Building Better Mental Health
Our mental health influences everything we do: how we think, feel and behave in daily life. It affects our ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges, build relationships, and recover from life’s setbacks.
Strong mental health isn’t just the absence of mental health problems. Being mentally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other issues such as alcoholism. Mental health refers to the presence of positive characteristics.
People who are mentally healthy have:
- A sense of contentment
- A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.
- They can set boundaries.
- A sense of meaning and purpose
- They are flexible
- A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
- The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
- Their self-talk is affirming
- They can be quiet
- They are aware
- Have strong values
- They are proactive rather than reactive
We all go through disappointments, loss, and change.
And while these are normal parts of life, they can still cause sadness, anxiety, and stress. Just as physically healthy people are better able to bounce back from illness or injury, people with strong mental health are better able to bounce back from sadness, anxiety, and stress.
No matter how much time you devote to improving your mental and emotional health, you will always need the company of others to feel your best.
We are social creatures with emotional needs and connections to others. We’re not meant to survive in isolation. Our brains crave companionship. Nothing can beat the power of quality face-to-face with other people. Face-to-face social interaction with someone who cares about you is the most effective way to calm yourself. Interacting with another person can quickly put the brakes on damaging stress responses like “fight-or-flight.”
Tips for connecting to others:
- Call a friend or loved one and arrange to meet up. Try to make it a regular get-together.
- If you don’t feel that you have anyone to call, reach out to acquaintances. Get out from behind your screen.
- Join special interest groups that meet on a regular basis.
- Don’t be afraid to smile and say hello to strangers…you never know where it may lead!
- Be present in conversations
- Learn to empathize
- Learn and apply the five languages of appreciating
Staying active is another way to build our mental health. Exercise is as good for the brain as it is for the body.
The mind and the body are deeply linked. When you improve your physical health, you’ll automatically experience greater mental and emotional well-being. Physical activity releases endorphins (powerful chemicals that lift your mood and provide added energy). Regular exercise can also have a major impact on mental and emotional health problems, relieve stress, improve memory, and help you to sleep better.
You don’t have to be a fitness fan. Take a walk at lunchtime, walk laps in an air-conditioned mall, throw a ball with a dog, dance to your favorite music, play with your kids, cycle, or walk rather than drive. Even small amounts of physical activity can make a big difference to your mental and emotional health—and it’s something you can engage in right now to boost your energy and outlook and help you regain a sense of control.
Another way we can help our mental health is to appeal to our senses. Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel calm? Or smelling ground coffee? Or maybe squeezing a stress ball? Start experimenting now to find what works best for you. Once you discover how your nervous system responds to sensory input, you’ll be able to quickly calm yourself no matter what happens.
When it comes to your mental health, getting enough sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Skipping a few hours here and there can take a toll on your mood, energy, mental sharpness, and ability to handle stress. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of good sleep each night.
Tips for getting better sleep:
- Try taking a warm bath.
- Reading by a soft light.
- Stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet. Curtains, white noise machines, and fans can help.
- Don’t consume nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol late in the day.
- Try to sleep and wake at consistent times.
- Avoid digital screens and social media at least an hour before bed
Following these self-help steps will benefit you.