What is mental health?
We take our physical health as something we need to maintain, either through exercising, eating well, resting and sleeping and going to a health professional if we feel ill or have an injury. Mental health is being well emotionally and in your mental functioning.
We have good mental health when we can have relationships with good boundaries, which make us content. This might mean we can talk to the people we work with and maintain relationships which allow us to carry out our work. Relationships which are good with people we are close to, such as partners, children, siblings or parents are mainly positive and involve giving and receiving respect, affection and trust. We also have wider relationships with friends, social groups and in our community. These relationships can give us feelings of affirmation of who we are, and what is important to us. Setting boundaries in relationships allow us to say no, to give and receive, to feel respected and clear about what is acceptable and what is not.
Functioning in day to day life is another way we can notice our mental health so that we feel we can manage the things we do and cope with the ups and downs of everyday life. Feeling in control of ourselves and the different aspects of our lives allows us to maintain self-esteem and to have confidence in ourselves and our ability. Coping skills such as talking to a friend when upset, taking exercise to help manage stress or finding ways to solve problems are part of functioning well.
Creating a balance is another aspect of good mental health so that in much the same way as exercise strengthens your muscles, using your brain allows your intellect to stay strong. Having time to work and time to look after yourself is another aspect of this balance so that relaxation to recharge mentally, interaction with others to engage your social self and time to do things to maintain your life are all important.
Seeking help when things are difficult or too big to manage with your usual support network is another aspect of mental health. In much the same way as you might go to a GP if you feel very unwell, contacting a mental health service can be a way of maintaining your mental health. They can offer you specialist help and support with issues ranging from bereavement to abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety or feelings which persist or issues which are bothering you. It is not a sign of weakness to seek help, but a sensible way to improve things so you can get back on track.
Mental health can improve through learning new skills, talking about things, and developing emotional resilience. Physical exercise has been shown to help people feel better. Self-help groups, and learning about different ways of coping or gaining a perspective, contribute to mental health.
Finding your own way of maintaining mental health is important and sometimes experimenting can give you new ideas or better direction. What is right for one person will not suit another, and sometimes changing things can help to make them better, even if it feels hard. Changing habits can be a challenge but if we take a new sport up we don't expect to excel immediately and with mental health, we sometimes need to keep practising to get things right.
In the words of Nido Qubein "Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go, they merely determine where you start."
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About Fiona Corbett
Fiona Corbett BACP accredited counsellor.
I work in private practise in Nottingham with individuals, couples, small groups.
My training is in humanistic counselling and psychodynamic psychotherapy.
I work with people experiencing depression, anxiety, relationship issues, abuse, bereavement, workplace stress and a wide range of issues.