Emotional Wellbeing


Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

10 Ways to feel free



Feeling trapped and lacking choice can have a huge negative impact on our mental health. Self-determinism is the ability to direct our own lives and take control. When that control is stifled, it can lead to anxiety and depression. In a world with ever encroaching boundaries that limit our individual rights, there are ways to still feel free.

1. Stop caring about what others think

You automatically place yourself in virtual shackles when you worry about what others think of you. Ask yourself why it is so important to you? Often it is because we want to be liked but if you have to be someone other than who you really are in order to be liked, it’s a wasted effort.  They like a version of the real you, not the real you. Those that still stick around irrespective of what you do are the ones you really want to focus on and keep around – not the judgemental ones. Being true to yourself is one of the best ways to feel free.

The other thing to think about is that people are often more accepting of our true selves than we realise but due to our fear of being rejected, we never really test out the thought “If I am myself people won’t like me”. Get used to testing out your beliefs by doing ‘experiments’ in real life. I have found people are far more accepting and open-minded than we give them credit for.

2. Stop watching the news for a while

The news is usually about events in the world that are negative and leads us to a sense powerlessness. Give it a break now and then. Over time, feeling powerless leads to ‘learned helplessness’. This feeling impacts our wellbeing because we begin to feel that no matter what we try, we aren’t able to make any positive changes and eventually we give up trying. If you do watch the news, remember to be a critical thinker because the news always has a ‘spin’ on it. Keep an open mind and don’t automatically assume that what you see/read is the unwavering truth. It would seem there are many fallible truths in the world to many different people.

3. Worry less

When you find you are worrying without looking for a solution and the worry is nonproductive, distract yourself. Don’t spend too much time in your head if you are just reviewing the same things repetitively. Problem-solving is fine but worrying gets you nowhere but will exhaust you mentally and emotionally. Get out of your mind and back into the ‘real’ world. Mindfulness is key for maintaining a balanced healthy mind.

4. Spend time in nature/or with animals/ exercise etc

We all need time to reset and focus on what’s important. Being busy can sidetrack us from the really important stuff Make sure you take time for a change of scenery to lighten the load and see life from a fresh perspective. Being mindful and staying in the present moment is another great way to feel free. Nature is excellent for grounding yourself and letting go of the inconsequential worries that take up too much space in our heads. Most of what we worry about will never happen – all that unnecessary worrying lowers your quality of life.

5. Be playful

Never take life too seriously. Let the child within you loose once in a while and ignore the etiquette forced upon all of us. It’s okay to be quirky and unique. We all need fun and laughter as it releases the feel-good hormone – Oxytocin. We all need a good dose of oxytocin!

6. Maintain a sense of humour

Life can seem a lot less serious and upsetting when we see humour in a situation. Try to find a way to laugh at yourself and see the absurdity of the world we live in. Humour places a healthy barrier between the harshness of life and your perception of what is happening.

7. Love and accept yourself

Living in a body you don’t like will not set you free. If anything it will make you feel trapped and unhappy. It makes sense to find a way to begin working with what you have been given. Accept yourself instead of fighting against yourself. Wasted energy! Learn to like yourself and make the most of what you have. Self-acceptance is key if you want to feel free.

8. Be true to yourself

We feel free when we follow what is right for us. Let go of the expectations of others and learn to honour yourself and your goals. Stay centred, remember your values and engage in activities that are in line with your most important values. Whether that’s adventure, nature, family, being fit – get stuck in.

9.See the bigger picture

Context plays a large part in how intensely we view a situation. Remind yourself that time heals and lessens stress and strain. When you consider the bigger picture, this different perspective can help you to feel less bogged down by the nitty-gritty of life. Taking a macro-view of life is a clever way to feel free.

10. Have fun

Learn to make the most of the life you have. All work and no play make for a dull life and you will feel less fulfillment when you are older.

Let go of cynicism and work on filling your mind with more neutral thinking. Keep an open mind and be less judgemental. The more psychologically flexible you are, the freer you’ll feel!


Psychological flexibility means “contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values”.

  • Acceptance refers to the active, voluntary embracing of moment-to-moment experience. Taking the good and the bad and seeing it as part of life’s learning.
  • Defusion – see thoughts as separate. Imagine them as leaves flowing past you on a stream. You can let them pass by without believing them or focusing on them (the negative thoughts or self-criticism)
  • Present moment awareness (Mindfulness). The more we stay in the present moment without getting caught up with the thoughts in our minds, the happier we are.
  • Self-as-context. Clients often enter therapy heavily fused with stories of themselves and others, and as a result, are less able to react flexibly from moment to moment. It helps when we accept all aspects of ourselves – the good and the bad, No one is perfect. Let go of being perfect and be at peace with you as a whole.
  • Values – choosing and living according to your values acts as a natural anti-depressant.
  • Committed action – living a life that actively incorporates your values = purpose and fulfillment.

If we trust our thoughts and emotions and act based on them, we can often overlook the more important, sustained patterns of action which bring true meaning, vitality and richness to our lives.