Mental health – we know it's important and we know we should achieve it, but how? What happens if you are born with a predisposition to a mental health disorder? What if you acquire mental health issues as a result of substance abuse? Can you get better? Can you become healthy again? How should we promote good mental health?
Defining mental health – what is it?
The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of complete mental well-being and not merely the absence of diseases or infirmity”. This means that good mental health is more than the absence of serious mental health disorders, like bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia.
Mentally healthy people have a state of well-being, they understand and realize their abilities, are able to cope with normal stress, and can work regularly and productively. Healthy people can make a great contribution to the community and they can function as normal citizens.
How to reach mental well-being?
Experts say that there are several things we can do if we want to be more mentally healthy. Here are some of the best things to try:
Tip #1 – Value yourself
Mental health awareness is focused primarily on how we see ourselves. We need to respect ourselves, treat ourselves with kindness, be understanding, and avoid self-criticism. We need to nurture our interests, expand our horizons, and make more time for hobbies. You definitely heard about the concept of “me time” - try to find more time for yourself, explore your interests, and learn more about yourself. For instance, take dance lessons, do a crossword puzzle, play a game, go for a run, go for a hike or learn to play an instrument. Any activity where you are by yourself helps a lot – you'll learn what you can and what you can't do.
Tip #2 – Take care of your body
Our bodies have a major impact on how we see ourselves and can be a source of major mental health issues. Try to take care of your body in order to improve mental health. Here's what to do:
- eat good, healthy meals
- avoid alcohol, tobacco or any other dangerous substances
- drink plenty of water
- exercise – it has been shown over and over again that people who regularly exercise are at a lower risk of depression, anxiety and feel happier about themselves
- get plenty of sleep – good sleep patterns have been linked to mental well-being in numerous studies, especially for younger adults and college students
Tip #3 – Surround yourself with amazing people
People who have a strong family, many social connections, and are part of a group are at a lower risk of developing mental health issues. On the other hand, people who lack this type of support groups will often feel anxious, depressed, or moody. In extreme situations, these issues can further evolve into a major depression and schizophrenia. Avoid this by staying in contact with friends and family. Plan and seek out group activities, where you can meet new people and make new friends. Good ideas are clubs, classes, or meetups.
Tip #4 – Dealing with stress
Stressful situations are all around us. We encounter these situations almost on a daily basis, but most of us can easily go through them. However, other people can easily become overwhelmed with stress and don't know how to cope with it. Like it or not, stress is part of modern life, and you will have to deal with it. But how?
There are several stress coping exercises to try out. For instance, exercise is a great way to get rid of stressful situations. Going on a hike, doing Tai Chi exercises, or playing with your pet are also great ways to relieve stress. Some people enjoy reading, playing video games, or sleeping. Always remember to smile and see the positive aspect of every problem. Laughter is a great way to reduce stress and it won't cost you a dime. Laughter also boosts your immune system and makes you feel better about yourself.
Tip #5 – Quiet your mind
Keeping your mind quiet is one of the quickest ways to feel better about yourself and improve your mental well-being. Meditation, mindfulness, or prayer are some of the best ways to bring calm and peacefulness to your mind. Relaxation exercises or yoga are other great ways to quiet your mind. There are many research papers that prove calmness and meditation can boost the effect of mental health therapy.
Tip #6 – Setting realistic goals
Mental health awareness is also about setting goals. The key, however, is to make sure they are realistic. And when we talk about goals, they can be anything from academic goals to personal or professional goals. The first step is to write down the goals, even if they seem ludicrous. A good idea is to write down small tasks, but also pay attention to the main goal. Focus on the schedule and how you see the project in the future. You'll feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you see progress towards your main goal.
Tip #7 – Breaking up the monotony
Breaking up the monotony is a core concept behind mental health awareness. Monotony helps us, it creates structure and provides comfort. However, too much monotony can have disastrous effects on our mental well-being. Routine does help, as it provides a sense of safety and security, but spicing up your life brings a lot of benefits. Think about small things, like going for a run on a Wednesday afternoon. Also, plan a road-trip, take your dog on a walk in a different park. Try a new restaurant or go for a bicycle ride in a different neighborhood. Try something new and break the monotony in your life – the benefits may be enormous!
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