“What’s going wrong in your life right now?”
“Why do you think you’re feeling so down?”
“Why do you think you’re having so many negative thoughts recently?”
If these questions sound familiar…you’ve probably been EXACTLY where I spent almost 10 years of my life: sitting in a therapist’s office, praying for something – anything – to improve my mental health.
But if your story is anything like mine, you’ve yet to find a “magic cure” in ANY therapist’s office. You keep making new appointments and doing allll the exercises your therapist assigns because you’re desperate to break free of the dark cloud surrounding your mind…but nothing is working.
And that makes you feel even worse. Like you’re “soooo broken,” not even therapy is enough to “fix” you.
But here’s a major truth bomb for ya’: if therapy isn’t working…you aren’t alone.
And – even more importantly – it isn’t your fault.
Instead, you’re probably falling victim to the same three mental health mistakes that haunted me for years. Which is why this blog post is all about how to avoid these common pitfalls…and what you can actually do to cultivate some epically good mental health!
Mental Health Mistake Number 1: You’re focused waaaaay too much on “thinking” yourself happy.
When I was 20 years old, I spent a year living in Argentina and Guatemala, working to support and help poor communities with sustainable agriculture projects. I’d already been in therapy for many, mannnny years and on medication for just as long.
But you know what?
The first month I spent in Guatemala did MORE to improve my mental health than ANY therapy I’d ever been to.
Why? It made me realize good mental health wasn’t just a way of thinking. It was a FEELING. Of happiness. Calmness. Peace.
And that was the BIG problem with all the therapy I’d been doing. Because, sure, my therapist was a freakin’ mindful ninja when it came to breaking down my thoughts. She helped me think about why I might have depressed thoughts based on how I was raised or the chemicals in my brain or the genes I inherited.
But no one – including my therapist – ever really helped me analyze my FEELINGS. Until I started doing it on my own in Guatemala and Argentina, and noticed…
…how relaxed and comfortable I felt around the people I worked with, and that I never felt judged or anxious.
…how freakin’ AMAZING it made me feel to be doing work that was purposeful and meaningful and important.
…how eating food straight from the gardens we were working on made me feel soooo more connected to the Earth and what I was nourishing my body with.
…how the people around me didn’t have money for big parties or events, but were always singing and dancing and just freakin’ celebrating EVERY DAY of their lives!
And I realized that THOSE were the things that actually made me feel peaceful and happy…and I was filled with so much happiness, it totally crowded out ANY feelings of anxiety.
The coolest part? It’s not like I “figured out” any of those feelings of sadness or self-doubt or self-judgment that were triggering those anxious thoughts, or “fixed” a chemical imbalance. I just FELT too much joy and connection and groundedness, that there was no room for my worries or self-doubt or self-hate.
The Questions I Used to Find My Own Path to Good Mental Health
But I didn’t stop there.
I started asking myself “What would make me feel good? What makes me feel happy and joyful?”
And before I knew it…I had one hell of a long list, full of things like:
- Ecstatic Dancing
- The Color Pink
- Corny jokes
- Serving other people
You get the picture!
And, slowly, I started using THOSE things as my medicine. I began weaning myself off the anxiety medication I’d felt chained to for years, and instead focused on filling my life with the things that brought me joy.
And for the first time…I began to experience healing. All on my own.
Mental Health Mistake Number 2: You’re focusing on past wounds instead of strengths.
As time went along, I dedicated myself to healing my own mental health in a more balanced, soul-centered way. I graduated from college, got my Masters in Social Work at Columbia University and began practicing as a traditional therapist. And I began to notice something suuuuper funky:
As a traditional therapist, I was encouraged allll the time to talk to my clients about what was “wrong” with them.
I was encouraged to ask things like: “What’s the problem?” “What trauma did you go through in life?” “Why are you lacking motivation?” “Where do you feel small or not enough?”
And while it’s important to be mindful of the things we struggle with so they don’t keep eating us away in secret…this approach was SUPER unproductive. ‘Cause those traumas are things from the past – and you can’t do ANYTHING to change them!
So I did a complete 180. I started talking to my clients about everythang they were doing right. How they were a born salesperson. How they found the inner fire they needed to push through a horrible family situation. How they were freakin’ AMAZING as a mother or a brother or a boss or a marketer.
And I began using holistic tools to help people realize their own awesomeness – even if that awesomeness stemmed from anxiety or depression. For example, people who feel suuuuper low from time to time often tend to be uber creative and thorough and compassionate. And those are AWESOME skills. People just needed to recognize them!
So I challenged every single client to share their stories of struggle or challenge, and find the strengths that emerged from that fire. I even challenged clients to find the strengths in people who hurt them.
For instance, I remember one client who was holding soooo much anger at her dad for not being super present during her childhood…but then I asked her, “What were his strengths? His intentions? What he was doing well?” And she realized he was working two jobs to try to provide for a wife and four kids. That allowed her to let go of some of that resentment and instead fill herself with positive emotions like gratitude and love…and naturally, her anxiety and depression began to fade away.
