The ABC Of Mental Health
It’s the small steps that, when taken every day, lead to big changes. This is a mini-guide on how to be happier with yourself and others.
(Small note: The ABC is stopping at W, as I couldn’t find a word beginning with Z that is strongly connected to mental health.)
A for acceptance
Accept what you can change and what you can’t. Accept what has happened to you and what you can’t control. Please don’t be hard on yourself: many people have written books on acceptance in their forties or older because they couldn’t figure it out before, so relax! Acceptance takes time, but it’s never too late to start now.
B for be your best friend
If you’re like me, you give your friends good advice and act like a drill sergeant with yourself. But it’s time to change your perspective. What if you become your own best friend? What advice would you give to yourself? I’m sure that you’d compliment yourself more!
C for (self) care (candles, cake, and chocolate work as well)
Show some care towards your loved ones. When your friends tell you their struggles, actively listen and think of how you might help them. Also, practice self-care by dedicating yourself to activities you like (ideally before and after engaging with stressful activities).
D for dinner with yourself
I’ve tried this a couple times, and I felt so good. Whether it’s going to a restaurant alone (yes, that’s totally fine!) or cooking for yourself, treat yourself once in a while to your favorite meal and enjoy it fully! Put on your fave show in the background or relaxing music while cooking. Try a new recipe or a fast one on TikTok—you can get creative!
E for empathy
Next time you feel like arguing with someone, take a breath and ask yourself, “How does the person feel?” I used to struggle a lot with empathy because I am quite impulsive. Empathy is also great if you don’t know how to approach someone going through hard times. Try to put yourself in their shoes before saying or doing something that might hurt them.
F for friends
Friends are the family we choose. It doesn’t take a birthday or Christmas to make someone feel special. I randomly print polaroids, write letters, or build things that I give to my friends on a normal day. It’s important to show appreciation and to further strengthen friendships!
G for grief
Let’s break the stigma that grief is bad and should be experienced all alone (or not experienced). Everybody goes through losses, changes, and painful events. Grief is very subjective, and it can last as short as a day or as long as several years. Acknowledge your grief and allow yourself to reflect on what makes you grieve. Cherish your grief because it allows you to be an authentic human being, connect with your most fragile self, and evolve. One book that helped me connect with grief is The Child in You by psychotherapist Stefanie Stahl, which deals especially with childhood trauma.
H for hope and humanity
Positive thinking alone can be hard to practice when facing adversity. Hope is about attitude, about trusting that the universe will give you hints to help you find your path. It is about believing that your chance will come. People that helped me believe in hope (and in myself) are Iyanla Vanzant, Oprah Winfrey, and Tony Robbins (to name a few). If you feel stuck, try watching their videos on YouTube. Sometimes hearing people tell their personal stories really helps you not to lose hope!
Humanity is another powerful concept. Please don’t punish yourself too hard for your mistakes: we are only human in the end. Try to see the human side of others, too.
I for Intelligence (emotional)
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and distinguish your emotions and those of others to guide your thinking and behavior. It can definitely help you connect with your feelings and make reasoned choices, while also considering how others may feel or act. It’s a great tool to manage stress and anxiety and have successful personal relationships. Last but not least: it is a handy soft skill to display on your resume!
J for joy
What gives you joy? I love petting animals and trying to answer kids’ questions (they always challenge me!). What also gives me great joy is spending time with my grandma, observing her making pasta, or looking at old photo albums. Find your fave activity and feel joyful!
K for kindness
Practice being kind, especially to strangers. From aiding an older woman carrying her groceries to helping a foreigner, it really takes nothing and makes you feel good.
L for live
By this, I mean: live without being afraid. Go to that party, even if you only know one person. Take up that sport, even if you’re a beginner. Dance as if nobody’s watching, even if you don't feel confident. Live according to your standards.
M for music
Music can be so therapeutic and beneficial on multiple levels. Whether it makes you dance, run, walk, laugh, or cry, cherish the emotions that arise with it, and let yourself go. Music has helped me a lot with writing down my thoughts!(Currently, I am in love with "I Wanna Be Yours" by John Cooper Clarke and "Herside Story" by GoldLink and Hare Squead)
N for no
Sometimes you have to say no to preserve your mental wellbeing—even to your best friends. Don’t be afraid of letting people down. Make sure to decline kindly, but don’t feel like you need to give a detailed explanation. And don’t feel guilty either: for like-minded people, mental health is a priority.
O for own
Michelle Obama’s biography says it all: you have to own your story. Own the journey you’ve made so far. Own what makes you different from the others. Own your background, the battles you’ve won, your culture, your traditions. Don’t feel ashamed of your story. Use your voice to give others the courage to use theirs.
P for perseverance
Do you have a goal? Then work for it, every. Single. Day. It doesn’t matter if it’s getting good grades, getting that job, or winning personal battles. For example, if you’ve recently gone through a breakup, keep the faith and persevere by processing the situation and achieving your own goals. If you’ve just started therapy and you feel as if you don’t see the results, persevere. Good things really require patience and perseverance!
Q for questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Back when I was too shy to ask questions (in school or at work), I ended up carrying extra worry and stress. Only with time did I understand that asking questions is a sign of intelligence, not being dumb. You’re showing the world you care. Now, I integrate questions into my daily routine. And you know what? Many times an inspiring answer comes from a good question! Some of my favorite questions are: “What makes you truly happy?” and “What’s a good memory with friends that you cherish?”
R for rest
Don’t feel guilty about taking a mental health day. You don’t always have to perform well. Have some good sleep, get a nice massage, take a bath, put on a face mask, or spend a lazy day watching your favorite TV series. Rest is powerful. Our brains need time to switch off from what makes us stress or demands a lot of energy. Give yourself that time, and consider it an investment for better performances in the future!
S for share
Sharing is powerful because it creates bonds. Whether it is sharing a personal story, a common experience, or an object, it’s likely to make the other person happy, and yourself too!
T for trust and therapy
It takes courage and an open heart to trust others, but mostly, it takes the ability to trust yourself first. I used to be very reserved and often doubted people. Trusting others is not easy, and it takes time. Start trusting yourself for every bold thought you have or choice you make. And trust your gut, too; it never lies!
Something you might want to consider is therapy. Let’s face it: we all need some healing. So let’s break the stigma of therapy. Asking for help is a sign of great strength and self-respect. For me, it changed the world, but we're not all the same!
U for understand
When I wasn’t understanding, I was judging. A lot. Understanding takes away a big amount of ignorance, makes us become smarter human beings, and even helps others. If you find yourself stuck in a pattern you don’t like (i.e. being too judgy/touchy/impulsive etc.), try to understand the cause. The simple willingness to understand is already a good starting point to improve your situation.
V for venerate
Think of what you don’t like about your body or personality (I’m not talking about what you think you should change, but what you don’t have any reason to hate).
Venerate your imperfections. At my home, crying used to be seen as a sign of weakness. Now I embrace being a sensitive person, allowing other people to be more sensitive in my company. Moreover, I used not to like my chin and legs. Now, I couldn’t care less about them, and I feel much more confident in my own skin. It has been a long journey to really like those parts of me I was ashamed of. Opening up to friends and therapy were powerful tools.
Find what makes you feel good and do it over and over again. Perfect your art or hobby and fully invest yourself in it. Nurture your body and soul with healthy food and thoughts. Think of your body as a system deeply connected to your mind and soul.