Let’s Talk : Mental Health
What is Mental Health?
According to World Health Organization (2014) ‘Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes 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 his or her community.’
Mental Health.gov (2017) breaks it down further and defines it as our emotional, psychological and social well-being, which affects how we think feel and act. Medi Lexicon (2018) further simplifies it as ‘an appropriate balance of love, work, and leisure pursuits.’
Why is our mental health important?
Just like our physical health, our mental health is very important! Being unhealthy mentally can lead to mental health disorders, which are health conditions that cause changes in our emotions, thinking and behavior (American Psychiatric Association, 2018).
We all have the potential to develop a mental health disorder, regardless of our age, gender, ethnic background or socio-economic status (Medical News Today, 2017). In fact, as of 2016, 1.1 billion people suffered from a mental health disorder, with 268 million people suffering from depression, 275 million people suffering from anxiety disorders and 40 million people suffering from bipolar disorders, to name a few mental health disorders (Our World in Data, 2018).
You don’t have to wait till you have a mental health disorder to start taking care of your mental health. Just like you exercise to stay physically fit, there are also mental health exercises to stay mentally fit.
6 ways of taking care of your mental health:
1) Take care of your physical health: Your physical health has a huge impact on your mental health (Psych2go, 2018). Take care of it by, eating more nutritious meals; drinking lots of water; exercising frequently; getting enough sleep; avoiding, excessive alcohol intake, smoking and mind-altering drugs (Psych2go, 2018).
2) Increase your levels of self-awareness and self-acceptance: Learning more about yourself allows you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, know what you enjoy doing and understand your emotions better, to name a few things. A knowledge of this can help reduce stress levels, which will improve your mental health. Learning more about yourself should also be coupled with accepting whom you are while working on whom you want to become.
3) Focus on the positives: Being optimistic does not mean not being aware of the ‘not so bright’ side of life but, it means choosing to focus on the positives rather than negatives (Mental Health America, 2018). This helps to improve our mood and can reduce anxiety and depression levels. You can practice staying positive by keeping a gratitude journal, where you write, at least, three things you’re grateful for daily.
4)Surround yourself with the right people: The people you surround yourself with play an important role in how you feel. Surrounding yourself with positive people, who care for you and appreciate you, will not only boost your self-esteem but, will give you people to speak to when you are going through life’s challenges. This is vital because speaking to people helps to improve our mental health.
5)Take Breaks: Psych2go.net (2018) advices that we have some ‘me-time’ daily. Breaks don’t have to be super long or involve something extravagant. It can be, taking a 20 mins walk outside, watching an episode of your favourite TV show or reading a novel. Sometimes, however, taking big breaks (like a holiday) is important, especially if you’ve been working super hard. According to Mental Health America (2018), ‘the act of planning a vacation or having something to look forward to can boost our overall happiness for up to 8 weeks!’
6)Helping others: Helping other people is said to have beneficial effects on how we feel and view ourselves. It helps boost our self-esteem and allows us to feel valued. You also get to learn from, and about, people, which enriches our knowledge and life (Psych2go.net). Helping others can be both big and small, i.e. volunteering in your community or buying someone lunch.
Improving our mental health is an ongoing process and something we have to exercise daily. These are just a few, of the numerous, ways you can care for your mental health. Based on the information above, ask yourself ‘How is my mental health?’ ‘Where am I on the mental health continuum?’ ‘In what ways can I improve my mental health?’
If you are currently struggling with your mental health, please speak to someone you trust or seek professional help. Having a mental health illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Let’s work towards ending the stigma around mental health disorders. Check out the sources of this article to learn more about mental health, mental health disorders and ways you can care for your mental health.
Tumblr: Adedolapo Esther Balogun