05 Nov Know how to fix a leak to stay on course
Every October Mental Health Day serves to promote the need to support good mental health around the world.
While days such as this are excellent for raising awareness, every day should be a day to take care of your mental health. So, seize the mantle and start building up your mental health today and stay on course for a life of fulfilment.
But where to start? Well, a brilliant place to begin is putting in place good daily habits that keep you calm, centered, happy, energised and positive – no matter what that day might bring. Your life is not what’s going on outside of you, it is about what you feel inside.
Choose to change the way you feel
When the days are colder, darker and wetter, it can be easy to feel a little bit ‘blah’ and it can be too easy to fall into a trap where you notice that but do nothing about it. It can be too easy for that flat feeling to tip over into feeling overwhelmed, anxious, sad or depressed.
Instead of letting that feeling take you over, there is always an option to recognise the way that you feel, spend a minute noticing it then dive into a good feeling instead.
While you may think it’s a natural, reactive state of mind, feeling good can take time to work. If a day is heading in a certain direction and it is affecting your mood it is a good idea to notice it so that you can purposely detach from it.
“The most intelligent people have learnt the art of ignoring what does not make them feel good”
Direct your thoughts to stay on course
Learn how to direct your thoughts into good thoughts to ease moods or feelings of flatness. Make the choice not to sink with a feeling and try to smile instead. Make a determined choice to feel good.
To keep a feeling of lightness when setting out on a cold, dark morning, choose to also do something that you love, like listen to an audiobook or your favourite playlist.
If there is something that you know will uplift you, inspire you and make you feel good, do it. By the time you reach your destination you will start the day feeling magnificent – and even better you will be able to pass that feeling on to others. Good moods can be contagious. It’s like keeping a lightness that lets you bob around on the top of the water instead of being pulled underneath by a feeling.
The sailboat metaphor is a great way to see this.
Setting sail for calmer seas: The sailboat metaphor
Devised by Hugo Alberts and published in 2016 as part of his Positive Psychology Program, the method begins with a sailboat. The sailboat, of course, is you. A beautiful sailboat bobbing along on the water.
It’s no good having a sailboat and not sailing in it though. You don’t want to be in a dry dock, you want to be on the water. Some days the water is calm, some days it’s a bit choppy, other days it’s rough. Occasionally there’s a huge wave. Sometimes the big waves are a bit unnerving and other days they’re exciting and it’s fun to ride the wave.
Sometimes there’s a current and you get moved by the water. But you don’t have to just drift with it. Sometimes it’s perfectly safe to go with the flow, to feel as though you want to drift along effortlessly. But if the flow is not taking you in the right direction, then you can still take control of your boat and steer it in the right direction.
Think what the water is like for you right now. Where are you steering to? Or what is steering you? What is your direction? Where you choose to steer your boat will be guided by what’s important to you, the things that you value and that drive you.
“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.”
Consider what drives you?
When steering your boat consider whether you are steering creatively, honestly, calmly or safely? Are you steering in a controlled manner or are you just loving the ride? What directs your journey? Maybe you are looking for variety and visiting lots of different places.
What is your goal? Maybe you have many destinations and goals, and things that you want to achieve along the way.
While you’re steering your boat make sure to look around and see that you’re taking good care of it on the inside and the outside, because you don’t want a leak. A leak is going to slow you down and might even stop you altogether. If you stop in the water the current might take you in a different direction – one you didn’t want to go to in.
A leak will impact your mood and behaviour negatively. Being knocked off course is not a good feeling. So, make sure you are looking ahead at the calm seas. Look where you’re going instead of looking back at the chaos and turbulence behind you. Keep your eyes ahead and fix the leaks in your thoughts. Leaks are exhausting to constantly deal with – and you don’t want your boat to sink.
Instead of focusing on the actual leak though, focus on fixing the leak to allow you to move forward and appreciate the good things in the boat and on the journey. Once the leak is fixed, you can sail again in the right direction. Hoist the sails, catch the favorable wind and head off effortlessly in the direction you choose.
“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”
Finding and listening to your internal compass
Of course, you have a compass on board to help you navigate and that gives you feed back as to whether you’re on course. When you’re sailing in the right direction the compass will let you know with happy and positive feeling emotions. When you are off course it will let you know by making you feel sad, doubtful, stressed or even fearful.
These emotions get your attention and are giving you valuable feedback to assist you on your route. Maybe you need to consider changing your route or keep a close look out to avoid challenging rocks. Make these adjustments and get back on track again.
One thing we all wish we could control on a journey, but cannot, is the weather. Sometimes it will be sunny so soak up the warmth and enjoy the feeling. Sometimes the wind will blow and nudge you along helping you to use your strengths to the fullest. But when a gale blows you need to stay safe. If you are lashed with rain and caught in a gale, you might find it difficult to keep going in the same direction, but not impossible.
Your boat remains in your control even though the weather is not. Your boat is strong and resilient and, if you take care of it, it will weather the storms and before you know it, you’ll be sailing in the sunshine again.
“People say everybody has a book inside them, so why not make your life a great story?”
Martha Louise Hunter
Are you on course? Choose the life you want to lead
With that in mind ask yourself, how is your boat and where are you going? Do you need to fix a leak? It’s great metaphor for finding your way in life and taking care of yourself.
Tell us about your journey and any setback you have overcome at Back on Track Teens, especially share with the community any tips on overcoming blips in mood and keeping yourself feeling good. Find us at:
Set your sights on calmer seas, leave turbulent times behind you and remember to enjoy the journey as you stay on course.