There are things in your life that are important, you know they are important, but you still don’t care much for them.

People smoke despite knowing the risks, they eat greased fast-food even though it’s hazardous, they don’t acknowledge the importance of stress, exercise or sleep enough. All of it contributes to the general decline of their health, and it’s ridiculous how much it’s important, but irrelevant to most of us.

The only thing more dangerous than ignoring known threats is not even recognizing them.

Most things I listed are predominantly related to physical health, because the results are easier to manifest. If you get fat, your belly swells up. If you’re not in shape, you move more slowly. If you smoke too much, your throat hurts.

But just as important, arguably even more important, is the state of your mental health. Sadly, this is something that most people not only don’t concern with, but disregard completely.

Your mindset dictates the rest of your actions, but you can’t develop a healthy mindset without a healthy mind. Your brain is consumed with endless streams of daily information, everything functions in rush hour and we don’t even take a small break to make sure we don’t go insane.

This artice is going to provide you with the least time-consuming, but most effective ways to start taking care of your mental health. You can dedicate as little as 10 minutes a day and see dramatic changes after only a week.

If you only have a fraction of time alone every day, spend it on yourself.

Important note: These  tips are aimed at the general population and, while applicable to everybody, they do not substitute  the help of medical professionals in  treating  clinical mental illnesses. 

A TRIP TO THE SUBCONSCIOUS

Sleep is an extremely important component of our lives. It allows us time to recharge, organize and hit the ground running in the morning. Not getting enough sleep can negatively affect  your working memory, logical reasoning, it can shorten your attention span and lead to development of serious illnesses.

I get why people try to avoid sleep at times – it gets in the way of getting things done. Just like when your phone’s battery is at 2% capacity, it doesn’t work as well as when it’s fully charged, but you still try to make it last as long as possible.

Many view sleep as time spent not doing anything – but it doesn’t have to be.

Every night, we dwell into another world, comprised  exclusively from our own thoughts, impressions, feelings, desires, troubles and information we stored beforehand. Since we spend a third of every day asleep, it would only make sense to try to make the most of it.

During the REM phase of sleep, the most intense phase during which we dream, our brain activity is increased; our brains work more than when we’re awake. Why’s that?

Think of it like this; during the day, your brain processes a lot of information regarding your entire body. When asleep, we enter sleep paralysis, a normal occurrence when our bodies are literally paralyzed, thus preventing us from reenacting what we do in dreams.

You know that moments when you’re half-asleep, you dream about doing something (e.g. falling down the staircase) and then you suddenly wake up because your leg twitched in real life? That’s because sleep paralyses hadn’t fully taken over. Without it, you’d be acting out your dreams in real life every time you fall asleep.

Since our entire body is paralyzed, other functions (like digestion) slow down and our brains have more capacity at their disposal. That’s why our dreams can be so long, complex and detailed.

Back in 1899. Sigmund Freud published “The Interpretation of Dreams“, a book about the unconscious in regard to dream interpretation. While Freud had presented many theories in his lifetime, usually with a “hit or miss” type of accuracy, he realized the importance of interpreting dreams.

Your dreams may be weird, foggy, confused and ridiculous, but every single piece of it somehow makes sense. Simply writing down your dreams when you wake up will help you realize what some elements meant.

I am not talking about the superstitious and vague forms of interpretation, but one that is personal to you. While writing about a light bulb exploding in a dark basement, you’ll recall how you changed a light bulb in your kitchen a few days ago. Zombie apocalypse? I can bet you were on The Walking Dead binge. Dreamed about losing your job? I have a pretty good idea what you worry about.

Most of these elements are pretty obvious, but it’s not until you consciously think about them that you realize it. Simply writing down what happened will not only help you realize the obvious meanings, it will also help you improve your dream recall.

Your brain is presenting you a cocktail of emotions, desires and subliminal images every single night, portraying what’s on your mind. Why not use it to get to know yourself better and solve problems?

