The questions plaguing the words “mental health,” provokes clinical labels that reinforce stigma. Whereas, we’ve all had experiences of surviving tough times, and ultimately wanting to feel that we are “thriving.” This evokes a greater sense of well being, energy and growth.
But, how do I thrive???! What do I do? Is there an app for this? There probably is.
A key to thriving is helping different parts of our mind work well together in a coordinated and balanced way. Your brain is not fully developed until you reach your mid twenties and can be shaped and moulded even after then. Our mind learns through repeated experience even through old age!
Favourite authors of mine (Dan and Tina’s work, click here) have explained thriving using an analogy of navigating through the “river of well being.” Imagine floating on a boat down your river of well-being. When your mind is balanced, you’re flexible and adaptable when situations change, you feel more connected and aware about your self, your relationships and your feelings.
As you flow down this river of well-being, on one side of you is the bank of “rigidity” and the other side, is the bank of “chaos.” Rigidity is having (too much control) and chaos is a (total lack of control). The goal of thriving is to stay within the flow of the river, and not get stuck on either side of the bank. This is tough!
For example, when I am perfectionist, I’m plagued with unhelpful thoughts like “it’s not good enough,” and “I’m going to fail.” I become controlling by over studying or over checking my work and there are wasted hours of unproductive procrastination. When there’s a total lack of control, I become the “yes man!” and take on more than what I have hours for in a day. Simple tasks become overwhelming and unmanageable. I feel tired and confused about where to start, and I can’t be bothered and end up watching too much Netflix and scrolling mindlessly through Instagram.
You can use a real life analogy that resonates with you (canoeing down a river, paddle boarding, surfing, riding your bike) to help you remember that the goal of thriving is balance, adaptability and flexibility in our minds to help us do what we love to do and tackle everyday challenges.
I imagine myself in those days when I was learning how to snowboard. There were failed attempts, body aches and bruises as I learnt to transfer my weight from toe edge to heel edge, heel edge to toe edge. Linking everything together in one flowing S movement seemed impossible. Stuck, knee deep in snow, butt wet from stacking it. I was forcing my turns, leaning too far back. My brain was flooded with feelings of fear, doubt and self defeat that hampered the progress. I was out of control on my brand spanking new snowboard and gear, mismatching my inner not confident emotions. Countless snow runs and boarding lessons later, I remember finally having my best runs on a trip to New Zealand. It was surreal. I am flexible and adjust to changing terrain. I can see ahead, where I’m going despite the unpredictability of the mountain. I’m aware of the other snowboarders and skiers that transverse my path. I am stable, excited and really feeling the flow.
2. Understanding emotions and how they contribute to unhelpful thoughts and behaviours
3. A helmet, butt and knee pads!
4. Friends to pull me up and cheer me on
Navigating between chaos and rigidity takes time and patience for each of us. It is a conscious effort to begin with. You need experience, secure relationships and emotional support to help this process of thriving unfold.