Dream big for better mental health
Positive Psychology Coach and RB Mind Trustee, Monika Waller, examines how cultivating our dreams can lead us into a year of renewed confidence and connection.
Saying goodbye to a turbulent year, we might reflect on all the 2020 plans that didn’t go our way, the goals we reached and those we missed. Sometimes what follows is negative self-talk and self-judgment. What if, instead of rushing into the new year’s resolutions we give ourselves the permission to relax and make a wish?
It’s time to face our dreams – both big and small. The global pandemic is without doubt an adversary. Yet without adversity we are not challenged, and often carry on focusing on daily needs and wants. Did we stop ourselves dreaming at some point? Did we stop following our dreams in fear of making the wrong decision? The point is: we might have just stopped.
A more uplifting and meaningful life
By opening ourselves to our dreams we can start seeking opportunities for growth, change and transformation.
Here are a few ways to find inspiration:
- Listen to that kinder voice inside you that tells you to dream big;
- Explore your core values and identify what motivates you, even in tough times;
- Incorporate your mistakes and bad choices into a learning process. Bad choices also count towards the life experience;
- Sit with your dreams, let them evolve and inject some energy into them;
- Look for a mentor or a group that will help you to follow your dreams.
Is having a dream in our life good for our mental health?
Absolutely! Dreams motivate people to improve their situation. Following their dreams, people discover their own strengths and build upon these to grow. While we are thinking about our dreams, the brain gets a boost of positive energy, life feels uplifting and more meaningful. In this relaxed state we may come across a solution to a problem we couldn’t fix when we were angry and frustrated.
Connecting to something bigger
Dreams are, of course, different to needs and wants. Chasing pleasant moments in life brings temporary satisfaction. You can dream of a new smartphone for your birthday, but the joy may not last long once you’ve received it. Positive emotions habituate – simply, you won’t feel such a burst of joy as you get used to using your new phone.
By contrast, dreams connect you to something bigger than yourself. Big dreams are the reason why the world changes for the better and have led to great inventions, noble ideas and cures for diseases.
To stay in touch with our dreams, we can practise these three mindful steps:
It’s like a compass in our heart. Intention awakens attention. Remembering our intention helps us stay connected with what we value most in life, so it is not forgotten or betrayed. When we start building our dream this is just another decision-making process. But in this instance, this is a process of personal enquiry and not the moralistic process of what others tell us we “must” and “should” do.
Listening to our head, heart and body is so important. We tend to overthink and often live our life from the neck up, ignoring the sensations in the body. Let’s bring our full attention into our heart. We will notice what different choices stir up – a sense of confidence and calm or quite the opposite. Training our focus this way may be a new and challenging experience, so approaching with an open-hearted attitude will work best.
Research compiled by Dr Shauna Shapiro, shows that how we pay attention determines our ability to see clearly, to learn effectively and to act wisely. An attitude of curiosity and kindness is the ultimate way to soften our harsh self-judgement and endless rumination. We have a chance to become our inner ally instead of our inner enemy. An attitude of self-kindness towards ourselves is directly linked to increased performance and wellbeing.
What we pay attention to, grows stronger. Thus, if we don’t cultivate them, our dreams will wither away. We all have the capacity to choose what we want to grow. January is a great month for taking up a new dream or reviving an existing one. It all begins with one simple step – our intention. And every month will offer another opportunity to follow that dream.