify with it at every opportunity, the subconscious mind responds over time by learning to appreciate life on deeper levels. This is the path of the self healer, we walk the walk of forcing change through conscious choice to adapt to what we know is for the best. By refusing to identify with the hurtful and wrong thinking that causes us harm on an emotional level, we gradually grow inside to cope with and eventually enjoy the experience of being alive.