I recently read Katie Morton’s book, “Are u ok?” where she guides readers through common mental health questions. On the first page, Morton poses the question, “what’s the difference between mental health and mental illness?”
According to Morton, “mental health is how we are doing psychologically and emotionally.”
Alternatively, “mental illness is when our mental health is so compromised or neglected for so long that it affects our ability to function in our everyday life.”
This introduction stood out to me for three reasons. First, although I know these two terms are different, I have never stopped to define them. Second, we all have mental health. Therefore, you do not need to be experiencing any sort of emotional difficulties in order to care for your mental health. Lastly, I think it is important to understand how you can best take care of your own mental health needs, especially as a busy BU student.
As a result, I have decided to share five techniques/activities/reminders that I am putting into practice this fall. *Disclaimer, some of these tips work better than others and I turn to each one for different needs, so feel free to try them out.
Over the summer, I spontaneously signed up for a six week group meditation class once per week. I have learned different meditation techniques, but my biggest takeaway is that meditation looks different for everyone. It may be outside in a scenic location, your dorm room, or even an office. Some people like to meditate alone, some people prefer groups, some people meditate for hours. For me, meditation simply consists of taking deep breaths for about 5-10 minutes when I wake up. It allows me to set intentions for the day and refocus my energy. There’s lots of resources out there to discover what meditation looks like for you. For example, I love the Headspace app. It offers a free meditation trial, and also an online blog! https://www.headspace.com/blog/)
Keep A Gratitude Journal
This is one of my all-time favorite practices. Carving out just three minutes a day where I jot down or take mental notes of everyone and everything I am grateful for helps me put my responsibilities and worries into perspective. What I love about this, is that no matter where you are, if you find yourself worried, anxious, or feeling down in any way- you can simply think of what you are grateful for and move forward with a clear mind and in a better mood.
Answer a Prompt
In my meditation class I mentioned earlier, one question the group leader posed was, “what does it mean to be present?” I noticed while answering this question that my thoughts flowed freely and it helped me relax. I reflected on this and realized that I tend to associate writing with deadlines and grades. After all, the majority of my writing is for school purposes. I had forgotten that writing can serve as a tool to relax your mind and generate creativity. Therefore, my new goal is to answer one prompt per week. This could be a question I hear in passing, google and find randomly, or make up on my own.
The point of this exercise is simply to let my brain have a break. This may sound counterintuitive, because writing requires brainpower. However, I have found answering questions reenergizes me.
Working out has always been one passions. I am not a competitive person, so simply working out at the gym, running, or taking a fitness class allows me to focus on myself and no one else. Obviously, there are countless health benefits from working out. While I keep those benefits in the back of my mind, I try to focus on why I am exercising in that moment. Personally, I love cardio and find that it almost serves as a type of meditation.
Physically taking care of yourself goes hand in hand with mental health.
Set Aside time for friends
Lastly, I think there is nothing better than spending time with friends. I know it may sound crazy, because many of us as college students live with our friends or are a five minute walk from everyone we could ever want to hangout with. However, I noticed that I constantly found myself running into people and muttering the same line over and over again, “Oh my gosh, we need to catch up soon. Sorry, I have been so busy!” I also realized that almost every single response I received was identical to my own. Moral of the story- we all are busy! But, its OK to prioritize spending time with friends, even if it’s a 30 minute coffee or quick lunch break. My friends always boost my mood. They remind me that even though we are all here for our education, a huge part of college is about building relationships. So let yourself have fun and take advantage of having all your friends right around the corner.
Whether you try these specific tips or not, I hope that this blog serves as a reminder to take time for yourself and your mental health. Thanks for reading friends, have a happy and healthy fall 🙂