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Five Mental Health Behaviors That Have Changed My Life

Five years ago, I thought I had everything figured out. I didn’t appreciate then the good advice of a mentor who would often say, “Use this time of life to prepare for the next.”

That next part of life came and, I was not prepared for it. 

Here are five mental health behaviors I have added to my daily routine that I am glad I have added.  What’s more, if I were to meet my 2015 self and tell them I was doing these things, I think he would laugh at me.

The five behaviors I have added are:

  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Meeting with a therapist and practicing IFS 
  • Journaling intentionally every day
  • Purposeful walks and excursions just for mental clarity
  • Monthly retreat to refocus and renew

Mindfulness and Meditation

Practicing mindfulness has been the mossy-dramatic shift for me in the way that I think about life and how to flow through my days.  I use the Headspace app and try to spend 20-30 minutes a day getting a little break from the clouds and craziness of my life with the headspace app.  

Sometimes, I use it when I drive home (there’s a driving headspace). Other times, I use their sleep sessions to fall asleep (the desert fire one is my favorite) and other times, I use it to open and link my mind and heart before (or after) an important call or presentation.

Being able to allow the “conveyor belt” of my mind to present things to me without freaking out when something rumbles along that I don’t particularly like has been quite helpful.  I can choose to let it just keep going, if I want, or I can question it or consider for myself what that thing is trying to do for me, if anything.  

Either way, mindfulness as a focus has been monumental for me so far this year. 

Meeting a Therapist and Practicing IFS 

Somehow, there’s still a bit of a stigma around therapy, but I have found this a tremendous boost for me. In my relationships with others, I have discovered that the way I see others is often a reflection of the way I am seeing myself.

The Internal Family Systems model (IFS) of therapy is a working model that helps me put together the different “parts” of myself into a cohesive and helpful working group inside my own mind that I can visualize as a set of helpers who are trying to assist me through my days.  Some of them help me connect with and feel empathy for anyone from the teller at the bank to the most important people in my life.  Some of them freak out when I sense danger and do their best (albeit sometimes poorly) to help protect me. 

All in all, this mental model has helped me greatly make sense of my past, deal with unresolved issues I have left undone for myself as well as helped me grow in ways I never thought I could. 

IFS or therapy might not be right for you.  If you’re not sure, consider all this like hiring a life coach. Yeah, that’s cool, right?

Journaling Intentionally, Everyday

I used to journal.

I used to try and write in my online apps like Bear and Evernote.

But then I realized that the only way for me to actually recall things is to journal, intentionally, with a pen and paper.

This may not be the same for you, but I am guessing if you didn’t use a keyboard every day of your life, pen and paper still helps you retain something that keyboard typing simply does not. 

I fought this for years, but now I embrace it.  

I wrote about how taking notes is a secret weapon in my meetings and work, but it’s also how I retain more information and insight, and allows me to capture information and feelings (somehow) that I would not have had later on, if I just tried to recall data like a mental google search result. 

The format or function of the journal has become a bit of a thing for me through this, preferring the moleskine style notebook, though I have been buying the Leuchtturm 1917 A5 bullet journal style (with page numbers!) now for more than a year.  (I link to this in my note taking article, above, should you be interested) – just ctrl-F for “journal” and you should see it)

Having a journal for “work” and another for personal (including spiritual, and mental health) insights has become my preference. 

Purposeful walks and excursions just for mental clarity

I try to walk in mornings where I don’t do another workout.  

I try to walk in the afternoon between 2-3pm.

I am not perfect at these things, but perfection is not as important as intentionality and doing a little more today than yesterday. 

Sometimes, this same walk has been some of the most connecting time I have had with my partner. In fact, she showed me the route. A part of me is with her each time I walk it. 

If you live near me, you have likely seen me.  My route is boring. A two-mile loop from my house (or my trailer-office) around the greater neighborhood and back again. 

I’m the guy talking to himself or repeating something over and over again.  

Sometimes, I put in earbuds. I have been listening to the Binaural Beats Focus podcast on Spotify to with the volume low to help calm and focus my mind.  

