My 7 signs of good mental health!

May 28, 2024 in Uncategorized

Gavin Thomas Murphy runs a website called Gratitude In All Things where he looks to Ignatian Spirituality for strength and inspiration.

As a person with mental health challenges, I’d like to share a four-month adventure of embodying the signs of good mental health in my life. Check out which sign appeals to you!

  1. Open to surprises: Going with the unpredictable changes and challenges. A consultant psychiatrist surprised me one day when he suggested a change of medication. He was the first doctor to really listen to my experience of low mood, feeling three on a scale of ten a lot of the time. We discovered a combination of medication that left me feeling relaxed and balanced in mood. Another surprise came from a wonderful spiritual teacher who suggested a practice to help me sleep better. He recommended that I push myself to get up in the middle of the night to pray! And to go back to bed when I feel tired. This ‘contemplative’ option resulted in greater rest and peace of mind.
  2. Positivity: Gravitating towards the brighter side of life… especially in the winter season. A day of coffee and Christmas music, the warm library as I worked on assignments, the park whose golden leaves shook my soul. Then back to study as my fingers on the keyboard ebbed and flowed, as the low-lying light touched my skin through the windows. The moment was enough, busyness passed by – ‘nothing to do, nowhere to go’ – just to open my hands and celebrate what was given. As if winter was saying, “Softly, softly, softly now, no need for your mayhem, no need for complaint, just rhythm with me as I rhythm with you, come into my light, come into my darkness.”
  3. Good relationships: Close connections with a wide variety of people. Let me introduce you to a few members of my creative group. Golden Retriever: A passionate presence, sees the best in people, astute, wide-eyed, fun-loving, an old soul, loves to smile with you. Billy Goat: Dead sound, refreshingly logical, sensitive and sweet, up for a laugh and an adventure, sculpted, and agile. Tiger: A burst of power, research-minded, a ‘take-it-all-in’ presence, the deepest belly laugh, huge goals and dreams. What makes our creative group work is our ability to channel our unique qualities for greater friendship and creativity. It may look like we’re ‘storming’ but we’re actually ‘performing’!
  4. Enthusiasm: A spiritual dynamism involving both listening and responding. At a recent five-day retreat, I noticed that I was still holding onto an idea of doing a PhD. I had already completed three proposals in two years without finding that ‘golden thread’ to weave. I came to realise that the idea actually drained my energy and that I needed to let go. On the other hand, I saw that my creative writing projects have given me so much light, love and happiness. For example, I feel wholesome and alive when I use both my imagination and experience to create content on mental health and wellbeing. I now choose to follow my creative yearnings with great enthusiasm!
  5. Sense of humour: Ready to burst out with a smile, laugh or joke. I have a friend from North Dublin who is known as my ‘big sister’. “You’re blown ou(t)!” is one phrase that she likes to throw at me every now and again. It means: I’m done with yaI’m sick of yaI never want to see ya, and in some circles, it means I’m divorcin ya. Sis puts me in my place when I’m getting high and mighty or too confident and assertive, reminding me that my achievements and good fortune are to be deeply appreciated. All I need is her knowing smile – a wham of reality – and I know that I need to laugh at myself and let go. Here’s to more Dublin banter to come!
  6. Being loving: Taking risks to share in the life of others. My late friend Peter was a wonderful gardener who showed me three ways on how to love. 1) Listen to inner knowledge: Pay attention to the glimpses of love, intuitively name what they say, savour their truth and goodness, and learn to believe and own this love. 2) Share unfinished works: Be ready to share notes, sketches or bars of music. Receive them with great sensitivity, as if holding something sacred, and tentatively give feedback. 3) Create beauty everywhere: Joyfully labour in a garden full of colourful flowers and leaves or engage in other works of art. Take care to separate the flowers from the weeds and to nurture our creation every day.
  7. Happy with the little things: Finding delight and joy in ordinary life. I was stuck in a rut on the banks of the River Liffey, stuck in my head, so ungrateful, so unfree. I moved my head in the direction of the Customs House with its columns, sun-washed walls and tower. I stopped thinking and was awakened by the rainbow! My small ‘monkey mind’ became suddenly free. I believe the more we tune into the little things – be it a scene along a river, interacting with a friend, a good piece of work – the more we will find happiness in the glimpses, glimmers and hopes. Seeing the little things in the midst of the bigger picture makes us go grateful and so free.

Call to Action: Do something creative to express a sign that appeals to you!

This article was originally published on A Lust For Life – a multi-award winning Irish mental health charity that inspires young people to be effective guardians of their own mind.