What is good mental health?

May 15, 2019
Grace Noon

good mental healthWe often only hear about mental health in a negative capacity, i.e. what isn’t good mental health. But, on the flipside, we don’t ever tend to hear about what constitutes good mental health. So how do you know when your mental health is good?

According to the World Health Organization, good mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

The Mental Health Foundation say good mental health is characterised by a person’s ability to fulfil a number of key functions and activities, including the ability to…

  • learn
  • feel, express and manage a range of positive and negative emotions
  • form and maintain good relationships with others
  • cope with and manage change and uncertainty.

If you feel good about yourself and the world around you, are able to cope well with day-to-day life, have a number of enriching relationships of a variety of natures (family, friends, colleagues) and can take challenges in your stride, this is usually a sign you have good mental health.

If you’re not sure where you sit, these are some habits of those who typically have good mental health…

Eating well

Poor nutrition is linked negatively to mental health in a number of ways. A balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables should help you to feel better both physically and mentally.

Taking exercise

Moving your body gives you something to focus on, and shows you can rise to a challenge as well as releasing mood-boosting hormones that help us feel happier. Those that exercise regularly tend to sleep better and have good self-esteem.

Getting good sleep

If you don’t get enough sleep and are tired during the day, it can make day-to-day life difficult. Getting 8 hours a night is recommended to ensure proper brain function.

Taking time for yourself, and perhaps find a hobby you enjoy

This is sometimes termed as self-care. It is time spent doing anything you value that isn’t something you ‘need’ to do – you do it for your own enjoyment. Cooking, painting, doing yoga, gardening, baking, knitting, meditating, going for a walk – these are just some ideas.

Not relying on substances, things or other people for happiness

Happiness can’t be bought, consumed or provided by other people. Sure, certain things in moderation and companionship of other people can enrich our lives, but we should not be depending on any of these for our own happiness.

Making peace with & being comfortable with yourself as you are

Many of us see ourselves as a work-in-progress and, although that can spur you on to achieve the things you want to in life, you are not your accomplishments. If you hang your hopes on things being a certain way you’ll be forever chasing things and never truly be happy. Learning you are enough as you are and being OK with just being you will make you more content as a person and the things you want will likely follow.

Forging good relationships with friends, family, work colleagues

No man (or woman!) is an island. We need relationships with other people in order to feel connected, be part of community and have purpose. Isolation and loneliness are strongly linked to mental health problems.

Caring for/giving to others

You’ll have heard the phase ‘it is better to give than receive’ and that really is true. Doing something for someone else can give you a sense of purpose and make you feel happier and more satisfied about life.

Talking & asking when you need help

There is no shame in asking for help when you need it. Bottling things up is never a good strategy. Talking through your feelings often helps you to come to terms with them and find solutions to life’s problems. Talk to someone you trust who won’t judge you or alternatively you can try a phone service like Samaritans

 

Consider these points. Perhaps you can see how you could improve on a few things; if so try a few changes and see how you feel.

Good mental health doesn’t mean being happy all day, every day. There is a full spectrum of normal human emotions and everyone has times when they feel down or don’t feel as good for various reasons. The key is to accept this is the case and take steps to minimise the low points through good lifestyle choices. Work with yourself – listen to what your mind and body tell you. Ask yourself if something you do is truly serving you; if not then explore how you could change it for the better.

If you feel way off the mark, it might be a sign that things aren’t as they should be. Ultimately, if you feel like something is not right then it isn’t. Your feelings are legitimate. Sometimes it’s hard to place what is off – we can help.

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