Now’s the time to spring clean your mental wellbeing, says mental health expert, Philippa Saunders 

Spring, the season of renewal. Days are longer, brighter and, after winter, we are ready to shed layers and get going.  It is a time when we think about fresh starts and new beginnings.  We are encouraged to clean our homes and organise things at this time of year, but it is also a great time to spring clean your mental well-being.  We’re going to start today with your thinking.   

You have thousands of opportunities - every single day - to feel calmer and more in control in your life.  Around 50,000 - to be precise - as this is the number of thoughts you think daily, and each of those thoughts has a massive impact on your beliefs, attitudes, and emotions. This is based on neuroscientific evidence based on rising at about 8am and going back to sleep about 10pm, and translates to roughly one thought every second. 

Your thinking may feel automatic or inevitable, but this is not the case. There is a nanosecond between something happening and you creating a thought about it, and this is the moment when you can choose your thought. Even if you've thought a weak, powerless thought, you can STOP and change it for something better. The thoughts you think create the feelings you experience.  

Great British Life: It's up to you how you choose to respond to news and eventsIt's up to you how you choose to respond to news and events (Image: Getty Images)

Try it. Try it now. Reflect back to something you’ve already thought today. Maybe you listened to the news this morning and you started thinking scared, anxious or helpless thoughts. The news may well have been serious or concerning, but this doesn’t mean you have to think negatively about it. Here are some alternatives:  

Think positive. There are often two sides to every story: think about the positive one.   

Think safe. How does this news directly impact on your life? Can you change a negative thought for one of relief or patience? 

Think calmly. Just because something terrible has happened, it doesn’t mean you have to think catastrophic thoughts. You might have been conditioned to think in this way; after all, catastrophe sells papers, keeps the airwaves buzzing and attracts your attention on social media. Nonetheless, you have a CHOICE.  

Note down an unhelpful thought you have already had today.  Now see if you can change it to something more helpful.  

When you start to become more consciously aware of your thoughts, it can be a nasty surprise to realise how your mind has become used to thinking negatively, and a pleasant surprise to recognise that you can change this.

Great British Life: You can choose your response and step away from unhelpful thoughtsYou can choose your response and step away from unhelpful thoughts (Image: Getty Images)

To begin with it will feel odd to stop and make a conscious choice about what to think, but in time, and as your awareness grows, it gets easier. As you start focusing on your thoughts and begin to make a deliberate choice over what to think, prepare yourself to feel a little uncomfortable to start with. This is because it’s new, and the brain doesn’t like new: it much prefers old and familiar, even if what’s familiar is also causing you to feel weak and powerless, down and depressed.  

Feeling uncomfortable is absolutely FINE. But, you will need to tolerate the feelings of uncertainty as you get used to it. Thinking habits can be changed really quickly – and the more effort you put in, the quicker you’ll reap the benefits.  

Changing some of these 50,000 thoughts you have each day is the simplest and easiest way of creating better, more helpful and more powerful beliefs. Beliefs are the crux of our mental wellbeing. If you want to know which of your beliefs might be holding you back, there is a free quiz that will show you. Contact me for details of how to access this. 

We know that people with mental health issues tend to have some common negative thinking styles. They are prone to thinking of things as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This is black-and-white thinking. Or they catastrophise even the smallest of setbacks, which causes feelings of stress and panic. Some people brood and ruminate, perhaps in an attempt to control a situation – even though brooding has little or no influence on the outcome.  

Remember: stop and think. Only you can do this for yourself. Do not allow yourself the luxury of a negative thought just because it's easy; put the effort into thinking and feeling better. Think the powerful, positive thoughts you need to feel good. Learn to tolerate the feelings of uncertainty, and get used to having a calm and optimistic outlook on life, knowing that you're in control.  

This time next week your new outlook could already feel normal.  

Philippa Saunders is a Thrive® Coach based in Knutsford. You can find her on Instagram @thrive.with.philippa and Facebook @thrivewithphilippa