Why Focusing on Strengths is the Secret to High Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence
The BEST part about learning to look at yourself and the people around you in terms of strengths? Your self-esteem and confidence dramatically increase, and you finally feel like you can change. Because you believe in yourself and feel worthy of that change!
And like I said, airing out your negative feelings or struggles is super important. I don’t hate traditional therapy. Hell, I think psychotherapy can be SUPER helpful for a lotta people. However, if you’re someone like me who’s been there, done that and is still not seeing changes…it might be because you (and your therapy) is focusing too much on your wounds and too little on the strengths resulting from those scars.
So instead of considering what’s going wrong in your life that you need to fix, ask yourself, “What qualities of excellence are consistently present throughout my life, and how can I strengthen them even more?”
Mental Health Mistake #3: You’re trying to fix a specific “problem” instead of striving for wholeness.
After I finished my Masters at Columbia, I left the world of traditional therapy and got a fellowship to move to India where I could learn more about holistic healing.
And that’s when I learned a HUGE lesson about mental health…from yoga!
You see, the word “yoga” originates from “yoke,” which means “union.” And that’s the ultimate science and goal of yoga: to find union between mind, body and soul. In fact, our entire life’s journey is a journey towards union and wholeness, when we’re not only deeply connected with alll the epic parts of ourselves but also with the Earth and universe.
And when yogis in India suffer a major challenge in their lives…it isn’t viewed as “problem” that needs to be fixed. Instead, it is seen as an invitation to recognize where there is a block toward wholeness in your life.
So in my case, my anxiety and depression weren’t “broken” parts of me. Instead, they just meant I had to figure out what being “whole” looked like for me. What was keeping my mind, body and soul from being aligned?
That’s when I realized my mind was suuuuper entrenched in the American ideals of competition and pushing people away and being the best no matter the cost…while all my heart wanted was to love and connect with other people. Similarly, my body was craving healthy, nutritious food…while my mind was saying I didn’t have to cook my own meals or couldn’t afford it.
And because my mind, body and soul were annnnythang but in sync, they were sending me SOS’s in the form of anxiety.
But once I worked on aligning those conflicting needs…
…and STOPPED over-valuing competition…
…and STARTED eating for health instead of convenience…
…I bet you can guess what happened. 😉 My anxiety went waaaay down, and I felt amazing. Aligned. Intentional. Whole.
That’s why, when I returned from India and started my own health and wellness business, I named it Radiant Wholeness.
Because I honestly believe that anxiety and depression and angst and drama and allll the other ways we don’t feel at peace in our own minds are just invitations for us to consider what’s blocking our wholeness.
And once you pay attention to that and heal those thangs…you become so RADIANT, any and all dark feelings or thoughts just fade away.
How to Use These Three Obstacles in Therapy to Become Your OWN Healer
So if you’re sick of going to therapy without seeing any results…guess what? You HAVE the power to change that and change your life. And you can start just by asking yourself some of the questions we’ve been talking all about in this post, like:
- How do I want to feel, and what can I use – from relationships to essential oils to activities to a new job – to create those feelings?
- What are my strengths and what am I good at, even during realllly hard times? How can I make those strengths even stronger?
- What is keeping me from feeling whole and integrating my mind, body and soul? How can address those blocks to wholeness and become the radiant badass I really wanna be?
And if you ask yourself those questions but need a lil’ more help coming up with some practical, actionable answers…check out my amazing 16-week course, Freedom From Anxiety.
In it, I guide you through answering ALL the questions I’ve talked about in this post, and I help you build habits that will let you finally find the happiness and wholeness you’ve been looking for. Plus, I’ll give you even more strategies and techniques you can use to identify your own strengths, focus on what you’re doing right and tap into the positive feelings you really wanna embody. So if therapy helped you make peace with the past, but you’re to start moving forward with your wellness and your life…click here!
A Final Message to Anyone Who’s Ever Felt Like They’re Permanently “Broken”
I’ve been there. I’ve been the “anxious girl” jumping from one therapist’s office to the next, hoping that by finding the “right person” to help me, I’d finally live the happy, free life of my dreams.
But the truth is…the “right person” was with me all along. Because I didn’t need a therapist to heal. I just needed ME…and someone to give me the tools I needed to become my own healer.
Which is why I wrote this blog post. Because I don’t want you to have to struggle and suffer for over 10 years like I did. I want you to use allllll the questions and tools I’ve shared in this post to find your own version of good mental health waaaaay before I found mine.
Now, it probably won’t be a walk in your favorite park. It takes a lotta work and dedication to embrace feeling instead of thinking, focus on strengths instead of struggles and understand what’s blocking your wholeness. BUT I know you can do it.
Because I know that you are already 1000% more of a strong, epic badass than you probably believe right now. All you need to do is unlock that inner power…
…and I can’t freakin’ WAIT to see how brightly you shine when you do!
What’s one thing that is blocking your wholeness right now, and how could you address it? Tell me in the comments!