In order to improve your mental health, we first need to understand it, as mental health is everyone’s business.
Mental health influences every area of our life, and how we think, feel and behave. It also affects our ability to cope with life stressors, overcome challenges, and recover from life’s hardships.
As health is not just the absence of illness, mental health also is not just absence of mental health problems. To be mentally fit and healthy is much more than to be free of anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.
Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental health refers to the presence of positive characteristics. To improve mental health and wellbeing, and keep people well should be everyone’s business.
Good mental health and wellbeing is linked to improved physical health, longer life expectancy, increased skills, better social, work and educational achievement, reduced mental health problems, suicide, antisocial and criminal behaviours.
The number of older people in the Australian population is rapidly growing, as well as the number of those at risk of dementia and depression.
What it Means to be Mentally Healthy
Mentally fit and heathy people have the following characteristics:
- Ability to live and deal with stress
- Ability to bounce back or change his/her actions as the situation requires
- Ability to laugh and have fun
- Ability to learn new skills
- Ability to adapt to change
- Ability to find balance between work and other activities
- Ability to develop/build and maintain human relationships
- Develop and maintain self-confidence
- Develop and maintain high self-esteem
- Has insight into cause and effect
- Be oriented to time, place, and person
Most of us have times where we are more (or less) stressed, anxious or have low mood, and then it can be difficult to get motivated to do things such as get up in the morning, or go to school or our workplace. How we deal with these life situations is what makes the difference.
Some of us, when mental or emotional health problems arise, start “self-medicating” by turning to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or self-destructive behaviours.
Some self-destructive behaviours are more obvious, such as: suicide attempts, binge eating, etc. Men, more than women, are more likely to bottle up their feelings rather than seek help, as they think that if they seek help for their emotional problems, they will show others how weak they are. If asked for help, they would ask for medication only; while they may need medication, but also psychotherapy to improve the way they feel and improve their mental health and wellbeing.
Being humans, we are social beings and are not to live isolated. Most of us crave companionship.
Taking Care of your Mental Health
Talking to a professional counsellor, psychologist or clinical social worker who is a trusted, non-judgmental good listener may also be of benefit. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of a person who cares about their own mental health and wellbeing.
Taking care of your mental health may also include:
- being connected with other people – family members, relatives and friends.
- joining networking, social, recreational, or church/special interest groups which meet on a regular basis, either weekly, fortnightly, or monthly.
- saying ‘hi’ to people even those you don’t know, as any connection is beneficial.
- It is also important to exercise and stay active, as regular exercise can have a significant impact on your mental and/or emotional health issues, as well as relieve stress and improve sleep. To start with, 30 minutes of physical activity every day is more than enough. Later you can increase to 45 or even 60 minutes. Walking, jogging, running, swimming, martial arts, weight lifting are all great ways to engage your arms and legs.
- Consuming a healthy diet can also support / boost your mental health. There are foods that can have a negative impact on mood, such as: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fried food, refined carbs (white rice or white flour) and food with high levels of preservatives or hormones. Foods the help improve mood include: avocados, nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts), beans, oily fish (rich in Omega-3), spinach, kale, Brussel’s sprouts, etc.
- Practice meditation or prayer, to help you find purpose and meaning in life.
- And, don’t forget sleep!
Author: Nenad Bakaj, MHumServ (RehabCouns), BSocWk, DipAppSci (Comm&HumServ), AMHSW, MAAC, MAASW, JP (Qld)
Nenad Bakaj is a Brisbane based Clinical Counsellor, Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, Life Coach and Bigger Bite Out Of Life Trainer with a keen interest in positive psychology, mental health and wellbeing, and is continually developing his professional skills and knowledge. Nenad enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, as well as older clients, and feels it is a privilege to be able to support them. In the counselling room, Nenad aims to build rapport with his clients to assist them to reach their health, relationship, personal and life goals, and a happy and fruitful life.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology Wishart on (07) 3088 5422.