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mental health

Creating a Better State of Mind


By Steve Floyd, LCPC, MSE, Agape Counseling, LTD

ur mental state is made up of our attitudes, beliefs, dreams, expectations, moods, and values. It is strongly influenced by our relationship with others, our past experiences, our environment, and our physical well-being. Our mindset is a holistic process, each part influencing the other. We perceive and evaluate the world through our state of mind, then form reactions and interact accordingly. These reactions and ways of interacting can become lifelong patterns. Mental states include depression, agitation, anxiety, or anger, and can stem from an imbalance in how the brain functions, or a learned response to stress and conflict. What we choose to focus onglass half empty or half fullalso influences it. Past traumas can create unwanted feelings and thoughts in the presence of similar events. State of mind influences our emotions and how we behave and can have an impact on us physically. Positive states increase dopamine, a chemical produced in the brain essential for normal functioning of the central nervous system, and create feelings such as joy, love, faith, and accomplishment, which in turn strengthens the immune system and lowers stress hormones. Negative states inhibit dopamine production and create feelings of anxiety, anger, depression, guilt, or shame. Chronically negative states can be
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unhealthy in our relationships with others, with God, and how one feels about themselves. A change in any of our physical states, our mental states, our environment, and/or our relationships with others will have an impact on the other states. One must become aware of their state of mind in order to make any changes. We live in a society that tends to avoid anything unpleasant, so self reflection is often missing. We often mindlessly attend to daily routines, schedules, and activities missing out of the many possibilities and opportunities life provides. Becoming more mindful is a goal of changing. Becoming aware that a problem and dissatisfaction exists is essential. Decide what areas of your life you would most like to improve, and accept that you are the only one who can produce such a change. The world will not magically become the answer to your problems. Find a support system that encourages change and begin. Even small steps are better than none at all. Reward yourself for positive outcomes. Following are some of the ways to begin the process of creating a better state of mind.  Physiology is how our body interacts with the different parts. So change how the body moveslearn to dance, play tennis, get more sleep, stand up straight.

 R elaxation is intentionally allowing the mind and body to rest. Learn to go at a slower pacemeditate, practice yoga, pray, use positive imagery, avoid stressful events (if possible).  E xercise is known to create endorphins which are our bodies natural anti-depressantmove your body, get off the couch, join the gym, vacuum the house, walk the dog.  L anguage or how we communicate influences how we relate with otherschange your words, inflection, tone, and volume of your voice.  C hange your focus and where your thoughts go, because your feelings and actions will followwatch less TV, count your blessings, not your misgivings. When trouble appears, ask what is God trying to teach me?  Change your emotional state. Feelings expressed poorly can add to conflicts with others. Learn to regulate your emotions, accept that we alone have control over how we respond to events, and that we have little control over how others behave.  Change your level of arousal. Music, exercise, or creative adventures can stimulate the brains production of dopamine. Soft or loud music will change your mood, learn new things to stimulate brain activity, find new and challenging hobbies.  M ental imagery is using visualization of positive and pleasant events to create positive and pleasant feelings in the body. Try creating a vision reliving past peak experiences.  C hange relationships by learning to set boundaries, accept people and their weaknesses. Learn to be an influence on others and not their judge.  P ractice empathy by putting yourself in anothers place. As the saying goes, walk a mile in their shoes before speaking.

 M anage your home and work environments. Use soft, calming colors, light candles with soothing scents, decrease harsh lighting, lower the volume, and stay warm.  Develop a balanced diet and practice healthy eating (and drinking). Avoid stress eating and drinking alcohol to self-medicate unwanted feelings.  Laughter boosts the immune system. Seek humor, smile more.  I nteract with your community. Being involved with others often changes our perception of them and increases our sense of connectedness.  Develop rituals and routines. Knowing what comes next provides some sense of security. This is especially true for young children.  Be physical, reach out and touch others, give lots of hugs. A good mental state is having the ability to change our state of mind to better manage thoughts, emotions, impulses, appetites, performance, attention, and focus. The goal is to have a mindset where we accept and like who we are, let go of judgments of others, have trusting relationships, find purpose and direction in life, and feel in control. For more information, please contact Agape Counseling, 309-692-4433. They are a group of Christian counselors, social workers, psychologists and support staff committed to a therapeutic process that ministers to the whole person. Their Peoria office is located at 2001 W. Willow Knolls, Suite 110. The Morton location is 75 E. Queenwood Road. They also have an office in Bloomington, IL.

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June 2013 Peoria Healthy Cells Magazine Page 27