One aspect of self-care that is often overlooked is mental self-care. We think thousands of thoughts every day; these thoughts have a big impact on our feelings. Our feelings then influence our behaviors and choices, which ultimately makes up how we live our lives!

Many people were not taught that not all thoughts should be taken seriously. Some thoughts come into our brains seemingly at random and should be treated as such. After all, thoughts are just thoughts; they are not facts. Yet, many of us live as if our thoughts are facts. Especially in grief, this can lead to a lower quality of life. Many grieving individuals get caught up in the “if onlys” or the “should haves” about the person they are missing. They dwell on thoughts such as, “If only I had taken my husband to the hospital sooner, he may not have passed away,” or “I should have told my sister that I loved her more often.” Whether or not these thoughts have some truth to them, dwelling on these thoughts can lead to guilt, anxiety, and regret, which can make the grieving person even more miserable.

We do not need to compound the real misery that comes with grief by dwelling on certain thoughts. We can acknowledge a thought and then choose to move on with our day. One tip to start doing this is to ask yourself if a thought is “helpful” or “unhelpful.” Consider the earlier thought of: “I should have told my sister that I loved her more often.” While it’s possible that an individual could potentially learn from this experience and start saying “I love you” more often to others (which could be positive thing), overall it is unhelpful for someone to ruminate on and spend hours regretting past actions. So when someone notices this thought coming into their head, they should try to think: “Yep, maybe. But I’m going to choose to focus on (insert task that they are working on).” The more often that we bring our brains back to the present moment, generally the more clear-thinking we will be.

Our brains like to think of mistakes we made in the past and worry about what could happen in the future, but the reality is that life only happens in the present. The more that we can take it one moment at time and ground ourselves in the present moment, the more that we can avoid needlessly regretting the past and worrying about the future. And that is a helpful way to live!