To take it step further, look into lucid dreaming. In short, it’s the ability to realize you’re dreaming while you’re dreaming. That way, you can go Neo on your dream and bend it to your will. Not only can you do obvious things like flying or having sex, you can also use it to literally talk to your subconscious.

First time I was able to do that, I had a talk with F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was representing my subconscious, and he kept telling me about numerous facts I didn’t even realize I knew. Sports results, dates, names. As soon as I woke up I double-checked the accuracy and most of what he told me was true.

I literally talked to my subconscious to extract information I didn’t even knew I possessed.

For the skeptics out there, note that lucid dreaming is not a theory – it’s scientifically proven and sometimes even used as treatment for people with chronic nightmares.

In addition to this, recognizing and analyzing sleep patterns can be extremenly useful feedback for the quality of sleep. Thanks to modern technology, there are many apps out there that automate this process and simply present you the data. My personal favorite is Sleep Cycle, though SleepBot is a good alternative. These apps not only allow you to record and analyze your sleep patterns, but they’re also filled with useful information to help you fall asleep, stay awake, and learn about sleep patterns.

SELF-REFLECTION

Spending more time learning about and analyzing your dreams and sleep patterns can instantly boost you mental and physical health. And even though our subconscious is important, it’s needed to consciously dedicate time to organizing our thoughts.

Let us back up a bit and reassert what we’re talking about on this site: changing your mindset and way of thinking. You’re not who you want to be and want to change some aspects of yourself.

In order to know where to start and what to do, self-reflection is the first and most important step. In order to know what to change and how, you need to know yourself.

Human beings, especially our brains, are more complex than we often like to believe. Everything we know today still leaves us with a bunch of question marks above our heads, and no answers or universal solutions.

When it comes to understanding yourself, there’s no “one size fits all”.

Furthermore, in today’s society we are constantly being bombarded with endless streams of information, which results in lot of noise in our heads. Even in our most peaceful and quiet moments, our brains are filled with annoying racket.

In order to stimulate creative thinking, organize your thoughts and quiet down the noise, you need to consciously dedicate your time to it. The easiest and most efficient way to do is with meditation.

I’ve previously mentioned how meditation can be a powerful tool for controlling your emotions, but if you think of it as a tool reserved for monks, you’re terribly wrong.

Simply put, meditation is being conscious. There are different ways to meditate and hardly a wrong way to do it. If you take 5-10 minutes out of each day to sit down, close your eyes and focus, you will see dramatic changes within only a week.

There are different ways to meditate and it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you want to calm down and clear your thoughts, focus on your breathing. Whenever something else pops into your mind, switch the focus back to inhaling and exhaling.

To become more observant, focus on your surroundings. Become aware of your position, where your body comes in contact with the floor, listen sounds and noises from the outside, but don’t let it affect you.

Meditation also goes hand in hand with lucid dreaming. Both practices are about becoming aware of your surroundings and meditation during the day can help you realize you’re dreaming at night. You can also practice visualization, which helps stimulate creative thinking and serves as a blueprint for a desired dream.

However, meditation is the opposite of sleep. Sleep connects with your unconscious, while meditation intensifies your consciousness.

You can listen to relaxing background music, take on guided meditation, repeat a mantra or you can simply close your eyes. You can choose and combine whatever suits you.

A great tool to help you out is Calm, which provides calming background sounds, and guided meditation. If you’re not sure how to start, their mobile app has a free 7-day tutorial for beginners. 

For changing your way of thinking, constant self-reflection is crucial. You can’t know where you stand if you don’t stop to check once in a while. Spending even 10 minutes every day on writing down your dreams and meditating, you will realize what troubles your subconscious, what you need to change and where to take it from there.

This article was not suppose to be a detailed guide to analyzing dreams or meditation, but simply an overview into how important the state of your mental health really is, and how you can drastically improve it with minimal effort.

The knowledge is now in your heads. The rest…is up to you.