What is good mental health and how do I get it
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor
20th February, 20120 Comments
One definition of mental health might be an individual’s ability to enjoy life, a balance between different life areas (family, work, social, spiritual etc.) and to adapt to changing demands.
We all realise how important good mental health is. Your physical and your emotional well-being depend on it. It offers a feeling of inner-strength and an ability to cope with whatever comes along
The key to good mental health is balance – someone once said that to enjoy life you should take all things in moderation. An interesting exercise is to take some key areas of your life say, family; community/social; health; spirituality and work and score yourself in these areas one for desperately unhappy and 5 for as happy as you can be. Yet overall there should be a balance with your values not being far from the mean score for this shows balance in your life. It also helps to identify the area that you might want to focus on.
Having looked at the current state of play, what are the factors that can help to increase your well-being?
Healthy eating is important to physical health and it turns out mental health. Choosing foods that that provide a wide variety of food groups and that ensure a consistent flow of energy. Scientists believe that there is an increasing body of evidence that shows that vitamins have an important role in promoting mental health.
Some people might be tempted into unhelpful ways of coping such as alcohol, and illegal drugs. Yet there have an effect on the mind over time. Heavy drinking has shown to be a factor in anxiety and depression. Street drugs, dependent on the drug and the length of use, have been shown to cause psychiatric conditions such as long-term depression.
Regular exercise again important to physical health, but there is good evidence that regular exercise will help depression and anxiety. This is possibly linked to the endorphins that you get after exercise yet the practical upshot is that it relieves stress and depression.
We all seem to feel better after a good night’s sleep. Paradoxically, however, when we feel anxious or stressed even depressed, sleep seems to elude us or is broken up through the night. Your mind seems to race in the quiet as you try to drift off. You can, teach yourself to relax, there are many tapes on the market (even free ones) that teach you to progressively relax and promote if not sleep rest. There are other steps you can take such as a hot bath before you go to bed or a glass of warm milk, and avoid caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol
This highlights one important area which is to do something for you whether it’s watching your favourite TV program, a hobby or an interest or even helping out in a community group. The important part is a part of your life however small that you can control and direct.
Finally it’s good to talk, when we bottle up feelings of frustration, anger and so forth. It is important that you explore these or come to a way of incorporating them in your life in a way you can accept. If you bottle them up you will feel uncomfortable and isolated and they are likely to explode out at the most inappropriate minute. So talk to family and friends about your feelings and if you feel they can’t help your own GP or a counsellor is a good source of help.
However you choose to guard your mental health I wish you the best of luck.
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