Truthfully, I wasn’t sure whether to place this on my spiritual blog or this one, but since this does have to do with an aspect of the healthy coastal lifestyle, I opted for here. (Not to say I won’t share it on my author/minister page.) Often I have highlighted the interrelationship between physical health and mental health, believing–and the research backs this up–that maintaining a strong mental health will have a positive impact on one’s physical health. Yes, you read that correctly. So frequently do we hear about how exercise helps combat a plethora of mental health issues–everything from anxiety to depression to ADHD–but we don’t often learn about the converse of that.
I am finding myself in a situation where I am helping someone while they tend to other things. The understanding is that there is a time limit on this arrangement. Recently, however, I have become concerned that this person isn’t tending to those other things. I was sharing this with my Sunday morning Bible study group, and one of my friends there suggested this time limit may extend. I replied with a firm, “No, it won’t.” Another friend chimed in with, “But what about ________?” I said, “This is going to sound cruel and callous, but that’s not my problem.”
My friends get me. You see, in my battle against my anxiety, I’ve had to say about certain things, “That’s not my problem.” I have my own problems–anxiety, arthritic knees, entrepreneurship during a global pandemic and an economic recession–and I have those things that I may list under “problems” that aren’t problems at all (family, managing the household, homeschooling, revisions on my book) but are things that require my time, energy, and attention. In these respects, they’re responsibilities. It’s enough to keep my plate pretty full all the time without adding someone else’s problems or responsibilities to the pile. It’s just simply good boundaries.
Along with setting and maintaining these boundaries on my time and energy, I have also backed away from negative and/or toxic people, as well as negativity in social media and the main stream media. That negativity and toxicity builds up like arsenic in the system. For a while you may feel fine. Then you start feeling a little sick, a little off. Then you get really sick and die. Even if it’s not physical death (though sometimes it is), too much negativity and toxicity can kill a part of our mental or spiritual health.
Yesterday, I decided to polish off my week with a walk. This also marks around the 4th anniversary of the beginning of the Healthy Coastal Lifestyle. (Yea!) It was cool and comfortable, just a titch cooler than the tank and shorts called for, but… Myeh, whatever. I’d build up my own heat, I figured. The purpose of the walk was two-fold: (1) cardio exercise, and (2) knee strengthening work. The screenshot above shows a pretty embarrassing average speed; it’s usually a bit higher than that. Some of the loss of speed was warming my right knee up. But that wouldn’t account for much. Then I remembered Dave. And John and Amanda. And… well, let’s just say that half the neighborhood was outside and I’m an extrovert.
I only chose to avoid negativity and toxicity to preserve my mental health. Like so many things we do, though, there were unintended side benefits. In liberating myself of those things and by refusing to take on other people’s responsibilities, I have freed myself for absolutely marvelous positivity to enter my life. In choosing not to allow extra responsibilities and negatives to burden my life, I have created space for unmitigated joy and happiness. This became glaringly apparent to me yesterday evening while I was walking.
I was on my second lap through the neighborhood when I saw a familiar little dog with a couple. We thought the male half of this couple–a nice guy who’d lived down the street from us for 11 years until last week–had moved away. Yesterday I found out he’d reconnected with a lady who lives on another street in our neighborhood and moved into her house after getting married three weeks ago. I spoke to an older neighbor whose grass had gotten uncharacteristically long, leading me to fear either his wife or he had had some health crisis. He assured me they were fine after I assured him I wasn’t at all being critical of his lawn, that I had been worried.
I felt more than just an endorphin rush from this walk. I felt the buzz from seeing and speaking to people. More, though, I felt joy. When I saw my neighbor with his new bride and dog (just the bride is new), I felt genuine joy for their happiness. I don’t know this guy for more than just a casual hello and a brief chat, but they were both radiating bliss. It wasn’t hard to pick up on that, and it spread. Because I had purged negativity and toxicity from my life, and because I choose not to add to my responsibilities, I had so much room in me to feel this positive interaction, as well as all the others in which I’d engaged during my walk.
I returned from my walk nicely warmed from the exercise and the interactions. When I told my family about our neighbor and his big life change, that happiness spread throughout our home. That experience really brought home for me how much one person’s mood affects the entire rest of the family.
So, to recap… I make choices that affect my mental health in positive ways. Those choices leave me open not only to feeling less anxious or depressed, but also all the way happier. These wonderful feelings spread to my entire household. They then also feel happier. It looks like my choices not only help me but indirectly help others as well, and that’s a solid win.