✎ Written by: Dubravka Rebic
From your emotions, thoughts, energy, and productivity to your ability to cope with everyday challenges, good mental health is essential to creating the life you want.
In this article, we cover five ways you can cultivate balance and carry calm in your everyday life by answering the following questions:
1. Setting and Keeping Your Boundaries
Defining and communicating your boundaries is important because it can give you the personal space – emotional, mental, or physical – you need and help you feel valued, honored, and safe.
When setting boundaries, you're establishing the type of behavior you expect from those around you. For example, you're defining what behavior is healthy and acceptable while also clarifying what you find harmful and unacceptable.
However, communicating your needs for healthy interactions isn't always easy. Here are some examples of how to set boundaries kindly, but firmly:
Use "I" statements to create a collaborative conversation and prevent sounding critical: For example, a comment like, "You're always late," might put the other person on the defensive. Try saying, "I feel like I'm unimportant to you when you're late," instead. This way, you're opening the door for the two of you to have a collaborative conversation.
Use the sandwich method: This method uses an approach that involves telling the person something positive followed by the “no” and ending with something supportive. For example: "Thank you for inviting me to the party. I appreciate your including me and being thoughtful. However, I won't be able to make it. But I would still really enjoy meeting up with you sometime next week."
Practice politely saying "no": Learning to say "no" politely and with confidence can free you of feeling any unnecessary guilt, resentment, or stress and help you effectively control how you spend your time.
When saying "no", avoid using a specific excuse since it can leave you vulnerable to endless altered suggestions. For example, when someone asks you for a time-sensitive favor, try kindly saying something along the lines of, "I appreciate you asking me, but I can't add anything to my plate right now." This way, you're not relying on any specific excuses. It's more of a statement about your emotional capacity than your calendar.
2. Overcoming Self-Defeating Beliefs
Self-defeating thoughts are negative views you may hold about yourself and the world around you. Also known as mistaken or faulty beliefs, these views impact your self-esteem, the feelings you carry about your abilities, and your relationships with others.
They often include the words "always" or "never”. For example, “I'll never recover from this." They can also be pessimistic, like, "Nothing good could come out of trying." Hopeless and generalized statements such as, "I failed, so I'm a failure," are also examples of self-defeating beliefs.
When they become repetitive, these negative thought patterns may cause anxiety, depression, stress, fear, feelings of unworthiness, and shame. And breaking them can be challenging. However, it gets easier once you learn to recognize and identify the negative thoughts as they occur and learn to put distance between them and yourself.
For many people, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is extremely helpful in overcoming self-defeating thoughts. This type of talk therapy is based on the idea that how you think (cognition), how you feel (emotion), and how you act (behavior) all interact. In other words, your thoughts determine your feelings and your behavior.
With the use of CBT techniques, you can learn to pinpoint when self-defeating thoughts are occurring and change maladaptive beliefs into more helpful and adaptive responses.
Learn more about CBT-based techniques here.
3. Optimizing Brain Health
Your brain has a surprising amount of flexibility and potential for change. It possesses the property of neuroplasticity, which is the capability to alter its structure or function in response to exposure to new stimuli or environments.
You can use your brain's malleability to improve your well-being by doing neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is a brain technology that enables you to train your brain to regulate your brainwaves so that you can achieve your goal of alleviating anxiety, improving focus and concentration, or simply enhancing your general well-being.
Learn more about how neurofeedback works and the science behind it here.
Along with neurofeedback, you can profoundly impact how your brain functions by making small improvements to your lifestyle. What you eat and drink, how you exercise, how well you sleep, and how you manage stress are all critically important to your brain health.
4. Focusing on Self-Compassion Over Self-Improvement
It’s a common misconception that one needs to be hard on themselves in order to stay motivated and achieve their goals. But lacking compassion for yourself and opting for a judgmental self-view might actually do more harm than good and can even lead to failure.
In fact, research has shown that treating oneself with compassion, especially after making a mistake, can increase motivation for self-improvement.
Here are some ways you can improve self-compassion:
Practice mindful self-compassion: Incorporate a daily mindfulness practice specifically focused around triggering self-defeating thoughts. Explore what emotions or internal thoughts arise. How would you prefer to think or feel in these moments? What phrases can help transform your emotional reactions to your triggers?
Treat yourself as you would a small child: Try giving yourself the compassion you might give to a child. You can also consider how you’d treat a good friend if they were in your situation and treat yourself accordingly.
Practice self-forgiveness: Forgiving yourself is about accepting what has happened and finding a way to learn from the experience and grow as a person. Understand why you behaved the way you did and why you feel guilty. What steps can you take to prevent the same behaviors again in the future?
Keep a self-compassion journal: Keeping a handwritten or digital journal in which you process the difficult events of your day through a lens of self-compassion can help make self-kindness part of your daily routine.
Try writing about any self-criticisms you had and then write about the human condition by acknowledging that everyone has bad days, makes mistakes, and no one is perfect. Write yourself kind, understanding words of validation and comfort. Finally, try thinking about other ways you can process and react to this experience in the future. What did you learn? What knowledge or tools did you gain? How can you find empowerment?
5. Helping Others
Being kind and helping others is not something that benefits only the recipient of kindness; the person who performed the act can gain something positive, too. In fact, research has found many examples of how doing good not only feels right, but also does you good.
For instance, there's neural evidence from fMRI studies suggesting a link between generosity and happiness in the brain. The study showed that doing a kind act such as donating money to charitable organizations activates the same regions of the brain that respond to monetary rewards or sex.
But you don't have to donate money in order to give. There are so many ways you can help someone out and be kind. Here are some examples:
Volunteer: You can volunteer in the traditional sense of spending several hours a week at a program or institution. But volunteering can also mean visiting an elderly neighbor, running an errand for a friend, doing tax returns for a relative, or walking your friend's dog.
Be there for the people you love: In The Paradox of Generosity, Smith and Davidson write about the importance of being emotionally available, generous, and hospitable. According to Smith's and Davidson's research, those who are more giving in relationships are more likely to be in excellent health (48%) than those who are not (31%).
Carry out random acts of kindness: One small, thoughtful gesture can make someone else's day. And when you help someone out, they are more inclined to reciprocate that for someone else and create a chain reaction of kindness. Examples include feeding a stranger's parking meter, surprising your office buddy with a cup of coffee, allowing a car to overtake you in traffic, or simply complimenting someone.
And don't be shy to ask for help when you need it – not asking means withholding all the benefits from the people who care about you and want to help you. If the thoughts and feelings you’re having become difficult or overwhelming and negatively impact your day-to-day life, do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for help.
By helping others, asking for help, and talking more openly about the importance of mental health, you're making a change in your life and the lives of others. Spread the word!
Multiple Myndlift users report monthly about changes in their behavior and lifestyle. Get matched with a Myndlift Provider, either by finding one in your area or by enrolling in our Total Remote program,
About the author:
Dubravka Rebic puts a lot of time and energy into researching and writing in order to help create awareness and positive change in the mental health space. From poring over scientific studies to reading entire books in order to write a single content piece, she puts in the hard work to ensure her content is of the highest quality and provides maximum value.
Breines, J. G., & Chen, S. (2012). Self-Compassion Increases Self-Improvement Motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(9), 1133–1143.
Post, S.G. Altruism, happiness, and health: it’s good to be good. Int. J. Behav. Med. 12, 66–77 (2005).
Dunn EW, Aknin LB, Norton MI. Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science. 2008 Mar 21;319(5870):1687-8. doi: 10.1126/science.1150952. Erratum in: Science. 2009 May 29;324(5931):1143. PMID: 18356530.