How Can Actions Change Your Mindset? Overcome Anxiety with a New Mindset
“It’s all in your head”, “You have to be more positive”, and “Stop overthinking” were the three phrases people would tell me when my PTSD was active. I hated all of them. But with time I understood they were right.
You see, those who told me those phrases weren’t trying to be rude or shallow, they were trying to help by making an obvious point. And little did I know that the most obvious thing sometimes can be the most important one.
Those phrases were aimed at my mindset and how strictly negative I had to be then. But how easily can you change your mindset? And more importantly, how did it help me soothe my PTSD and anxiety?
Welcome to this corner of enlightenment, and I really hope these words help you in any way.
What Is a Mindset And Why Is It So Important?
If I asked you to define “mindset” you would probably think of it as a state of mind or an attitude towards life, and essentially speaking, you would be right. But a mindset is a little more than that.
It can be understood as the collection of thoughts and beliefs that somehow shape your actions and vice versa. It’s a mental inclination or disposition.
Mindsets are often confused with attitudes, but they are not the same. An attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about something or someone. Sometimes attitudes can be reflected through our behavior, and are mostly learned through life experiences.
A mindset is what shapes that attitude.
For example, if you cultivate a positive mindset, instead of complaining because you missed the bus just by a few seconds, you feel thankful because the next one will pass by in just 5 more minutes.
It is important to build and constantly nurture your mindset because it will determine many attitudes, feelings, actions, and ultimately, your future.
In my case, I had returned to a fixed mindset (which I will explain in the following lines). I just stood there, in that time of my life, and perceived everything was bad, dangerous, annoying, or simply too boring.
I felt misunderstood, abandoned, depressed, anxious all the time, and extremely tired.
What happened next wasn’t a magic trick. I didn’t wake up one day, decided to change my mindset, and sat there waiting for the wish to come true.
But I did wake up one day and decided to try something different after so long. I decided to be consciously grateful.
What Types of Mindset Are There?
According to Carol Dweck, an American psychologist, and professor at Stanford University, there are two kinds of mindsets: growth mindset and fixed mindset.
A fixed mindset is the one where nothing really depends on us, not even our talents. People with a fixed mindset (like I had before) don’t believe much in nurturing skills or values, to them everything is just the way it is, and that can be either good or bad, but not changeable.
While a growth mindset is the one where people are conscious of their power and projection, they are the ones that believe in dedication, hard work, and resilience. They develop a natural motivation towards growth, enlightenment, and see teachings in every aspect of their lives.
Does this mean that a fixed mindset is bad? I don’t particularly like to be that binary, so I don’t believe there’s a good or a bad mindset, but rather ones that benefit you the most and those that have a single purpose, usually protecting yourself from unexpected or incomprehensible threats.
As I mentioned before, mindsets can be taught, and are usually transmitted to us in our childhood. Then it gets shaped during our adolescence, and by adulthood, it’s very much defined.
Where’s the problem? If your parents raised you in a fixed mindset, it’s highly likely you will become an adult with a fixed mindset too, so you will have issues facing adversities, accepting failure, and daring to change, even if you desperately need to.
Even though I did not grow up in a home with a fixed mindset, I did develop one after my army experience. That’s what trauma does, wreck you from within and turn you into something completely different.
And before moving on with this post, I will like to clarify something: by having a growth mindset you will not become Mozart or a Superhero of any kind. I am not denying inner talent nor biological predispositions, but I am pointing out the benefits of being flexible enough towards life, and being an active agent in your life choices.
Can a Mindset Be Changed?
Yes! Mindsets can, fortunately, be changed, but like many other great things in life, it will take hard work and many emotional journeys.
If you are a person with a strong fixed mindset you will feel like quitting in a week or two, because you are used to immediate or short-term rewards.
This is a long term run, but I promise you it will change your life for good.
How to Change My Mindset?
Glad you ask! In my experience, the easiest way to change your mindset is changing your actions, but of course, you can’t change your actions if you don’t change your thoughts first.
It’s not exactly a linear process, but it is better if you take it step by step to be more aware of what you are doing and how you are feeling.
The following tips to change your mindset are not a 12-step guide, nor should be followed in that order as a rule. I recommend trying those steps that naturally seem appealing to you and move forward.
