Mental Health is often ignored. When you are physically ill, you visit a doctor and get your medicines. But talking about mental health is still considered taboo. Even though things are changing, it might take years before people can openly discuss mental health.

The pandemic has exposed the saddening mental health status of the general population. In June 2020, a survey revealed that about 40.9% of the US adult population reported one behavioral or mental health condition due to the covid-19 pandemic.

But what is mental health? How can we work on ourselves and improve our mental health? Read on to know more.

What Is Mental Health?

People associate mental health with the absence of psychological disorders. But that is not entirely true. According to WHO (World Health Organisation), ‘health is a state of complete well-being and just the absence of disease or infirmity.

Hence, mental health definition is more than just the absence of mental illness or any disability. In other words, it is a state of one’s well-being where one realizes their abilities and can cope with stressful events.

In addition, it is the ability to be productive and contribute to one’s community.

Why Is Mental Health Important?

Mental health is linked to physical fitness and overall well-being. To clarify, here are a few reasons why it is essential:

  • Poor mental health is linked with poor physical health. For instance, depression is linked to vascular and heart diseases.
  • Mental health can affect your behavior. If one doesn’t look after their mental health, it can also affect their overall health-promoting behaviors. Sleeping adequately, eating right, getting enough exercise, lack of alcohol or drug abuse are examples of health-promoting behaviors. On the other hand, the inability to engage in them will lead to poor physical health.
  • A little stress can increase our productivity. However, according to the GAS model, if your stress levels exceed a certain point, it can lead to a state of exhaustion. Excessive amounts of stress can lead to poor immune functioning. As a result, your body won’t be able to fight diseases.
  • Poor mental health is related to several social issues. Consequently, it can lead to unemployment, drug abuse, violent behavior, etc.

How Can I Improve My Mental Health?

Mental health is extremely crucial. Therefore, if you feel that your mental health is deteriorating, it is better to seek professional help. Apart from that, there are a few personal changes that you can make in your personal life to improve mental health:

Staying Positive

Research indicates that a pessimistic outlook can affect your longevity. Individuals who engage in pessimistic thinking have a 20% higher risk of dying than those who practice positive thinking. To clarify, here are some of the physical benefits of staying positive include:

  • Better Stress Managing Capacity
  • More pain tolerance.
  • Lesser chance of getting a heart attack.
    Likewise, psychological benefits of positive thinking include:
  • Better coping.
  • Lesser risk of suffering from depression.
  • Development of problem-solving skills.
  • More creative thinking.

Do:

  • Write about your goals and dreams in a journal. You can also maintain a gratitude journal where you can jot down the things you are grateful for.
  • Remind yourself to live in the present and savor the moments.
  • Search for a silver lining. That means you need to think about the positive outcomes you have received out of any stressful event. Ask yourself questions such as ‘what skills have you developed’ or ‘how proud are you overcoming a stressful situation.

Don’t:

  • Focus on the adverse outcomes.
  • Engage in negative self-talk.
  • Engage in an ‘all or nothing’ thinking pattern.

Talk About Your Feeling

Opening up about your emotions can help you to improve your mental health. However, bottling up your thoughts and feelings can increase your stress level. As a result, you will not be able to live your life to your fullest.

According to Dr. Edmund Bourne, holding onto feelings can lead to depression, anxiety, headaches, high blood pressure, and other ailments.

Do:

  • Talk to a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or a licensed therapist when your feelings overwhelm you.
  • Take responsibility for your feelings and not blame others. If anyone’s actions bother you, your emotions will still be your own to manage and express.
  • Describe the degree of your feelings and start practicing what you have to say.

Don’t:

  • Rush the process. Try to take as much time as you need.
  • Practice dependence. Try to keep in mind that in the end, you have to manage your own emotions.

Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is a mental health aid in several ways. It can:

  • Improve your mood.
  • Make your optimistic.
  • Boost your social relationships.
  • Motivate you to engage in health-promoting behaviors.

Do:

  • Share gratitude by passing down a note to a person you are thankful for.
  • Thank yourself for being able to survive in difficult situations.
  • Start your day by writing down something positive. Hence, you can look at it whenever you are feeling down.

Don’t:

  • Compare yourself with others. Everyone has a different growth pattern.
  • Fake it. Practice gratitude only when you want to. Start small and look at more simple things in life rather than a person.

Value Yourself

Low self-esteem is not suitable for your mental health. For instance, it can lead to:

  • Addiction issues.
  • Poor relationships.
  • Depression and anxiety.
    It is not easy to boost your self-esteem. Therefore, you need to take your time and not be harsh on yourself.

