What is mental health?
The term ‘mental health’ is frequently misunderstood. ‘Mental health’ is often used as a substitute for mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety conditions, schizophrenia, and others. According to the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” Ultimately, mental health is about being cognitively, emotionally and socially healthy – in the way we think, feel and develop relationships and not merely the absence of a mental health condition. It’s also possible that while being diagnosed with a mental health condition, to be feeling well in various aspects of life. Mental health is complex!
Beyond Blue tells us that research shows that mental health conditions can cause distress, impact on day-to-day functioning and relationships, and are associated with poor physical health and premature death from suicide. In contrast, high levels of mental health are associated with increased learning, creativity and productivity, more pro-social behaviour and positive social relationships, and with improved physical health and life expectancy.
Taking care of your mental health can take on various forms like seeking professional support to incorporating the following:
Practice gratitude. You can do this by regularly contemplating the things that you are grateful for or by keeping a gratitude journal. As you find something to be grateful for pause for a moment and take it in
Keep tabs on your self-talk. How you think and communicate with yourself can impact your life significantly. Choose to be kind to yourself even when you get it wrong
Get moving. When you exercise, your body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting endorphins. Look for ways to be more active and aim for 30 minutes of daily exercise
Be in the moment. Pay attention to the task that is Infront of you, and if you find your mind wandering, just bring it back. This can help cultivate self-awareness and being present
You are what you eat. Healthy food not only nourishes your whole body but your brain too. Research shows that consuming nutritious foods can improve mood and restore structural integrity to the brain cells necessary for cognitive function
Take timeout. This can look like practising regular self-care and taking breaks during the day
Be a blessing. Research shows that being helpful to others has a beneficial effect on how you feel about yourself. This can boost your self-esteem and change how you feel about yourself
Express yourself. You matter, and so does your emotional wellbeing. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk things through with someone you trust
Get your beauty sleep. Research has shown that sleep deprivation has a significant negative effect on your mood. Set up a sleep routine to help you unwind. This can include having caffeinated drinks earlier in the day, avoid looking at devices and screens before bedtime and use your bed for relaxing activities and sleep
On a finishing note, what steps can you incorporate today to improve your mental health? Find what works for you and create routines around them small habits can make a big difference in the long run.