Dr. Caroline Leaf – In this podcast (episode #287) and blog, I speak with Poppy Jamie, founder of Happy Not Perfect, a popular podcast and meditation app for anxiety. We discuss everything from understanding anxiety and the importance of self-compassion to the link between the mind, brain and body and how to own and manage panic attacks and anxiety.
In her new book, Happy Not Perfect, Poppy talks about her own experiences with mental health and why we need to manage our perceptions of our own mental health. As she points out, there is an important difference between “flexible” and “stiff” thinking when it comes to mental health. If we feel that “this” is just the way we are and that we will never learn how to manage or heal our mental health, then we will be more likely to stay “stuck”. If, however, we have what Poppy calls “flexible thinking” (which may take time to learn), then we will be more open to finding ways to manage and heal our mind and we will see that it is possible to move on from where we are in life. This kind of thinking gives us the ability to choose how we want to respond to any given situation—we don’t just have to be pushed this way and that by life’s challenges.
Indeed, we don’t have to wait till our problems are “bad enough” to seek mental health help. All of us deserve to live happy, fulfilled lives, and all of us battle at times to achieve this. There is no shame in seeking out help when we need it.We should never invalidate our own reality or compare our own mental health experiences to other people’s traumas. Pain has no hierarchy. Being human means struggling with your mental health. We all deserve to have our story heard and get the help we need.
And, as soon as we acknowledge how we feel and start finding ways to manage our emotions, our emotions actually become more manageable, mentally and biologically! Research has shown that talking or writing about how we feel really can help us move through our emotions. If we just try to suppress how we feel, our emotions will eventually explode, possibly affecting other areas of our life. We all need to give ourselves permission to embrace our feelings AND to have “recovery time” after small and big stressors, even if this is something as commonplace as moving homes.
As Poppy points out, we need to identify with our emotions, not become them. We may be experiencing depression, but we are not just a depressed person—this is not the sum total of who we are.
This is especially true for people who seek perfection (like myself!). Perfectionists, overall, completely overestimate what they can do in a given time period, and this is often tied to people pleasing. By constantly saying yes to someone else, we are often saying no to ourselves and what we need, which can impact our mental wellbeing.
We also need to seek out ways of managing our mental health that works for us. Meditation is not necessarily the cure for everything, for example. Sometimes, it can even be really unhelpful! A better way to approach mental health struggles is to understand how our mind works and the specific, toxic core beliefs that shape the way we understand and perceive the world, which is the basis of our psyche.
We all need to get curious about our core beliefs. What shapes the way we perceive and interact with the world? How do these beliefs impact us? Do we need to challenge any of the core beliefs we have developed over the years?
And, as Poppy notes, when it comes to mental health, we shouldn’t just focus on everything that can go wrong with our brain. We also need to recognize how incredible our mind and brain are, how they can grow, change and heal, and how they want to protect us and work for us.
Often, we spend so much time creating our worlds that we forget that we need to spend time adapting to what we have created. We can start doing this by developing flexible thinking, which is based on what Poppy calls in her book “the four c’s”:
- Connection: taking the time to connect with how you feel and with your body.
- Curiosity: questioning yourself (especially your inner critic!) and your world. How does a thought you have make you feel? How do you speak to yourself? How much suffering is created in your mind? What lies are you believing about yourself?
- Choice: recognizing that change only happens when you really want it to. True change comes from within.
- Commitment: committing to your highest self and knowing where you are going. What do you want your best future to look like?