Do:

  • Be kind to yourself and learn to forgive yourself.
  • Make time for yourself to practice your hobbies or any activity that you like.
  • Build healthy relationships where there is mutual respect.

Don’t:

  • Engage in self-criticism.
  • Stay in touch with people who do not value you.

Be Physically Active

 

Being physically active does not mean that you have to run in marathons or get a gym membership. On the other hand, it is about finding a physical activity to enjoy and set realistic goals.

US government suggests that adults need to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity to stay healthy. In addition, your body releases endorphins which can help you to alleviate your mood.

Do:
• Consult your physician before starting any vigorous physical activity.
• Take simple steps such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
• Commit and stick to it.
• Think of it as a fun activity.
Don’t:
• Try to engage in vigorous activity all at once.
• Opportunities to stay fit and active.

Meditation

There are various forms of meditation. Mostly, meditation is the practice of focusing your mind for a fixed duration. The end goal is to find inner peace, which can help you to improve your mental health. In March 2012, JAMA Internal Medicine Journal, researchers reviewed several scientific studies to establish a relationship between meditation, depression, and anxiety.

The results indicated that mindful meditation has helped to reduce symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Meditation can also help you to deal with negative emotions such as anger and fear.

Do:

  • Start practicing daily.
  • Experiment with different forms of meditation to select what works for you.
  • Try to meditate with others as well.

Don’t:

  • Blindly follow meditation trends. Do your research.
  • Be impatient. The end goal is to find your inner peace.

Surround Yourself With Good People

Friendship helps one to overcome isolation and work on their mental health. Unfortunately, people with mental health issues often fear rejection and do not want to look for companionship.

A 2009 journal of the National Medical Association showed that receiving social support is crucial for maintaining mental health. However, it would be best if you were selective.

While good friendships have positive effects, toxic friends can lower your self-esteem and cause more damage.

Do:

  • Keep in touch with your friends. Choose a place and time that works for both you and your friends.
  • Try to engage in activities with your friends. For instance, taking a walk down the street.
  • Communicate with your friends and family as much as you can.

Don’t:

  • Encourage toxic friendships. If you do not feel valued, let them know.
  • Stay in unhealthy environments. It can be not easy, but you can always seek out professional help.

Learn New Skills

Learning a new skill improves your quality of life. In addition, it can improve your memory. Learning new skills at a later stage of your life also prevents neuroplasticity. Moreover, it helps you to become confident and gives rise to new connections.

Do:

  • Try taking up new responsibilities in different spheres of your life without overwhelming yourself.
  • Start working on a DIY project.
  • Invest time in yourself and pick up an activity you have wanted to perform for a long time. For example: if you wanted to learn how to cook, start as soon as possible.

Don’t:

  • Think of it as a chore. The skill you learn should interest you.

Pay Attention to The Present Moments

Mindfulness is not about feeling happy, but it deals with paying attention to the current moment. Practicing mindfulness includes breathing exercises, guided imagery, and other techniques.

It helps you to deal with stress more effectively and keeps anxiety as well as depression at bay. Moreover, research through brain imaging techniques indicates that practicing mindfulness helps to keep your brain young.

Do:

  • Read up about mindfulness.
  • Try to observe the present moment. You can set aside time for this activity to focus on the current surroundings and yourself.
  • Note down your judgments.

Don’t:

  • Let your mind slip away. Your mind can wander off, but the end goal is to focus on the present moment.
  • Don’t judge yourself if you are unable to engage in mindfulness initially. It takes practice to get better at it.

Care Of Others

You need to take care of yourself before you start caring for others. However, kindness helps in promoting mental health. You do not have to go out of your way to show acts of kindness. Small acts can be more impactful. Being kind to others helps to alleviate your mood as it promotes the release of serotonin.

Do:

  • Try to be mindful of other’s needs.
  • Help people out whenever you can. Apart from your friends and family, you can also help out strangers.

Don’t:

  • Think of it as a task. It is more of a process.
  • Ignore your problems. Help someone only when you have the resources to do so.

Final Advice

Ignoring your mental health can be detrimental. Improving mental health does not mean that you have to be constantly happy. Instead, it is about recognizing your emotions and managing them effectively. In this article, a few tips can help you work on your mental health.

However, if you feel overwhelmed, it better to seek out mental health services. There are certified professionals who will be able to help you to understand yourself better.