This is International Balance Awareness Week, created to raise awareness about the difficulties people face with disorders that affect their physical balance. Today, though, I’d like to discuss balance of a different kind: balance awareness in mental health.
When I write about mental health, I do not mean it as a euphemism for mental illness—I mean positive, healthy mental balance. We all have a state of mental health, just as we have a state of physical health. Some of us have better mental health than others.
Balance is the key to good mental health. Again, I’m not talking about the mythical brain chemical imbalance. (Do you know there is no evidence that such an imbalance even exists and yet big pharma is constantly doing direct-to-consumers advertising that there is?) I am talking about striking your personal balance on 10 different behaviors and characteristics in your life.
It’s important to remember you can’t do anything to upset universal balance; it’s always present. What you can do is recognize the balance all around you while creating a sense of balance within yourself in the following areas:
- Safety and Calculated Risks
We love to be in our comfort zone—it feels like home It’s where we feel safe and know what to expect. However, the places we grow and learn are generally outside of that comfort zone. For optimal balance, we need a comfort zone—a place where we can retreat when we need safety and security—but we also need some risks and challenges in our lives.
- Spending and Saving
When you need to experience freedom, spending can be a great way to do that, but sometimes that freedom comes with a cost. If you spend money you don’t have, it can hurt your freedom later and put your very survival at risk. Strike a healthy balance between spending and saving, one you can live with.
- Movement and Stillness
People need to move their bodies. Movement keeps you healthy and strong. It also helps you maintain physical abilities longer than if you move less. However, people also require stillness. Being still allows your body to recuperate, and with prayer or meditation, it can offer opportunities to connect with Source. Spending too much time in one and not enough in the other would not be in your best interest.
- Productivity and Relaxation
Certainly, you need to be productive, but without breaks and relaxation, how productive can you be? Productivity is how you accomplish your goals, and relaxation prepares you to do even more. Find your balance here.
- Humility and Confidence
It is wonderful to have confidence and surety advertising; these traits are aspired to by many. It is good to know your strengths, claim them as your unique gifts and share them with others. However, when you begin to believe you are better than other people who have different gifts, you have crossed a line that’s important to maintain for positive mental health.
- Freedom and Responsibility
One of the five basic needs of Choice Theory is Freedom—everyone wants it. Some need it more than others, but no one likes being told what to do all the time. People need a sense of agency and autonomy. On the other hand, we also have a desire to fulfill our responsibilities. Responsibility helps you develop a sense of significance. It can also help build relationships as you meet the expectations of your social contracts with others which, in turn, helps improve one’s mental health. Finding the balance is key.
- Love of Self and Love of Others
Dr. William Glasser, the late psychiatrist, said, “Most long-term psychological problems are relationship problems.” This also includes the relationship you have with yourself. If you are constantly trying to please others at the risk of ignoring your own needs, it won’t be long until you are quite unhappy. Similarly, if all you do is focus on getting what you want without considering what others need, it’s likely you will find yourself alone and unhappy. The balance in this category is predictive of one’s mental health.
- Giving and Receiving
The Law of Reciprocity dictates that, in the universe, there an equal measure of giving and receiving. As humans, we are capable of both, but we often favor one over the other. I used to be so out-of-balance in this area. I was born to be a giver. I saw myself as capable of giving and living in abundance, so I wanted to give all the time. It wasn’t until I discovered that what I was doing was blocking other people from experiencing the positive feelings I got from giving by not allowing them to give to me. If you are naturally a giver, allow others to give to you. If you are naturally a taker, try giving for a change. No matter what, the universal balance in giving and receiving is always there.
- Negativity and Positivity
Neuroscience tells us our brains are hardwired for negativity. Living with a brain that directs your focus to everything that’s wrong with your life, it’s a wonder positive mental health is even possible. One of the ways to create and maintain one’s positive mental health is by recognizing this fact and consciously placing the positive things on our scales so we can balance out the negativity. It doesn’t mean the painful stuff goes away; it simply means it can’t hold us hostage when we learn to recognize the balance. The key when experiencing something negative is to first know there is equal positivity associated with it and then search for it. I call that the GLOW (gifts, lessons, opportunities and wisdom). Without exception, the balance is there; you have only to recognize it.
- Pain and Gratitude
This was the most helpful balance I have learned to recognize in the world and implement within myself. Once I became good at implementing #9, I also became able to recognize that whenever I feel emotional pain, there is something equally positive about it. Before I can identify the GLOW, I have become able to give thanks for the adversity because I know it is going to change me, strengthen me or move me into the place I am destined to be.
The critical thing in attending to one’s mental health is to strike the balance in all these areas, but don’t try to accomplish all of them at once—unless you are some kind of superhero. Choose one area and work on it until your personal balance has been achieved and then move onto another. Before you know it, you will be in a space of gratitude and appreciation for everything in your life.