Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of mental illness. It is the “psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioural adjustment. From the perspective of positive psychology or holism, mental health may include an individual’s ability to enjoy life, and create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health includes “subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, inter-generational dependence, and self-actualization of one’s intellectual and emotional potential, among others. The WHO further states that the well-being of an individual is encompassed in the realization of their abilities, coping with normal stresses of life, productive work and contribution to their community. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how “mental health” is defined.
Below are ways in which you can improve your mental health
Limit Negative Self Talk
We all have those moments when we hear the chatter in our minds telling us that we’re not good enough or that we won’t be able to accomplish our goals. I like to call it the “itty bitty shitty committee.” Some days the shitty committee is quiet and we are full of confidence and roaring like a lion and then two days later the shitty committee is screaming loudly and we feel like we can’t do anything right. Here’s what you need to know about your negative self talk… It’s all a lie, don’t believe the hype! The key is awareness. When you catch yourself thinking those negative thoughts, tell the committee you’re not having it! Look at yourself in the mirror and say “I’m good enough to have peace, success and all my dreams.” Replace those negative thoughts with positive ones and you’ll soon find that the committee gets more and more quiet.
In our fast moving world, it’s becoming critical that we have the ability to quiet our minds, get still and connect with our inner being. Finding just 5 minutes a day to practice meditation or some other form of mindfulness can make dramatic shifts in your level of happiness and overall mental health. People who are depressed are usually spending too much time living in the past and people who constantly worry are spending too much time thinking about the future. Mindfulness allows you to just be in the present moment and develop an awareness and appreciation for what’s happening right now.
Let Go and Forgive
The start of a new is a great time to address any old thoughts, feelings or emotions that we are holding on to that don’t serve us in a positive way. Hurt from past a relationship, resentment from not getting a job or promotion, or bitterness from a negative interaction with a family member can fester inside us and negatively impact our mental health. One of my favorite quotes says “Hating someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Learning to let go and forgive is for us, not for the person that harmed us. Forgiveness is a process but a journey well worth the travel. Spend some time reflecting on whether you are holding on to any grudges or ill feelings towards anyone or any situation and start the process of releasing it.
We often take the power of gratitude for granted. We all understand the concept of being grateful but practicing gratitude is a little more than saying I’m thankful for all that I have. Being deliberate and intentional about expressing your gratitude for what you have and the little things that happen in your life every day can make dramatic shifts in your emotional state. Your practice could be verbally expressing gratitude every morning when you wake up or after you meditate. It could be keeping a gratitude journal or gratitude jar and writing down what you are grateful for each day. Or you could join an online gratitude group and share what you are grateful for by posting daily in the group. I am a member of a gratitude group on Insight Timer and I enjoy making my daily posts as well as reading what others are grateful for.
Your body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting endorphins before and after you work out, which is why exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. Look for small ways to add activity to your day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going on a short walk. To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, and try to do it outdoors. Exposure to sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which increases your level of serotonin in the brain. Plus, time in nature is a proven stress reducer.
Practice Self Care
Taking some “me time” every week can boost your positive mental health in ways you can’t imagine. We are so busy doing things for everyone else that we often forget about ourselves. I always tell my clients that you can’t serve from an empty vessel. You can’t be the best parent, spouse or friend if you are overworked, tired and emotionally drained. Make a commitment to designate at least one day a week that you will do something to show self love. This year try and start by designating Sundays as Self Care Sunday. It’s the one day a week that you are not allowed to do any work and must do something just for yourself. For those of you who fall in the workaholic category this can be challenging but the benefits far out weigh the challenge. Give it a try, you’ll be glad you did.