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3 Therapy Techniques to Improve Your Mental Well-Being

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Discussions around well-being are very much on the rise. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has certainly contributed to this, and even the most hard-nosed CEO understands that the well-being of their employees will have a great return on investment.

Coaching and therapy are losing their stigma as parents worry about their children, educators worry about their students, and managers worry about their direct reports. Strategies for being happy are discussed and implemented, in a world where mental health issues are on the rise. So what can be done?

1. The War of the Arrows

Imagine a box. In fact, draw it. In that box write all of the words you would use to describe the state you are in when you do not feel well. Words that describe how you feel when you are struggling with your mental health and feel a disconnect from a happy life.

Despair? Stuck? Anxious? Regret? Depressed? Lonely? Overwhelmed? Stressed? The list goes on. So what do you need to do to get out of that box?

We can think of our reaction as red arrows and green arrows. Red arrows are often self-destructive and do not give us the freedom we think they will. Anything we do to make the feeling stop, to make it all stop, can be a red arrow. Drinking, drugs, gambling, risk-taking behavior, casual sex, fighting, and zoning out on social media or in video games may all give temporary relief, but where will they end up?

Yep, back in the box. They are giving you a temporary respite, but it will not last. Green arrows are less dramatic, less “sexy” perhaps. They are the day-to-day grind you need to engage with in order to stay out of the box. Drink water, go for a walk in nature, meditate, buy something nice you can afford because you are worthy of nice things.

Each morning, write three things you are grateful for. Each evening, write three little wins you had. Stay on top of housework and laundry. Wear a nice perfume or aftershave. Be kind to yourself. Over time, you will find it easier to get out of the box, and one day avoid it altogether.

2. Fantasy Versus Reality

You are more powerful than you could possibly imagine because of your imagination. Depression and anxiety are liars, and create fantasy scenarios that cause you pain, but are not real. That is OK. Just because something is not real does not mean it cannot harm you. If you believe that, it means you can create fantasies that empower you.

It is common in leadership circles to discuss blind spots. What are you not seeing? Where are you generalizing, deleting or distorting reality? What is the fantasy you are telling yourself? That you can’t start a business? Get promoted? Leave that partner? Find love? Are you mind-reading someone else’s intentions, or having both sides of a conversation in your head and coming to a negative conclusion?

What is the reality? What would happen if you imagined the most positive or successful outcome?

3. Positive Versus Negative Strokes

Every day we experience what we can class as “strokes,” or units of recognition. Some are conditional, others are unconditional. A conditional positive stroke could be that you are great at your job. Did you get feedback along those lines today? An unconditional positive stroke would be that you are a great person, not anchored to a behavior or an achievement. A lot of this is linked to your childhood experiences or your script.

Are you enough?

Just being you?

Or, are you dependent on your achievements for your well-being? Negative strokes are powerful as well. Conditional strokes may be that you are a terrible father or manager. A role you engage with is seen as not worthy, or a behavior.

But it is not you.

An unconditional stroke is not related to your achievements or role. You are just a “bad person.” Not worthy. Not worthy of success, of kindness or of love.

No one likes you.

On any given day, what kind of strokes are you getting? Unconditional love about the person you are, or at least your behavior or productivity? Or are you drowning in negative stokes? Do people say you are worthless or act in a way that you feel so? Perhaps your employer does not invest in you, listen to you or allow you to self-actualize? You are worth more.

Pay attention to how you think about yourself and try to default to unconditional love for yourself. Add notes by the mirror, or have a positive mantra as your phone screensaver. You can also “weaponize” it to help improve the lives of those around you. Can you compliment someone today on who they are rather than their appearance, or their achievements?

Audit your life and remove the things and people that are having a negative impact, and focus on surrounding yourself with positive strokes, green arrows, and a firm understanding of reality.

Photo by Joice Kelly on Unsplash

Originally published: March 24, 2021
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