Mental health is more than simply feeling good. Mental health includes happiness, drive, resilience in the face of adversity, and coping with stress. Everyone faces difficulties. Good mental health is the difference between coping wisely and effectively with problems we encounter, rather than letting them paralyze us, or make poor decisions based on panic or depression.
Here are five ways to improve your mental health.
Sleep heads this list, because your day doesn’t end with a good night’s sleep – it starts with one. Research shows that human beings need seven to eight hours of sleep every day. Losing sleep literally costs you brain cells.
Give yourself the appropriate amount of time to ensure you can get enough sleep. If you have to be up at six a.m, be in bed by 9:30 the night before. Read a book to help relax and settle you for the night. And avoid electronics. The bright screen of a cell phone or tablet affects your body’s rhythms, giving you lighter, poorer-quality sleep.
Human beings are social beings. We thrive on contact with others. So build community. Keep in contact with family and friends — and not just through social media. Research shows that direct face-to-face contact with others is vital for our well-being.
A phone call is useful in keeping in touch with someone. But plan to meet with a good friend in person regularly. Look for those friends who know how to listen. Look for those whom you can confide in. Simply discussing the weather or work isn’t enough. Discuss your relationships, your life.
Keep Your Mind Active
Mental health is similar to physical health in that regular exercise works wonders. So exercise your brain. If you find yourself spending evenings watching television, it’s time to mix things up. Read a book. Make a point of learning something new every week – or every day. There are lots of brain training puzzles and activities out there. Go find some!
Take Control of Your Inner Voice
Your inner voice is the part of you that tells you you’re doing great at your job – or that you’re wasting your time at it. Watch for negative thoughts. If your inner voice constantly tells you you’re failing, you need to change it. Look at the positive aspects of your life and force your inner voice to address those. Look at the failures in your life and forgive yourself. If those failures persist, develop a plan to deal with them. Make your inner voice work for you, not against you.
When you do something well, how do you treat yourself? It’s important to celebrate your accomplishments. So, if you reach a milestone in your life, do something to celebrate it. Suppose you want to take up running. After your first week, look for ways to celebrate what you’ve accomplished. Perhaps a tasty treat you don’t often indulge in. After your first month, find another way to reward yourself.
Of course, don’t always choose food rewards. In fact, giving yourself an experience can be the best type of reward – perhaps a trip to a museum or park, or some other activity you’d particularly enjoy.
It’s important to set up your rewards early, so you have something to strive for. If you love reading, you can tell yourself you will order that special book you want — but only when you’ve reached a milestone.
Managing Your Own Mental Health
Mental health needs to be maintained and examined regularly. If you find yourself prone to bouts of depression, panic, or stress that you can’t seem to throw off, you should consider a professional therapist who can suggest ways of dealing with these issues. There is never anything wrong with seeking help. Our clinical psychologist, Maëlle Hector, works with all ages and has extensive experience in listening and helping individuals feel better.