Change Your Actions
If you don’t feel like searching much in your head for those things that make you feel angry or sad all the time, I recommend taking action first.
For example: perhaps you are looking for a new job. You have a huge monetary urge, and basically, any job will do for you in the mid-time. But it has been 4 months since you got fired and still have no success in the interviews you have had.
Instead of complaining or feeling bumped, this time you should take action. You didn’t get the job? Ask the interviewer or recruiter why. Ask them what you should improve and take those words with gratitude instead of complaints or anger.
What about something simpler? You don’t feel like reading at night but you still want to make it a hobby? Then don’t read at night! Change your schedule and test which hour is the best one for you instead of simply complaining about it.
Stop with The Mental Storytelling
Overthinking helps no one. It has never helped anyone and it never will. If you have an obsessive personality, you must be familiar with those long nights where you would make up stories in your mind about something that’s happening in real life too.
There you are safe because you get to play and replay every single scenario you can think of. But it doesn’t guarantee that they are true.
This technically means you wasted a good night of sleep overthinking about something instead of learning to wait for an explanation, an outcome, or even asking someone what’s going on.
My suggestion: whenever you feel like overthinking, and just like meditating, try to bring your mind slowly back to calmness.
Don’t force it. A good first step is being aware of your overthinking. After that try to stop it consciously and take your thoughts to a gentler place, especially if you are in bed.
Clean Your House
Part of being an active decision-maker in your life also means being the adult you need to be.
Our surroundings play a huge role in our mood and having a messy house or room only sinks us more into depression and anxiety.
It’s mostly a matter of energy and visual pleasure, but cleaning your house or room once a week will help you process your emotions and feel safe and comfortable at home.
I also recommend getting rid of those things you really don’t need. Hoarding is an attitude people with anxiety disorders develop quickly, getting rid of something is perceived as a negative action because it could have some value in the future, hence throwing it in the trash only enhances that anxiety.
Start with something easy. Do you have clothes you haven’t used in years? Donate it! Make more room in your closet to feel open to new things, and also to help those in need, which takes us to the next tip to change your mindset.
Be The Best Person You Know You Can Be
When I tried this I decided to do something good for one person every day. And of course, there were days where I would get out of my bed and had no idea how I could do something good under heavy rain on a Sunday morning, but there’s always something, you just need to see it.
Good things could be answering a text, giving a coin to someone who needs it in the street, being more patient with a child, offering your seat on the bus, even being polite to phone vendors.
I propose you try doing something good every day for a week. Come back later and tell me how you feel.
Set Short Term Goals
There’s this interesting thing about humans. We want to satisfy our necessities immediately, and living in the XXI century, with 5G, smartphones and watches, streaming TV, and food delivery, no wonder that whim is so strong these days.
If you set short-term goals you make sure to build motivation slowly because you will be seen those emotional green checkmarks in our life that tell us “Hey! You did it! Congratulations”
For example, a common goal of many of the people that come to me looking for advice is having better eating habits. Not just for their body image, but also for their health.
My suggestion is to plan ahead. Sundays are pretty calm days, try to plan in the morning what you will like to eat during the week and prepare it that day, so you can avoid excuses like being too tired during the week to eat healthily.
And finally: if you feel like having a pizza, do so. Changing your eating habits is a slow process, and it definitely isn’t about not eating or being hungry all the time, it is about having an equilibrium between the tasty things and the food your body actually appreciates.
Accept your Failures
And more importantly: accept that you will fail again.
Don’t be scared of failure. That silly fear we learned when we were little and that accompanies us until our adulthood is useless.
What happened the first time you try to stand by yourself? You fell! And you cried and got scared, but after a few tries, you knew it was okay! That falling is part of the process and that didn’t stop you from standing straight.
Whatever keeps you a prisoner of shame and regret, it’s time to let it go.
A good way to do so is facing yourself in the mirror or in front of an empty chair if you feel more comfortable talking to “another” person.
Say out loud what happened, understand that it’s part of your past, and forgive yourself. We are only humans, not robots or artificial intelligence.
A growth mindset is better cultivated in kinder spirits, nobody will love you more than you will love yourself, so why keep postponing it?
If you need help overcoming anxiety, developing a growth mindset, do not hesitate and get in contact with me now. I am here for you.