I feel like we aren’t talking enough about good mental health even though it’s one of the most important things in the world.
Everyone has mental health and absolutely no one has great mental health all of the time. It’s often described as a spectrum that we move up and down throughout our lifetime. Sometimes we are balanced, other times we start to slide and, sometimes, some of us will slip into mental illness.
So, if mental health is something that we all have why aren’t we taught how to look after our minds?
Why, as we go through life learning about the importance of physical health—the importance of keeping fit, the importance of eating the right food—are we not also learning about how to stay mentally healthy?
Did you know that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental health issues at some stage of their life?
Too often we wait until we feel like our minds are at breaking point before we begin to think about our mental health but by that point it becomes much harder to deal with.
What Is Good Mental Health?
Having no mental health illnesses does not mean that you have good mental health.
Good mental health is more than the absence of mental health illness. It’s more about having the ability to deal with the rollercoaster of life. It’s not about simply feeling happy either; it’s more about confidence, self-esteem, being mindful, and being able to connect with those around you.
Good mental health can look like this:
✓ You’re resilient – when life throws a shitstorm your way you’re prepared to deal with it
✓ You let emotions in – when faced with an upsetting situation you allow yourself to feel sad. You understand that all emotions are welcome
✓ You don’t let emotions take over – although you welcome all emotions you also know when they’re becoming too much and take action to get yourself back on track
✓ You find support – you recognise that sometimes you will need help, and, when you do, you seek it out
✓ You’re mindful – you don’t live in the past letting past traumas dictate your life, and you don’t sit around waiting for the future to fix your problems. You live in the present and appreciate each day and what you have
✓ You connect – you build relationships with those around you—friends, family, colleagues—strong ties with other people make you feel good
✓ You’re always a student – you never stop learning and challenging yourself. Challenges exercise the mind which keeps it healthy (just like going for a run helps your heart)
It sounds like a lot doesn’t it? And it is, I sure can’t be like that every single day but that’s why we talk about mental health being on a spectrum.
Our goal should be to find a balance and to understand that good mental health doesn’t mean you’re never sad, it just means you’re actively trying to look after your mind.
Now, if I ask you what you do to look after your physical health I’ll bet you can list a handful of ways you attempt to keep yourself fit—run, walk, swim, dance, lift weights, eat your greens, cycle—whatever your regime you’ll be sure to have some activities in mind. And, even if you’re not keeping yourself physically healthy you know you should be and you know what you should be doing because it’s stuffed in our faces in all sorts of ways (that’s a good thing, by the way).
But, what if I asked you what you do to look after your mind? If you’ve read this far I’m thinking you’re probably quite into this ‘look after your mind’ malarky and would like some tips on what to do.
I’ve got lots to tell you about this over the course of the next few months but for this blog post I want to provide five tips that you can start today. They’re not easy and you’ve gotta be in this for the long run.
Looking after your mental health is not dissimilar to looking after your physical health—you want a healthy heart you gotta move every single day, you can’t just have a quick run when you feel like it—you have to work at this and you have to think about it daily.
5 Top Tips For Good Mental Health
Getting to a state of good mental health takes time and effort but, like anything in life, good things don’t come easy.
1) Be Kind to Yourself
Do you ever say things to yourself that you’d never dream of saying to someone else? We tend to be our own worst critic and thoughts like: ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I can’t do this’, or, ‘I’m useless’, swim around our heads and, over time, they can really drag us down.
Our thoughts are seriously powerful and we tend to believe some really daft stuff. If this sounds like you then it’s time to start changing those thoughts. Tell yourself: ‘I can do this’, ‘I am good enough’, ‘I am brave enough to try’.
Honestly? You’re probably going to feel pretty weird doing this at first but stick with it, over time, these can become your normal thoughts but repetition is key.
I once read that positive thoughts alone might not fix anything, but negative thoughts are a sure way to bring you down. Think about it, there’s a whole lot of truth in that so if negativity is bound to hurt you but positivity might help you, doesn’t it make sense to try?
