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As many of us know, especially those who are avid Thrive readers and contributors, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Although we should strive to prioritize our well-being and mental health daily, this month is a great opportunity to practice being mindful and develop strategies that help us act with intention and purpose. In honor of this month’s theme, I wanted to contribute an article that celebrates well-being and offers practical advice for those who are looking to broaden their understanding around wellness and health. [DISCLAIMER: I am not a trained medical professional, so if you feel like you are suffering, please seek medical help. I only intend to share insights I’ve gathered through my own research and interest in these topics.]

Earlier this year, I attended the Edinburgh Well-being Festival while I was studying abroad in Scotland. The festival occurred during the first weekend of February, and each day featured a lengthy schedule of events that included various exercise classes, smaller workshops with individuals such as life coaches and food psychologists (“Conversations”) and larger seminars featuring celebrity-profile individuals such as Kelly Holmes, Dr. Chatterjee, and Max La Manna (“Discussions”). Health enthusiasts, doctors, spiritual leaders, and individuals working in the well-being industry came and spoke on topics ranging from self-compassion and healthy eating for the gut microbiome, to meditation practices and ways we can reduce our food waste. Below, I’ll share some key takeaways from this event and how they relate to what Mental Health Awareness Month stands for. Hopefully, these messages are impactful and resonate with Thrive’s readership as we take time to reflect on what this month means to us all:

There is a cyclical loop between compassion and safeness.

  • In order to express your most compassionate self, you need to establish an inner safeness. This means that there needs to be a physiological change in your body to create a soothing system (ex: slowing of the heart rate). Once you create a soothing system, it conditions the mind to organize around compassion and creates mental patterns that are more conducive to compassion. Now, once the mind is organized around cultivating compassion due to the inner safeness, you are able to feel more affiliative in your relationships. The more of this feeling you accumulate, the safer you feel, which feeds back into this safeness-compassion loop.

Meditation helps us to become more resilient.

  • Practicing meditation can help to reduce the impact of the internal monologues we create inside of our heads (“I’m worthless, this all sucks, why me, etc.”). Meditation is not about eradicating the thoughts that occur in the mind — we cannot necessarily control which thoughts pop inside randomly — but rather, it is about eradicating the power that you allow those thoughts to have over you.

Achieving alignment is essential to becoming the person you want to be.

  • You must work to achieve alignment with the acts you take in the present moment so that they reflect your values and aspirations. Once this is in alightment, you are better positioned to be the person you want to become.

The key to forming better habits is to make it easy for yourself.

  • Many of us think that good habits take longer to form than bad ones. In fact, good habits add up in the exact same way as bad habits do. A habit is a habit. In order to develop better habits, you need to make it easy for yourself, and to do so, you must incorporate that new behavior onto an existing habit you already have.

I have also been reflecting on how I want to embody the mission of this month, especially while in quarantine. I’ve found that this global pandemic has caused me to feel more anxious at times, wondering when we will transition out of this ‘new normal’ back to our regular routines. Sometimes, if I scroll deep enough through my camera roll, I begin to feel lonely and disconnected from friends and family, reminiscing over distant memories at school, and promising myself to never take a simple coffee date with a friend for granted again.

In light of this, I plan to continue the well-being practices I already do and love (such as yoga and engaging in other types of exercises, cooking, reading, spending time with family) and will work to incorporate more journaling exercises, gratitude practices, and breath exercises into my daily routine. I also have been coordinating a virtual workshop series with The Power Thread, which is a digital media company focused on celebrating power and confidence through creative storytelling. This month, our Zoom events are focused on Mental Health, and we are featuring therapists, nutritionists, and health educators. I have found personal fulfillment through this project, as I am passionate about continually learning from others and educating myself further around these topics.

I hope this article has provided some useful insights around well-being. I encourage us all to take a moment and think about how we can better treat our minds, our bodies, and our hearts, and how we can hold ourselves accountable to committing whatever wellness resolutions we make.

More Thrive Global on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis