Good mental health does not simply mean the absence of problems; it refers to the way you feel about yourself, your ability to cope and manage difficulties, as well as establishing quality relationships.
Some of the components of being mentally healthy might be reflected in the following:
Our society has not traditionally legitimized the need for good mental health. We often consider mental and emotional issues as something to suppress and simply “snap out of ” if we have problems. When we do confront our mental health problems, we all too often seek simple solutions to complex problems, or turn to medications as a remedy. However, there are strategies to address our mental health.
Here are a few approaches:
1. Respect and Be Kind to Yourself
We need to respect ourselves, and that begins with being aware of your self-talk. What are you saying to yourself? Are you beating yourself up? Are you suppressing thoughts that need to be addressed? Be mindful and take note of how you analyze yourself, as well as what you are saying and thinking about all day (http://www.boulderhypnotherapycenter.com/). Avoid self-criticism. Be kind to yourself by taking time to enjoy yourself – perhaps take part in hobbies such as dance, crafts, reading, singing, playing an instrument, bird watching or gardening.
2. Managing Stress
Introduce Stress-Reducers: Stress is part of life, so it’s a good idea to balance it with stress-reducers. Think about what helps you reduce stress; it’s not the same for everyone. Is it yoga, a run, meditating, a peaceful walk in the woods, praying, playing with your pet, or doing something that makes you laugh?
Incorporate an Occasional Mini-Vacation during your day; try doing what you do on vacation. Schedule a massage, take a leisurely walk, shop, visit a gallery or museum, enjoy a concert or a play, or simply sit and enjoy nature. As Annie Daley says in her writing about travel and how it helped her with wellness: “Mostly, I’ve developed a little voice in my head—I call it my travel voice—that simply knows better” (https://www.self.com/story/wellness-lessons-from-abroad).
Quiet the Mind: In addition to introducing stress-reducers into your everyday life, taking measures to quiet the mind are also helpful for our mental health. If you find your mind racing or you feel overwhelmed, try some sort of simple relaxation exercises, such as taking deep breaths, even if it is only for a few minutes. Learn about mindfulness practices. These practices involve being present and deliberately aware of your thoughts. Similar to being aware of your self-talk, start using measures to quiet the mind (http://www.boulderhypnotherapycenter.com/).
Break up Your Routine at Times: Routines are beneficial and help to establish good habits. Many of us feel more secure and efficient with a routine. But don’t bore yourself. Change things up a bit, even if it is as simple as changing the pictures on the walls or taking a different route for your run (https://uhs.umich.edu/tenthings).
3. Make it a Good Habit:
Perhaps it sounds like a “broken record,” but getting some physical activity, eating more nutritional foods, and drinking water are good for your mental health. It helps to eliminate refined sugar and be mindful of nutrients and minerals that help with mental status, such as magnesium in your diet, which you can do by simply adding dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, avocados, and/or figs (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987706001034).
Establish good habits with alcohol and medication consumption. Self-medicating with drugs can potentially have the opposite effect and aggravate our troubles. Be mindful of how much alcohol you are drinking and seek guidance with medications, including over-the-counter drugs.
Quality sleep: Stop glorifying “being busy” and work on getting quality sleep.
Sleep adds energy and makes the day more peaceful. Lack of sleep simply wreaks havoc on your mental outlook and jeopardizes your physical health. Set up a routine that works for you, which should include the avoidance of stimulation before sleep as well as arguing, brainstorming, or worrying. Set up your bedroom so it is conducive to sleeping and practice a relaxation technique (see above) before bed. Quiet the mind.
4. Social Connection
Surround Yourself with Supportive People. Stay away from people who aggravate you. Surrounding yourself with supportive, loving friends and family is extremely important for our mental health. If you need to meet new people try joining a club, a gym, support group or taking classes.
Purpose/Meaning: Choose what will bring gratitude and intention to your life. It doesn’t have to be work, nor does it have to be complex. The following are some ideas to bring purpose and meaning, but let it be your choice: being with friends, family or pets; playing an instrument; singing; attending workshops; volunteering; gardening; fishing; hiking or other physical activities; drawing; and more.
5. Special Circumstances
Seeking Help is a Sign of Strength: If the efforts addressed here are not improving your mental health and you are still struggling with everyday functioning, seek professional help. Don’t shy away from getting help. It is actually a sign of strength; it shows that you are facing your problems or issues that might be disrupting your life.
Our mental health and ongoing societal issues: “According to the Department of UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, people chronically treated differently, unfairly or badly can have effects ranging from low self-esteem to a higher risk for developing stress-related disorders” (http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/discrimination-can-be-harmful-to-your-mental-health). We continue to face mental health challenges on a societal level. Too many people in our society experience discrimination and racism on an ongoing basis. “People who experience racial microaggressions—insults, invalidations, and interpersonal slights (subtle and often unintentional)—are more likely to show symptoms of anxiety and depression” (https://www.self.com/story/racism-mental-health-in-the-black-community). According to researchers at UCLA, these issues are being addressed as a public health issue: “Public health can do more to help shape future legislation that would both reduce discrimination and improve the mental health of its historic targets. Policies that promote human rights can not only buttress the foundations of a civil society, but they can also make for a healthier one” (http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/discrimination-can-be-harmful-to-your-mental-health).
By taking time to establish good mental health routines – much like our physical activity routines – our minds will be in better shape. It is also critical to remember that the mental health of one person or a group of people can produce a “domino effect” on others and society. Good mental health starts with a focus on positive attitude, gratitude and goodness. If we focus on goodness, guess what happens? Goodness is more likely to show up on your doorstep!
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