When it comes to your mental health, think Mmmm…

May 25, 2020

By Cheryl O’Donoghue

We often say “Mmmm” when we taste something yummy or consider something of interest. Mmmm is also an excellent pneumonic to help you remember four easy ways you can protect your mental health and keep it humming along no matter what life hurls your way…even a worldwide pandemic.

Building on advice from Dr. Sudeepta (Sue) Varma, board-certified psychiatrist, the four “m” activities that can help support your mental health are: movement, meaningful engagement, mastery and mindfulness.

And because we all feel we have less time than ever before, I’ll share a few of my most favorite tips for helping my coaching clients quickly strengthen mental and emotional well-being — a key ingredient for supercharging your emotional intelligence, too!

  1. Movement—Target 10 minutes of purposeful movement each day. And if you can, strap on your mask and take a brisk walk outside in the morning. Sunlight tells your brain you’re ready for the day, improves your melatonin response, and, in fact, helps you sleep better at night (and sleep improves just about EVERYTHING in your life). One favorite coaching tip: Do a super short, fun workout on YouTube. I love Lucy Wyndham-Reed’s 7-Minute Workout (by the time you add in your pre- and post-workout stretches you’ve clocked in your 10 minutes). Plus, it helps whittle 1-2 inches off your belly in seven days…for REAL.
  2. Meaningful engagement—Engage with other humans for a total of at least 10 minutes each day. Superficial engagement counts. The key is to connect with others, even if it’s only for a short burst of time—in person, video conference, FaceTime, texts.  Tips: Do something kind for someone else. Especially in a crisis, engaging with another through a kind act can transform lives—and that includes yours. Need some ideas? Here’s a list of 100 effective ways to be kind through a pandemic from kindness.org. Try the new QuarantineChat app and talk with another soul stuck at home. Or make a point today to set up a FaceTime or Zoom call with someone who makes you happy. But PLEASE stay away from toxic people who you think you “should” call. They make you feel “shouldy”!
  3. Mastery—Give yourself permission to spend a tiny segment each day (target 10 minutes) to do anything that feels good to you—a rewarding project, hobby, or pastime. You don’t have to be a “master” to experience mastery. You just need to be doing something or create something that is enjoyable to you. Bake, read, watch a “how to” video. One fav tip: Organize—a drawer, desk, corner of a closet—it doesn’t matter. This morning I fetched a fancy basket from the basement, dusted it off, collected our dogs’ toys from around the house, and put them all the in basket. It felt thrilling and freeing. Best of all, after my ecstasy-producing activity (maybe captivity is getting to me), I was able to knock out some major writing projects in half the time. Mastery (no matter how small) can help energize and clear the mind.
  4. Mindfulness. Take five minutes to just chill and find your balance—take a few slow and deep breaths, pop in your earbuds and listen to relaxing music, tighten up all your muscles at once and then just let them all go and release the tension that naturally builds during your day. A last tip: Let an app do the heavy lifting for you. With thousands from which to choose you can’t go wrong—Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, Aura, Sattva, Inscape. I just downloaded another app this weekend (and it’s totally free) called Smiling Mind. (I especially like the Australian accent of the guides!)

Now, just think Mmmm…

About the Author

Cheryl O’Donoghue, MS, is passionate about YOU being true to yourself, focusing on what matters most, and crushing your goals through emotional intelligence leadership books, training, and coaching that’s fun and transformative. Learn more at www.cherylodonoghue.com or www.BnEiLeader.com. Pre-order How to Be an Emotionally Intelligent Leader (While Crushing Your Goals) and be among the first to see which ACW members are featured!