Thank Your Mind

mariaS10.12 Maria Shirver's Sunday Paper
"When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary."  —Fred Rogers

I've Been Thinking...

Today is World Mental Health Day. Before you read further, I'd ask that you take a moment to check in with yourself this morning.

Check in with your mind. Sit with how you feel for a bit and don't judge. Think about all your mind does for you. Think about all it keeps track of for you. If you are like me, you probably drive it too hard. You probably put too much on its plate. You more than likely berate it for not being what you think it should be.

Pause.

The truth is, your mind is extraordinary and uniquely your own. Sure, it may drive you nuts at times (I feel you). You may wish it were different—maybe smarter, quicker, or better at retaining everything you want to remember. Maybe, like me, you wish your mind were less dark. I get that. But remember: your mind is yours and yours alone. Today, my wish is that you honor your mind's beauty. Honor its unique abilities, its perseverance, how extraordinary it is, and all it does for you. 

I didn't give my own mind much love until I went away to my retreat this past summer. There, they taught me to honor my mind and stop criticizing it so much. They taught me to express gratitude to my mind and to start each morning by asking what it needs from me. That's since become a practice that I do every morning, and I've found it to be quite helpful. This morning ritual has helped me become kinder to my mind. I’ve started to applaud it for its vision, its creativity, and its ability to juggle so much. My mind often asks me to slow down and focus, so I’ve been trying to listen and honor that request. And even though my mind can still go dark on me and drive me to exhaustion, I now see us as partners in this thing called life.

Today, I honor my mind with meditation, sleep, healthy food, less coffee, gratitude, and sometimes therapy. (I’m a big proponent of therapy to help you get to know your mind and help you understand yourself or any situation you may find yourself in.) Today, I pay just as much attention to my mental health as I do my physical health, my spiritual health, and my emotional health. I also try to listen attentively when others talk to me about their minds. I didn’t grow up with this model, but I now know how impactful it can be when someone listens to your pain, your confusion, or your feelings.

Today, we can choose to listen to others about their challenges. And, if we feel so inclined, we can also share our stories. Today is a day to drop judgments we may have grown up with or been taught. It is a day dedicated to erasing the stigma.

It's a big day for me, for you, for all of us, because we all have mental health challenges. The statistics today are jaw-dropping. A staggering one in five adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in a given year. Nearly 2 million children ages 3 to 17 have diagnosed depression. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. These numbers should prompt all of us to stop in our tracks and inspire us to tread lightly with one another, because it really is true that all of us are struggling or will struggle with something at some point in our lives. Sure, some may have harder challenges than others. Some among us can’t get out of bed. Some among us hear voices or experience dramatic mood swings. Many struggle with debilitating panic attacks, overwhelming anxiety, and deep sadness. This isn’t a competition. It's an opening to share the truth of who we all actually are. That truth connects us. It connects us to one another, and that’s the beauty of this day. 

The good news is that I cannot remember a time in my life when there has been so much discussion about mental health. In large part, I believe it's happening because so many people are struggling—struggling with our politics, struggling with climate change, struggling with gun violence, struggling to be seen, accepted, and understood. We're struggling to keep up and manage it all. We're struggling to find peace in our very unpeaceful world. And yet, we are united in this struggle. Think about that. 

I’ve loved watching so many brave people step up as of late to talk openly about their struggles. I believe they are doing so with the hope that their stories will assure others that they are not alone. Feeling alone—feeling like you are crazy—is the worst feeling in the world. Feeling like there is something wrong with you is heartbreaking. We now live in a time when we no longer have to suffer alone or in silence. In fact, that is worse for your mental health.

So today, my hope for you is the same one I have for myself: to thank your mind for all it’s done for you. Go easier on yourself. Find a mental health buddy that you can talk to openly and safely. Realize that it is okay to not be okay, because at the end of the day, the idea that something is wrong with us is a lie.

There is nothing wrong with any of us. We are who we are in our minds, hearts, bodies, and souls. You are an original package. There is no one on Earth like you. You have a special contribution to make to our world, and it's one that only you can offer. Set your mind to thinking about that. Set your mind to thinking about how you are going to light our world ablaze. Set your mind to thinking about how wonderful it is, how creative it is, and how unique it is. Now that’s beautiful!

Love,
Maria

PRAYER OF THE WEEK                                           

Dear God, Please help me to be gentle with myself. Rather than fighting against my mind, allow me to honor it for all it does for me. Allow me to care for it, listen to it, and view us as partners in this thing called life. Amen.


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