When I used to work for a mental health nonprofit, I would get asked a question from time to time. It went something like this: “I do this strange behavior and I’m worried that I may be mentally ill. Is this behavior normal?”
Now, not being a licensed clinician, I couldn’t give medical advice, and I would tell them so and refer them to a clinician, but I would also ask them how the behavior made them feel. There was a reason I asked that particular question, though, and I will explain why.
There are many different definitions of “abnormal.” One is, quite simply, not adhering to the norm. So, these would be the behaviors at the far end of a bell curve, so to speak. The problem with this definition of “abnormal” is that it isn’t inherently bad. A person with high intelligence would be abnormal. A person who has unusually good well-being would be abnormal. A person who has very high emotional intelligence would be abnormal. In fact, many notable public figures would be abnormal in some way or another, whether through their creativity, their wittiness, or their strength of character. So you see, simply not adhering to the “norm” is not a bad thing at all, psychologically speaking. To compound the confusion with this, what is considered “the norm” varies across cultures anyway.
A second definition of “abnormal,” the one that is often used as part of a mental illness diagnosis, is that which is maladaptive; i.e. more harmful than helpful. These behaviors can cause harm or distress to self or others. If a behavior or thought pattern is causing a person distress, preventing them from being able to live a full life, preventing them from being able to form healthy relationships, or putting others at risk, then that behavior or thought pattern may be something that needs to be addressed by a mental health professional. Just as there is no reason to live with a physical illness that is impairing our ability to thrive if we can help it, we do not need to limit ourselves by ignoring the symptoms of a potential mental illness, either.
So, it’s always good to double-check with a licensed clinician if you think you may have a mental health condition, but it can help to ask yourself how the behavior or thought pattern makes you feel. Is it causing you distress? Is it preventing you from being able to hold down a job or concentrate in class? Are you worried about hurting yourself or others?** Is it interfering with your relationships? Then it is something you want to see a licensed professional about.
By all means, get a professional opinion if you have a behavior or thought that is concerning you. But, consider that it’s okay to be quirky, or eccentric, or to think outside the box. To me, that’s what having an Enchanted Outlook is all about. If we all thought exactly the same, what a boring world that would be! Our differences in perspective and thought are what make us human. And remember: it’s possible to be both “abnormal” and have excellent mental well-being.
So, I intended to make another wellness spell to go with this one, but I sat here for maybe twenty minutes because I was concerned about the ethics of summing this one up TOO concisely. So- feel free to make your own wellness spell if you would like. Something to do with accepting yourself. But also taking care of yourself. And seeking a second opinion if needed. But being okay with having your own unique perspective. Unless that perspective is bothering you. Or hurting someone else. And ultimately knowing that it’s important to do the safest thing.
Oh goodness. Maybe this should just be a nonverbal spell. Anyway, remember to practice self-love and take care of you.
**If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or others, please call 911 or your equivalent emergency services, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK or the online crisis chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. Both services are free, confidential, and available 24/7.
Sometimes we come to a place in our lives where our choices just aren’t clear. This can be debilitating. I think this is because we can sometimes take our lives so seriously- and for good reason. Who wants to mess up? Who wants to make the wrong choice and regret it?
When I studied abroad in college, I noticed something strange. Choices that I had never even considered suddenly came before me. It was as though my creativity had increased ten-fold. I started fantasizing about all sorts of life options. Opening up a gift shop? Why not? Driving across the country by myself? Sure! I think this was because I was in this liminal place where I was removed from my culture and from my usually very strong (too strong?) sense of reality and expectations. Whatever the reason, anything seemed possible.
Now, it does pay to be realistic, don’t get me wrong. However, as I have gotten older, I have come to realize the importance of experience. If we are not in this life to fully experience it, then what is the point? And there are only so many experiences we can truly have if we are always standing at the crossroads. So, if the consequences of failure aren’t too very high, I think there is also a benefit to just making a decision and running with it. Otherwise, we will find ourselves in our old age still standing at a crossroads and wondering, “What if?” Not to mention, pondering choices is stressful in and of itself.
I mentioned in an earlier post in this series the importance of taking a small step. So long as failing won’t cause us severe harm in the long-term, why not take a step towards one choice and see how it feels? Want to go into fashion but unsure about leaving the security of your job? Why not take a class or two to learn more about it? Want to move across the country but worried about the consequences of taking that leap? Why not book a small vacation? Always thought about adopting but unsure if you want to go through the process? Why not request more information? Need to leave a toxic situation that you feel trapped in? Why not take a short reprieve if you feel safe in doing so? Sometimes putting ourselves out there in a small way can have huge results because, even though it’s a little thing, we go from being stagnant to being dynamic. Then it becomes easier to commit to our choice because what was once scary and foreign to us has become a reality.
Today’s wellness spell is:
Get off the crossroads.
