Strategies to Maintain Positive Mental Health
There are many definitions of what positive
mental health is, for example Mental Health
defines it as: “Balance between all aspects of life – social, physical, spiritual
and emotional”. The Irish Advocacy
Network defines it as “More to do with how we feel about ourselves, others and how
we are able to meet the demands of life”.
It is clear that maintaining positive mental
health is crucial when we consider that mental illness exacts a greater toll on
the health of the world’s population than Aids, TB, and Malaria combined”.
We are going to look at the Strategies to maintain positive mental health
under the following headings:
3. Self Esteem
9. Professional help
Diet Our Food and Fuel
It is essential to have a varied, balanced
diet. Basic things, like eating a minimum
of 5 portions of fruit or vegetables, and reducing the amount of processed foods
that we eat, are well accepted facts.
Over the last 5 years we have greatly increased the amount of water that we drink,
but unfortunately we have also increased the amount of coffee, tea and alcohol that
we drink. If we consider how we treat
our bodies by what we consume, and compare it to how the owner of a Ferrari probably
only uses the best petrol and engine oil, we can see how easy it is to neglect ourselves.
The average person needs 7-8 hours sleep
per night. In terms of quality, the
hours you get before
are better than those you get after.
After a good night’s sleep you wake up refreshed and rejuvenated – able to take
on the world both physically and mentally.
It is essential that we try to feel good
about ourselves – what we have done, what we are doing and what we are striving
to achieve in the future. We need to
have the ability to feel secure, to trust other people, to be decisive and confident,
as well as doing all that we can so as to enjoy life responsibly and with due care
and respect for ourselves and others.
Here are some practical methods that will help with having a positive self image:
Set realistic goal, allowing for the variables that you cannot control and also
the variables that you can control.
Join a gym or take up an active sport to get fit, and also pay attention to having
a good diet. These can help you to
look fit and healthy and when we do, it can be easier to feel good about ourselves.
Believe in yourself and as a result others may also believe in you.
Use positive self talk for example “I will” and “I can”.
Adopting the LENT Approach can be a very beneficial –
Communication is essential for good mental
health; and it must be realised that it is a 2 way process – giving information
and receiving information. Our ability
to articulate our feelings and concerns can greatly prevent us from sliding down
the slippery slope to anxiety and depression. Through
putting how we feel into words, we think more clearly about the situation and this
can help reduce the problem, or else look at it in a more manageable context. By talking to others we can get a new
perspective on the situation, and they might have some useful suggestions that might
help. Listening is a much undervalued
skill, but again our ability to listen to and understand others is critical for
our positive mental health.
It is widely accepted that physical exercise
has a very positive affect on our Mental Health.
The Mental Health Council of Australia published research, and they reported
that people who exercise report feeling less stressed or nervous.
5 -10 minutes Aerobic exercise, that is exercise which requires oxygen, such
as walking, swimming or jogging, can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Physical exercise also helps to combat the feelings of hopelessness that
characterise depression. Meeting and
engaging with people who have similar interests and abilities to yourself can happen
very naturally and can have a very positive impact on your mental health.
If there one thing that really makes relaxing
difficult, it’s being told to relax.
But it is essential to find time to relax in our busy and pressurised lives. The best way to ensure that it happens
is to plan your time, find “Time for me time” and within a few weeks you will be
experiencing the benefits and wondering why you didn’t do it years ago.
Relaxation time can be time enjoying a sport or hobby, or it could take the
form of meditation and quietness.
Without doubt, our close relationships have
a major impact on how we feel from day to day.
Having a feeling of being connected to those around you is critical for our
feelings of self-worth, and it is believed by many that, who we are is determined
by the series of relationships that we experience throughout our lives.
Regular social interaction is fundamental to our human psyche, but it can
be very difficult to maintain contact with others if we are going through a period
of feeling down or worthless. We all
know the buzz we get from a phone call or from an email from someone that we have
lost contact with, but we also know that sometimes it can be difficult to make that
call if it has been some time since there was contact the last time.
So establish your network of close friends and families, value and appreciate
them, because you never know when you may need to call on them for support. Put another way, they could be the reason
that you are experiencing good positive mental health, so don’t take them for granted.
Having a hobby is nearly essential for everyday
living. Spending time doing something
that you enjoy without the pressures of life is crucial and should not be overlooked. One of the advantages of taking up a
hobby is that it gives you the chance to learn new skills.
Volunteering to help out in the Community can also be a great way of maintaining
positive mental health. It can take
our focus away from ourselves and on to what ever we are interested in, whether
it is the local GAA club, the St Vincent de Paul, visiting the old or house bound,
or taking part in the local Tidy Towns Committee.
For the vast majority of people, they are never as happy as when they are
helping others, and for many people it is through helping others that we can best
Spending time out
doors in tune with nature for many people is what life is all about.
Getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life, going for county walks
or just sitting in the garden can bring on a certain feeling of serenity and calmness. Research has shown that people in hospital
wards with views of the countryside got better more quickly and needed less pain-killing
drugs. Walking along the seashore,
listening and watching the waves, will not only give you an appetite for your dinner,
it can also give you an appetite for life and an appreciation for the wonderful
world that we are a part of.
If we are experiencing anxiety, or depression
continuously for more than 2 weeks, it is important that the GP is contacted. They are the first point of contact
on the road to recovery, hopefully they will be able to listen, understand help
us find a solution to the difficulties that we are experiencing.
The GP may prescribe drugs, or they may recommend other therapies like Counselling,
which is a talking therapy, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is all about
how people think and react in certain situations.
CBT uses a series of exercises that have been proven to be effective for
many Mental Health issues.
The importance of maintaining positive mental
health is critical for ourselves, those around us and society as a whole.
To sum up, in order to build and maintain Positive Mental Health, here is
a brief and easy way to remember the main points, courtesy of the Mental Health
Council of Australia, using the ABC Method:
Keep as active as possible, physically,
socially and mentally.
Belong Be involved
in your community, join a group, talk to your neighbours and friends, try and meet
Commit Take on new challenges every year, get involved and volunteer.
Compiled by Employment Response North West