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  • Writer's pictureTed Bradshaw

Something to think about, something to do

We all know that there are some things that are just supposed to be good for your mental health:

  • Exercise

  • Fresh air

  • Taking breaks

  • Mindfulness

  • Gratitude


However, when it comes to working on your own mental health, sometimes those ideas of what is “supposed to work” can actually be a limiting.


General solutions to specific problems


One issue with what is “supposed to work” is that they are about general mood and wellbeing, rather than solutions to specific problems. Fresh air can be great for your overall mood and can slow your body down in the moment but if your main issue is something completely unrelated to that such as panic attacks or low self-esteem, it isn’t necessarily going to have much of an effect on those particular things.


Put another way: you can exercise, be grateful and take as many breaks as you like: it isn’t going to solve your fear of heights.


Another stick to beat myself with


Rather than being kind to ourselves and taking the whole picture into account, we might be frustrated because we aren’t “doing what we are supposed to be doing."


“I am not doing great but it’s my own fault, I should be exercising more.”


When the solution is part of the problem


Sometimes, the very things that are supposed to be “helpful” can be completely overdone, or indeed part of the problem itself:


If you have a complicated relationship with your body, exercise can become something of a fixation and something that becomes unhelpful. Actually, it might be more helpful to tone down your exercise or to practice letting yourself off the hook sometimes.


If you are someone who is hard on yourself, when you are having a tough time you might use gratitude to beat yourself over the head “I shouldn’t be upset about this, I have too much to be grateful for, what is wrong with me?” Actually, what you might need is to work on acknowledging and recognising the difficult things that are happening and being kinder to yourself about being affected by them, even if there are things to be grateful for.


A lack of flexibility


A final issue is that sometimes we have a rigid idea in our minds of what these activities are supposed to look like:


  • Exercise means being in the gym

  • Mindfulness means sitting with my legs crossed listening to someone talk softly

  • Gratitude means ignoring the tough things and only focusing on the positive


Making these things work for you is giving yourself the flexibility to interpret them however you like.


Exercise can mean the gym, but it can also mean: playing with your dog or your kids, tap dancing, baton twirling, walking, hopping, skipping, boxing, synchronised swimming, or whatever floats your boat.


Mindfulness can mean a mindfulness exercise or a yoga class, but it can also mean paying more attention to your environment when you step outside, really smelling your coffee or soaking up the feeling of a warm shower.


Gratitude can mean taking little snippets of time to appreciate a moment, a place or a person, even though things are rough. Allowing the two things to sit together, rather than expecting the gratitude to push out the pain.


If you can concentrate on what works for you, rather than what is supposed to work for everyone else, you will get better results.


Something to think about

If you were really letting yourself do the things that work for you, rather than what is “supposed to work” what would you do differently?

Something to do

Try doing something this week that is something that you know makes a difference to you, even if it is something you think that other people might not understand.


Thanks for reading! Until next week,




P.S. I really hope someone goes for the tap dancing


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