Practical ways to improve your mental health
July is Mental Health Awareness Month, highlighting a topic that is not discussed enough. Mental health refers to your psychological health and brings together various elements – how you feel about yourself, your life, the quality of your relationships and how you manage your problems and emotions.
Mental illness can be treated and many people are able recover completely or improve their circumstances dramatically. There are different types of mental illness, with different factors and varying symptoms. Treatment options vary according to the individual diagnosis.
Having ‘good mental health’ doesn’t necessarily mean an absence of a mental illness, but also refers to your ability to take steps to improve your emotional wellbeing.
Psychologist Martin Seligman, an advocate of positive psychology, says good mental health is linked to five key domains, as decribed in his PERMA model.
- Positive emotions: How happy do you feel? What makes you feel good?
- Engagement: Are you taking an interest in your work and other activities?
- Relationships: Who are the special people in your life? Do you care for them and do they care for you?
- Meaning in your life: Do you feel that the things you do add value to your life and that of others?
- Accomplishments: Do you have dreams and goals that help you to feel a sense of accomplishment and competency?
If you are concerned about your mental health, it is always advisable to see your doctor. Treatment options are tailored to your needs and may include medication, and/or therapy, or possibly even group therapy sessions in the form of a support group.
Five Practical Ways To Help Yourself
In addition to the treatment prescribed by your doctor and/or therapist, there are also a number of different things you can do to help ensure better mental stability and health. These practices can help you feel more positive about your life.
Live in the moment. Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist mediation practice that encourages one to be more aware; not only aware of your surroundings and what you are currently doing, but also more aware of your thoughts and emotions. If you are struggling with your thoughts, learn to question their helpfulness or hindrance to you in a specific moment or in certain situations. This can help you develop a more positive and optimistic outlook.
Place a notebook and pen next to your bed. Write down three to five things you are thankful for before going to be everyday. Start looking at life from the perceptive of what you have as opposed to what you don’t. Take gratitude a step further and donate your time to improve the lives of others. Volunteer at a local old-age home, children’s home or the SPCA. By helping others you can heal and help yourself.
Don’t isolate – connect
Avoid cutting yourself off from those your love but rather work to nurture your relationships. This includes personal relationships as well as work colleagues. Even a small connection with a stranger can help you feel less isolated, for example: say good morning to the security guard at your office, greet the waitress in a restaurant and remember your manners when interacting with people.
Exercise is good for the physical body and keeping fit and healthy, but it’s great for mental health too. The endorphins released into the blood stream during exercise can help to fight stress and leave you feeling less anxious. Just a 30-minute walk can make a big difference. Connecting with nature is a great antidote for stress, so if possible, consider a walk in a natural area. The Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ or Shinrin-yoku means ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’. It is believed to be calming and restorative. Research has been conducted to prove its positive psychological effects.
Embrace the ebb and flow of life
Life is unpredictable and things do go wrong; learn to accept this. Nobody can be happy or positive all the time, but you also shouldn’t pretend that everything is okay when things aren’t going well. Emotional resilience is the ability to cope with stressful situations with calmness and clarity. Learning to cope with stressful times can help build your resilience. It starts with being more aware of your feelings and developing the right attitude to empower yourself to move forward.
Mental Illness In Pregnancy
If you have previously been diagnosed with a mental illness, your risk of being diagnosed again increases for up to a year after your baby’s birth. A mother-to-be may also experience mental illness for the first time during a pregnancy. Pregnancy may trigger depression in some women, and symptoms include sad feelings, negative thoughts, anxiety, lack of appetite and sleep problems.
If you are concerned about your mental health and feel depressed or anxious, it is important to speak to your doctor or midwife. Treatment is possible during pregnancy and can help to you feel better before your baby’s birth.