By the time I am home again (about 50 minutes) I am refreshed and ready for more — OR — I have solved for and mentally completed my “work” and now can put that aside (or “hang it on my mind tree” as my therapist says) and actually be done with it. 

Monthly retreat to refocus and renew

I need more work on this, but late in 2019 I realized I needed to be about and off doing other things rather than endlessly repeating my weeks and weekends here at home. 

I work in an RV.  

Which is ironic because for two years I think it sat here at the house, getting used as an RV only a few times. 

Since I realized this need, I have a goal to go once a month and do SOMETHING else.  Ideally, for me, it includes hiking, being in nature, experiencing something I have not seen before, practicing a craft or being creative in ways I enjoy like http://instagram.com/r._.pix or writing. 

I got this idea from a colleague at Workday, who led a “class” on creativity once.  They noted how the human mind cannot allow itself to be creative while it is focused too much on a task at hand—something with an end result or a product.

This is one reason you have brilliant ideas in the shower. The mind is unfocused and not trying to solve for everything. 

Once a month, can you disconnect? Perhaps this looks like a morning where you purposefully do not “SLAY ALL DAY!!!!” But you intentionally cancel your meetings, go for a slow walk somewhere beautiful, paint what you feel, feel what you see, meet a friend, talk to yourself about the things you appreciate, listen to others when they tell you the things they appreciate about you. Wear pajamas all day. Try something you can purposefully NOT accomplish. Do something that is not your normal — if you are a computer person, build Something with your hands.  If you are a project person, do something that has no real outcome possible.

This is one reason why I think hiking is so, so, so good for me. Something happens differently in the body and in the mind after two or three miles of a good hike, somewhere on the earth, where you can feel with and be with all the motions and emotions of the world around you.

And exist there.

Without needing a reason or an agenda.

And without expectation for the world to be anything for you than it just simply is.

And breathe that in.

Categories
Blog Lifehacks Process Improvement Tools and Apps

Missive, How I ❤️ Thee…

This is a love letter.

A love letter to email.

Well, not exactly to email, because you, email, are a necessary evil.

This, is about my email application.

No.

My — unified messaging and communications operating system.

Missive App.

(Disclaimer: No, missive pays me nothing for this. They don’t even have an affiliate program. In fact, I pay them a fairly solid monthly subscription for my growing recruiting team. I will gladly keep paying. And, enjoying the hair I did not pull out of my own head over using plain old email tools)

Story Time

Its about 23 minutes into the zoom meeting and, the other person says, “give me a moment, that’s in my other email account…

“… ugh, I got logged out.

“OK! Sent it.

“Dang. I sent it from the wrong address. That’s not going to work.

:angry email noises:

…”

via GIPHY

Meanwhile… the hopefully polite look on my face while I witness this belies the eye twitching that is happening under the surface. Not only could this meeting have likely been an email, 80% of this meeting ended up being about email issues:

  • Not finding the mail
  • Mail in the wrong place
  • Did you get the email?
  • Did they send the email?
  • Not being cc’d on the email or otherwise not knowing the content of said email
  • Getting forwarded the email last-minute and now having to page through mind-numbingly confusing forwards to find the part of the email that matters for this meeting,
  • …all from your phone because your laptop is presenting.
  • Needing to email someone and ask a specific, detailed question
  • Emailing the person again asking them to quickly reply as we’re trying to make a decision
  • Clarifying the question we asked, since, thanks to brevity, we assumed they knew all the context of what was being asked and were forced to reply with “It depends…”
  • and so on
  • and so forth

Email issues that could have been solved if communication, not email, were the priority. ?

If I Haven’t Told You Missive Is Better Than Your Email App, Either We Haven’t Talked, or I am Being Nice

The other half of this story is that people who work with me know that, at this point in the meeting, if I have not yet brought up Missive, the email app I have been leveraging for at least three years now, it is because of an immense amount of personal strength to keep. my. mouth. shut.

Why?

Missive is like my right-hand, time-saving, boss-level communications master control center.

