by Danielle Palmer, Licensed Professional Counselor

Throughout our long history, mental health and mental illnesses have been neglected, dismissed, and viewed as a weakness or negative quality. Due to the damage of these times and the hope for a better future, we give focus to Mental Health Awareness Week. This particular year is a bit different than our most recent ones- much of this is due to COVID-19. I’m sure, like me, you’re sick of reading and speaking those words, but it’s true and it’s still our present. As we strive for a better tomorrow, I encourage everyone to give focus to this week and what good it can bring to all of us. This week is a time to open up and expand our understanding for something that impacts such a large part of our population. Each year, this event is given a theme. This year, 2020, the focus is on kindness.

Although there are many ways to explore kindness, I want to focus on you for a minute. Being kind to yourself isn’t always as easy as the way we treat other people. When we’re taught manners and pleasantries, we don’t automatically learn that for ourselves.

Your mindset can be the very thing that influences the way you treat yourself. In order to begin your exploration of kindness, I encourage you to spend some time focusing on your mindset. Here are some tips to get you started.

  1. What are your words saying?

The way you speak is a direct reflection for the way you think. In other words, your language influences your mindset. When the words that come out of your mouth are laced with negativity, your mind begins to accept that negativity for what is and what will be. On the flip side, when your words are more positive (not obnoxiously bubbly), your mind will follow in its path. For instance: “The weather is terrible today!” versus “I wish the sun was out. Let’s hope the weather clears up soon.” Even if it doesn’t change the weather itself, I promise it will impact your view of the day.

  1. Spend moments with positive people

Intentionally decide to devote time to people in your life who encourage this positive mindset. We all know the people in our life who put us down or bring us up. Know your people and include them on your journey. You walk doesn’t have to be a lonely one even in the face of COVID-19. Your devotion of time may just have to be a bit more creative than ever before.

  1. Process your emotions

Feelings and emotions are tricky. Sometimes we convince ourselves we’re fine, when we’re actually struggling more than we’re willing to admit. Emotions can be pushed deep inside, acting like they have gone away, but in reality, they are nestled there waiting for the perfect chance to storm out. Allowing negative emotions to build up can be critical, because an overflow of those emotions can lead you to a negative mindset. Instead, when those pesky feeling and emotions come along, give yourself the chance to deal with and process them. Maybe you want to see a therapist to help you with that, a trusting friend, or an outlet that gives you the space to do so. Being kind to yourself also means you listen to what you need and attempt to relieve/work on it.

  1. Be in the here and now

So often we become hyper focused on the past and future. When we linger in the past for too long, it can lead to us obsessing over the future in order to “correct” or “fix” our mistakes. This is a prime time for people to be unkind to themselves. Instead, allow your past to teach you lessons, while the future reminds you of what you can achieve. Living in the past or future will prevent you from taking the necessary steps in the present. That fixation has negative properties all over it, while being in the here and now gives you the space you need to get there.

  1. Love who you are

Loving yourself doesn’t mean you don’t wish to make changes. Self-love is the foundation for a positive mindset and an important piece for working on kindness. When you love yourself, you see your worth and value, while creating space to make healthy changes. It’s the kind of space that allows you to feel happy and motivated to be the best version of yourself. Let me state this clearly- just because you want to be the best version of you, doesn’t mean the you you are today isn’t good enough.

  1. Spread the Kind

Never underestimate the power of kindness. When you choose to spread that positivity and happiness into another person’s life, you’re automatically increasing these areas in yours as well. Once you’ve focused on yourself for a bit, spread what you’ve learned for yourself and give others a sample of what it feels like. There is plenty of it to go around, yet most people are lacking it. In the words of Bob Goff, “Throw kindness around like Confetti.”

Negativity fills this world we live in quite often. When you look around the corner, you can find pessimism, envy, sabotage, and discouragement so easily. Luckily, we all have to choose which path we decide to take. So, in a world that will always have some negativity, be someone who incorporates kindness. Happy Mental Health Awareness Week!