2) Talk to Someone
Support is absolutely necessary. We all need someone in our corner but you’ve got to find the right person. Someone who will listen to you without judgement, someone you feel comfortable with. It might be your partner, your sibling, your parent, your best mate, your therapist, a stranger you met in a support group. Who it is really doesn’t matter, what matters is that you’ve got someone (or some people) that you can turn too when you’re in need.
If you’ve got something on your mind then just let it out to someone that you trust.
If you’re really troubled and don’t feel ready to talk to someone in person you can always phone a charity helpline such as the Samaritans.
However you choose to talk, just make sure that you do.
3) Take Time Out
It’s easy to get stuck on the hamster wheel of life but if you don’t get off to take some time out for yourself you’re going to burn out. There’s no maybe about this, you WILL burn out eventually.
Instead of waiting for that to happen and taking days, weeks or even months to recover, make the time for yourself on a regular basis to do the things that make your soul sing. Whether it’s walking, drawing, reading, or coffee with a friend, pick things that make you happy and go do them.
And do them often.
Don’t tell me you’re too busy because if you’re too busy to take time out for yourself now, then one day, you aren’t going to be much use to anyone at all. Burnout is real my friend and trust me when I say recovery from it takes a loooooooooooong time.
The real goal is to create a life that you don’t need to escape from. The real goal is to love your life.
Live and don’t just exist.
4) Put Your Phone Down
Step away from your PC, put down your phone, switch off your television.
We’ve developed some pretty bad habits when it comes to our digital devices and they’re wreaking havoc with our minds.
Too much screen time has been linked to poor vision, poor quality of sleep, and weight gain.
It’s even been proven that excessive screen time can restructure our brains!
So tell me, when was the last time you sat and just did nothing?
When we have nothing to do we tend to whip out our phone and mindlessly scroll through junk we don’t really care about.
But, when you do nothing you give your chance a mind to wander which is where you’ll find it’s at its best (there’s a reason people often say they get their best ideas in the shower).
A wandering mind can unlock creative thoughts and reduce stress.
Try it today, when you’re waiting for someone to arrive to your meeting, waiting for your bus, waiting for whatever it is you happen to be waiting for, DO NOT take out your phone. Just sit in the moment and be.
You can also consider a digital wellness app as these are popping up all over the place now. These apps can show you how much time you spend on your phone and on individual apps. You can even customise them with timers to shut apps down when you’ve reached your daily limit.
Sound scary to you? That’s probably a sign you’re spending too much time glued to your phone so go try one out and see how you feel.
Side note: I could not believe the amount of time I wasted on social media apps but the realisation made me start changing my habits pretty damn swiftly. And, I can promise you I feel much better for it.
5) Do Some Exercise
We’re told to exercise to keep our bodies fit but did you know that exercise can also keep your mind healthy?
Exercising is one of the best habits to improve mental health that you can go for.
Now, I’m no scientist but my research tells me that exercising can literally change your brain and increase your brain cells. It can even protect your brain against incurable diseases.
To learn more I want to direct you to this incredible TED talk by Neuroscientist, Wendy Suzuki: The Brain Changing Benefits of Exercise.
Seriously, watch it and then get up and go exercise! But maybe finish reading this post first…
After exercise you feel good because, in a nutshell, your brain actually sees exercise as a form of stress so it releases stress-busting chemicals to protect you which make you feel awesome.
Someone once said to me, “I never regret going for a run, but I always regret when I don’t.”
I say this to myself every time I feel like not leaving the sofa these days and it definitely helps to get me up and out (most of the time…)
And do you know the good news?
You don’t have to sweat buckets in the gym, or push yourself for hours every day. Just 20-30 minutes of dedicated movement each day can help. You just gotta make sure you’re increasing your heart rate and getting your blood flowing to reap the benefits.
Looking after your mental health and working towards good mental health isn’t easy but it is something we should all be doing.
Good mental health means we can be better equipped to deal with life’s challenges and just generally feel good about ourselves.
When we’re happy with who we are and do the things we want to do life becomes fun and I believe that every single one of us deserves to experience that.
Let me know what you do to look after your mental health or which of these tips you want to try out.
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