Missive is like my own mind, but with a better memory, and with emoji support. ?

I can’t stress enough all the ways that Missive helps me, my personal life, my family and my team through a week and, in building ConnectedWell from a literal company-of-one to a growing team with expanding partnerships and opportunities, Missive has been my most-trusted ally, by my side in that awesome, scalable, helpful-but-not-clingy kind of way we all seek from our email applications, but, sadly, most never find.

OK, Hot Shot. Why is Missive So good?

Here is a list of things my email program does effortlessly that yours doesn’t. Neener, neener.

  • Works effortlessly across any device I have, via app or browser, with zero functionality loss on mobile. Truly a mobile-first application.
  • One Login. I login with my account once and it remembers all my other accounts, gmail, gsuite, exchange, outlook, or whatever other email server you use.
  • Keyboard shortcuts. The gmail ones. Or, use your own
  • SWIPE multiple emails at once. Delete, Archive or Snooze all these junk emails at once and then, boom, inbox zero #FTW.
  • Also remembers all my inbound/outbound signatures, forwarding rules and other tweaks for each account.
  • Good search across all accounts or separate ones
  • Email templates for you or shared
  • SNOOOOOOOoooooze emails for working with later
  • You can even snooze email from the alerts that pop up on your computer or device.
  • Send emails later, as well (so you look like you were (or were not) up at 1:30am)
  • Snooze emails to come back to you after you sent them (so you can follow up). Choose to snooze only if the other person does not reply.
  • UNDO send, too, so you don’t look like this guy when you accidentally reply-to-all (see below, or here: youtube). This one is YUGE.
  • Rules and filters that make gmail rules, uh, not rule and make outlook’s rules feel like 1990s tv sitcom dramas. Cute, but really not that entertaining any more.
    • My personal favorite use of the email rules? I have a set of filters and rules that keep all email OUT of my inbox except for a few very specific times of the day (a la Tim Ferris style) so I can actually get work done.

What Happens When You Reply All

Here are some of the superpowers Missive gives my team and me:

Missive’s integrations beef up my
email superpowers ??
  • Inline email collaboration and editing (and inline sidebar chat) like a Google Doc, but in. email.
    • Let that last one sink in a little
  • Assign people and tasks to an email or just FYI them. Do not forward the email. Just @mention them in the sidebar and they have access. Boom. Instantly, to the whole thread in their screen, along with all chat messaged about it, in chronological order, as if they were the one who got the initial message.
  • Real team shared inboxes, both a general box like “[email protected]” where everyone gets a copy of messages, or a way to let everyone see the status, and replies of all other messages — so nothing slips through the cracks (and a great way to share know-how and best practices among team members)
  • Send on behalf of the team or as an individual, either all the time or just ad-hoc. For example, you could can ask me for help on an email, we collaborate on it, and then you can send the email AS ME, using my own email credentials, right from your own email app, and zeeeeero tech support or password sharing required.
  • Don’t forward an email to yourself or your trellor board or something. Send them (or your task list/trello board) an actual URL LINK to an exact email so you can click once and go right back into the content you need.
  • Ready to power up? Seamless integrations with apps you’re already using. I use their trello, todoist, pipedrive and other integrations every hour of the day.
  • Social integrations let me manage facebook, instagram and other social messages from my email app. Yeah. That easy.
  • Missive’s powerful Twillio integration powers the chat “bot” telegram like feature on this site (lower right corner), dropping site-based chats into the [email protected] team inbox as if they are emails. Try it.
  • I could also use Twillio to send SMS messages, too, fwiw.
  • Missive is actively being developed with a very responsive team (I’ve chatted with Etienne, Phillipe and Rafael frequently). Their Canny feature requests, get this, actually turn into product releases. They ship multiple times a month.

I will come back to this and add more, but for now, this is a pretty good list of reasons you should check out Missive.

Again, missive doesn’t pay me, but I gladly pay them. It’s a good app. And, for something you use 38 hours a day, you should treat yourself better than the way you’re being treated.

I’m just sayin.

Of course, how you choose to email is none of my business.

Would you like to reply?