What is Positive Mental Health?

pmh-imageMental health refers to your overall psychological well-being. It includes the way you feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships, and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with difficulties.

Being mentally or emotionally healthy health is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental and emotional health refers to the presence of positive characteristics.  – this is positive mental health.

People who are mentally and emotionally healthy generally have:

  • A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.
  • The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity.
  • A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships.
  • The flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change.
  • The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem.

Being emotionally and mentally healthy doesn’t mean never going through bad times or experiencing emotional problems. We all go through disappointments, loss, and change. And while these are normal parts of life, they can still cause sadness, anxiety, and stress. However, people with good emotional health have an ability to bounce back , have the tools for coping with difficult situations and the ability to maintain a positive outlook. This is called resilience.

Resiliency is all about emotional balance. You can teach yourself to become more resilient and, thus, have better mental health.

resilience-leaflet-imgHere are some Tops Tips to build resilience.

  1. Take time for yourself
  2. Sign up for that course, join that club.
  3. Be active every day in as many ways as you can
  4. Spend time with people who make you feel good
  5. Laugh out loud each day
  6. Get a good nights sleep
  7. Talk out your troubles

Click here to download an information leaflet on resilience

Strategies to Look After your Mental Health

There are many things we can all be doing to achieve a positive sense of wellbeing. Click on each toggle below for suggestions which may prove helpful.

Taking care of your body is a powerful first step towards good mental and emotional health.

The mind and the body are linked. When you improve your physical health, you will experience greater mental and emotional well-being.

The activities you engage in and the daily choices you make affect the way you feel physically and emotionally. Here’s some top tips on how to look after your mind and body:

  • Get enough rest. Along with food, water and shelter, sleep is essential for normal functioning. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep each night in order to function optimally but the amount required varies from person to person. Sleeping requirements general decrease with age.
  • Learn about good nutrition and practice it. A healthy diet will not only help the way you feel, but also the way you think. Eating more fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds, oily fish and drinking plenty of water will give your mind a boost. Unfortunately, you also need to cut back on the amount of sugary foods, salt and alcohol you consume!
  • Exercise to relieve stress and lift your mood. Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. Experts believe exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, look and feel better. Exercise is most effective on the very days when you don’t feel your best so try to make the effort even when you don’t feel like it. Start gently and build up to a pattern of at least 20 minutes per day.
  • Limit alcohol and avoid cigarettes and other drugs. These are stimulants that may make you feel good in the short term, but have long-term negative consequences for mood and emotional health. It is best to drink only in moderation and to avoid binge-drinking.

In order to maintain and strengthen your mental and emotional health, it’s important to pay attention to your individual needs and feelings.

Don’t let stress and negative emotions build up. Try to maintain a balance between your daily responsibilities and the things you enjoy. If you take care of yourself and make time for yourself, you’ll be better prepared to deal with challenges if and when they arise. Taking care of yourself includes pursuing activities that naturally release endorphins and contribute to feeling good.

  • Learn or discover new things – Try taking an adult education class, join a book club, visit a museum, learn a new language, or simply travel somewhere new.
  • Enjoy the beauty of nature or art – Studies show that simply walking through a garden can lower blood pressure and reduce stress. The same goes for strolling through a park or an art gallery, hiking, admiring architecture, or sitting on a beach.
  • Manage your stress levels – Stress takes a heavy toll on mental and emotional health, so it’s important to keep it under control. While not all stressors can be avoided, stress management strategies can help you bring things back into balance. If you need help with this, you might find one of our Stress Control classes useful.
  • Limit unhealthy mental habits like worrying – Try to avoid becoming absorbed by repetitive mental habits – negative thoughts about yourself and the world suck up time, drain your energy, and trigger feelings of anxiety, fear, and depression.
  • Relaxation – Try to make time to relax. Fit things into your day that help you unwind such as listening to music, reading, watching TV or treating yourself to a luxurious bubble-bath. Find something that you enjoy and that works for you. In a busy day even 10 minutes of downtime can help you manage stress better.
  • Live in the present – Pay attention to whatever is going on around you here and now. For much of the time we are not fully ‘present’ because thoughts, concerns and worries or just general daydreaming distracts us. The technique ‘mindfulness’ can teach you how to be more present and help strengthen mental health.
  • Do something creative – All kinds of creative things can help when you are feeling anxious or low. Activities or hobbies like writing, painting, cooking and gardening can absorb your attention so much that you forget all other negative thoughts.
  • Accept yourself – Don’t be afraid to accept yourself for who you are. Nobody’s perfect, we all have our good points and bad points. Remember to focus on your strengths.

No matter how much time you devote to improving your mental and emotional health, you will still need the company of others to feel and be your best.

Social interaction – specifically talking to someone else about your problems – can also help to reduce stress. The key is to find a supportive relationship with someone who is a “good listener”, someone you can talk to regularly, preferably face-to-face, who will listen to you without a pre-existing agenda for how you should think or feel.

Tips and strategies for connecting to others:

  • Keep in contact. Friends and family can make you feel included and cared for.
  • Get out from behind your TV or computer screen. Communication is a largely non-verbal experience that requires you to be in direct contact with other people, so don’t neglect your real-world relationships in favour of virtual interaction.
  • Spend time daily, face-to-face, with people you like. Make spending time with people you enjoy a priority. Choose friends, neighbours, colleagues, and family members who are upbeat, positive, and interested in you.
  • Volunteer. Doing something that helps others has a beneficial effect on how you feel about yourself. The meaning and purpose you find in helping others will enrich and expand your life. For example, why not join your local Mental Health Association
  • Get Involved. Join special interest groups that meet on a regular basis. These groups offer wonderful opportunities for finding people with common interests – people you like being with who are potential friends.
  • Get a pet. Caring for one makes you feel needed and loved. Animals can also get you out of the house for exercise and expose you to new people and places.
  • Talk about it. Anyone can feel isolated and overwhelmed by problems. Talking about it always helps. Even though sometimes we may feel so bad we don’t want to bother friends or family, just remember that they care and would want to help. If you feel unable to talk to those close to you, then you can call a helpline – find a list of them here.

When to seek professional help

If you were feeling physically sick you would see a doctor – and the same applies to mental health.

If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health and you still don’t feel good – then it’s time to seek professional help.  Mental health issues are much more common than you might think, even among people who may seem strong. We all need help from time to time.

Red flag feelings and behaviours that may require immediate attention

  • Inability to sleep.
  • Feeling down, hopeless, or helpless most of the time.
  • Concentration problems that are interfering with your work or home life.
  • Using nicotine, food, drugs, or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions.
  • Negative or self-destructive thoughts or fears that you can’t control.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

If you identify with any of these red flag symptoms, consider making an appointment with your GP or a mental health professional .If you need someone to talk to, you can find a list of helplines here.

“20,000 words a day and most of them defamatory. We speak to ourselves all the time. Most days we direct around 20,000 words at ourselves. Of these, nearly all are negative dialogue. How long would you expect to keep a friend if you did the same thing? You are your best friend. Start talking to yourself nicely. Say kind things to yourself about yourself. Believe. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes to the person you know most intimately and love the best.”

Taken from Recipe for Dreaming by Bryce Courtenay