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Your Surroundings Matter

IMG_4228_ResizedaOne thing that we often overlook when dealing with our mental health is our environment, yet it is one thing that is the easiest for us to control on a daily basis. The things that our senses take in can have a huge impact to our state of mind. After all, our senses are how we interact with our world. It is why treatments like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) teach people to use their senses to self-soothe in times of distress. This is an effective technique for many people.

Life does exist beyond times of distress, I know there are times it may seem like that is a lie, but life really does exist beyond times of distress. One of the best ways to avoid periods of distress is to find effective ways to prevent them. For me one thing that helps prevent them or at least helps cut them off when they are trying to start is by controlling my environment as much as possible. I primarily control my environment through the sense of sight, but I also make use of my senses of smell, touch and hearing, but to a  lesser extent.

To help control my environment through sight, I keep things that are visually soothing, positive and relaxing to me all over my apartment. Almost everywhere I look, there is something that has a positive impact on my mental state. On the wall behind where I sit, I have plaques with various bible verses in earth tones, on the wall above where my dining room table would be I have three plaques with the Chinese characters for Friendship, Good Luck, and Good Fortune. In my hallway I have quotes from the Dalai Lama hanging above my washer and drier and a Irish Wedding Blessing on the wall before you enter the master bedroom.

Since  I spend a lot of time on the computer, that area has more reinforcing material than just about anywhere else in my home. In front of my I have performance awards, on my left I have certificates of appreciation from the Assistant Attorney General and on my right I have my college diploma. Above my head, I keep my books on psychology, most of which focus on BPD and treatment types, my computer books, my books on leadership and ethics. All these books have a positive impact on me for one reason or another. I will talk more about that in a different article. No matter where I look, I am surrounded by things that remind me that I have accomplished things and reinforce a positive self-image. Behind me is the washer and dryer and as I said I have quotes from the Dalai Lama there. I even have a soothing image hanging in my bathroom and on the opposite wall from my bed.

On my bookcase in the living area, I have my ‘Spot Award’ for work I did in 2011 and my award for 5+ years of service with my company. There is one last way that I control my environment through sight. I do that by the television that I watch. A lot of the shows I watch are comedies, but I also watch a few dramas like N.C.I.S. and Elementary along with Supernatural. The comedies make me laugh and provide a ‘positive vibe’, the dramas keep my mind engaged and appeal to my analytical side and Supernatural appeals to the part of me that enjoys fantasy, the idea of ‘good vs. evil’ and ‘monsters’. Supernatural provides me an escape from reality. I may do a separate article just on Supernatural and its impact on my mental health.

Television also provides a great way of affecting your environment through sound. It can be the music featured in the show, the theme songs, the laughter from the audience or just the voices of the people acting. Another way I affect my environment through sound is I keep a Tibetan Singing Bowl on my bookcase which I use to soothe myself. I am still trying to learn how to use it. I can get it to sing, but I am far from an expert with it.

My sense of smell is the one that I do the least for, but even though I do not do a lot it still has a considerable impact. When it comes to smell, I burn scented candles, incense and scented oils. I do not burn them all at the same time. I choose candles and oils that have an appealing smell to me or that remind me of pleasant places. Incense has a very calming affect on me. I typically use incense from India or Tibet.

Finally, I come to touch. When it comes to my sense of touch, I have a very affectionate cat. She provides constant entertainment and loves to have someone pet her. There is something, about petting a cat that is in itself soothing and calming.

When it comes to work or commuting, I have less control over what I take in and how many things I can surround myself with at any given time. I will talk more about work and commuting environments separately.

These are some of the things that work well for me and help me. You may have very different things that work for you. It is about finding the things that work for you and surrounding yourself with them.

Posted: January 16th, 2013 under Helpful Tips.

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