By this I mean, don’t let your life be stagnated by indecision. If the risk isn’t too high, go for it. If the risk IS high, then maybe there is someone you trust, or even a licensed counselor, that you can talk it over with before you make a choice. Either way, none of us deserve a half-life on the crossroads.
Today, as part of the Wellness Spells Series, I would like to share a few of my favorite wellness resources. Some of these resources are well-known but a good launching point for a beginner; I hope that I may have also added a new resource or two for the more seasoned wellness explorer that are more off the beaten path.
I am a huge fan of Michael Pollan. Pollan is a food writer known for his mantra of “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It’s so simple it almost makes healthy eating too easy. Check out his Cooked Documentary or his book, Food Rules.
For more healthy inspiration, check Youtube channel, Pick Up Limes. Sadia of Pick Up Limes is a certified nutritionist who happens to be vegan. She’s got lots of tips on how to stop yo-yo dieting, avoiding late-night cravings, and more, for vegans and non-vegans. She also has a very soothing personality and her videos are just so pretty!
I’m a big fan of Yoga With Adrienne, also on Youtube. She brings a sense of lightheartedness and self-love to her classes which makes you look forward to getting on the mat. Now, I will say that while she does have episodes on mind, body, and spirit connection rather than just “fitness”, she specializes in a more Westernized style of yoga and I have really been wanting to get a better understanding of the traditional foundations of yoga, so if anyone has any resources to share for that please let me know in the comments below.
I would also recommend Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. While not specifically fitness related (though there is a chapter on sports) it looks at how the way we think about ourselves and our skills can affect our ability to grow and improve, which can be huge in terms of meeting our fitness goals.
I know it’s a classic suggestion, but you can’t go wrong with Thich Nhat Hanh. This Buddhist monk has created several books on meditation, mindfulness, and happiness. They are accessible and understandable to anyone of any religion.
And sometimes, when things aren’t going our way, we just have to laugh. That’s why my second recommendation is Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things that Happened by Allie Brosh, for a take on life’s stresses that we can all relate to.
For Minimalism/Simple Living:
I really love the book Simple Matters by Erin Boyle. It takes simple living beyond just getting tidy and looks at long-term solutions for a life of beautiful calm. The book is filled with photos of design ideas that are doable, affordable, and magazine-worthy all at once.
Also, this may be my particular taste, but I really enjoy Jenny Mustard on Youtube. She has a beautiful channel full of inspiration for simple living, minimalism, wellness, and more. She has laughingly described herself as an “acquired taste” though, so make sure to watch a few episodes before you decide how you feel about her.
Today’s Wellness Spell is:
Sharing perspectives increases our paths.
By this I mean, sometimes we get stuck in a particular way of doing things, but someone else might have new ideas. Whether through a different knowledge base, a different life experience, or just a different perspective, taking time to see how others face a problem may help us to see a way we didn’t see before.
Is there a wellness resource that has been especially helpful to you?
I hope you are enjoying the Wellness Spells series so far.
I would like to talk about our inner dialogue this week. Have you ever had a moment where an unexpected thought crept into your inner dialogue and surprised you? After seeing a photo of myself recently in the height of my dancing years in high school when I was thin and toned, I found myself inadvertently thinking, “I should focus more on weight loss and less on health.” When I realized this thought passed through my mind, I was stunned. I’m a huge advocate of health. Furthermore, I’m in a healthy weight range, have good blood pressure, good sugar levels, eat well, and exercise regularly. There is no problem with my weight, but in that moment, I perceived a problem.
Now, I’m not someone who ordinarily thinks things like this about weight, but I think that made it all the more shocking. I would be willing to bet that a lot of us -and especially women- have a thought that slips into our minds like this from time to time. It’s just a sign of how pervasive this kind of rhetoric is in our society that even with the best of intentions, it still creeps in.
This week, I would invite you to take close notice of the things you tell yourself. Are you practicing self-kindness? Does this kindness extend to your innermost thoughts? Or are some thoughts intruding that are unkind? You spend more time with yourself than you do with anyone else, so you might as well try to be a good friend to yourself. Would you want to be around someone who is unkind to you? Who tells you that you need to lose weight when you are healthy? Or that you have done a poor job at what you do? Or that you should try much harder when you are already trying? We don’t often think about the things we tell ourselves, but they can be harmful, especially if we don’t acknowledge them and let them have their way, so to speak.
I don’t know about you, but I try not to be around people who say things like that and treat me that way. And yet, if I’m being honest, I sometimes find myself being that kind of friend to me. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this (ahem, perfectionists of the world, I’m looking at you). There is a big difference between encouraging ourselves to grow and improve and being hard on ourselves. It takes a very conscious awareness of our own inner dialogue to be able to improve our own self-talk.
So, if you haven’t done this before, I invite you to listen to the inner dialogue you tell yourself and make sure you are being a good friend to the most central person in your life: you.
Today’s Wellness Spell is:
Be your own friend.
Have you ever caught yourself thinking something unkind about you?