Simple steps to good mental health
Good mental health is as important as good physical health. Good mental health helps us to perform well in our jobs and maintain a positive sense about ourselves when we interact with our friends and family. If asked, we know how to promote our physical health; we might identify eating our five a day or exercising regularly as good ways to gain and maintain good physical health. Yet, are we as comfortable and clear with the steps that we can take that will help us to enjoy good mental health? Here are some simple steps that everyone can take to boost their mental health.
Get some exercise
It’s not just our physical health that benefits from exercise - our mental health reaps the rewards too. During exercise, your body releases hormones and endorphins that have an impact on depression, anxiety and stress. However, don’t feel that you have to do all of the spin classes in the gym - making small changes like going for a walk at lunchtime or walking up the stairs rather than taking the lift are just as effective. The key is to choose things that you are likely to keep up, that you naturally fit into your day; these will fit the bill better.
Look after yourself
Again this has a big overlap with our physical health. Getting a good sleep at night is important, as mental illness is often associated with insomnia, and so paying attention to a regular bedtime with a quiet time before you go to sleep can really help. Eating and drinking healthily can make a difference just as it does in physical health. It can be important to think about stepping back if anxiety or stress threatens to overwhelm; taking a short time gives you the space to make a positive choice for yourself. It is worth learning mindfulness or meditation which can help you to be more aware of your thoughts and feelings and get support when you need it.
Doing things which are important to you
Refuelling our self-confidence and self-esteem are important parts of good mental health. How you do this will be very personal to you and what motivates you. Some people will enjoy learning a new skill or talent, for others, it will be paying time to their interests and spending time doing them. The important point is to be involved in a rewarding activity that gives you something back. Notice that you can do it with others but you shouldn’t be doing it for others, do it for yourself because you are worth it.
Of course, we may wish to help others as it is part of our natural make-up, but there is a beneficial effect on your mental health. Research repeatedly shows that we benefit from helping others. We get a sense of being valued for our work helping others. It can be small random acts of kindness, a smile, holding a door open, through to larger acts of charity - you still get the benefit. There are many other positives with this approach, such as connecting with others and the difference you make to them.
Connections and relationships
By maintaining existing relationships and connections with friends and family, you have a strong support network that helps you to face all that life brings. Relationships give us that sense of community and belonging, being valued for our skills and talents. This helps us to think of ourselves in a positive light and prevent negative feelings overwhelming us. Some of our relationships will be strong enough to give us a space to be vulnerable and able to explore what is happening in our life, especially at times of change or crisis.
All of these steps are simple and straightforward - they are simple things that you could start and build on. Often like our physical health, we neglect our mental health until we are in crisis. Yet, by making a few simple changes, we can help ourselves to stay healthy in the long term. No one knows the future, and of course, you may suffer from a mental illness that would benefit from treatment by your GP or a therapist, but it is worth noting that there is much that we can do to boost our own mental health.
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author, living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice, he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.