Mental health is usually spoken about when things go wrong. The focus is on the issues and struggles people face, yet we ALL have mental health just like we all have physical health.
There is a far better understanding when it comes to our physical health. We know that exercising and eating the right things are good for us and proactively improves our general wellbeing. The approach to mental health is much more reactive – it’s about responding to issues as and when they arise. And this really isn’t the best answer. Prevention is always better than cure.
So how can we better look after our mental health?
Self-awareness is the cornerstone of success. Understanding our emotions and how they impact our thoughts and behaviours allow us to figure out what is working and what is not. This awareness enable us to take it to the next level and start managing our emotions, actively taking steps to choose the response we want in given situations.
Another essential pillar is building our self-confidence and esteem. When we believe in our abilities and value our self-worth we become unstoppable. Our esteem and confidence levels have a profound influence on the decisions we make and the actions we take. It fuels motivation, drives persistence and enables us to adapt to change better – and it takes a lot of work to keep on top of. Our confidence levels fluctuate constantly, so it’s something we need to actively work on to ensure it stays high.
And looking after our mental health is about our happiness levels. Happiness is often seen as an end goal – work hard then you’ll be successful, and once you’re successful then you’ll be happy. Happiness is not a by-product of success, but a fundamental part of it. When we are happy we are much more likely to perform better, and when we deliver better results we become more successful. Happiness isn’t about short bursts of elation when we achieve something good, but the long-term contentment we get from cultivating a positive mindset.
There are lots of steps we can take to become more mentally healthy, and here are my top four:
1- Check in with yourself- How we feel changes on a daily basis so checking in with yourself regularly and giving yourself a few moments to reflect on how you feel really helps. Ask yourself how you are, examine why you feel that way, and explore whether there is anything you can do to maintain or improve it. I like keeping a journal. Getting my thoughts down on paper helps me clarify them, stops me from blowing things out of proportion and enables me to see patterns. If I notice particular emotions or behaviours being triggered over a period of time then I can start figuring out why and do something about it.
2- Exercise everyday- When we exercise it releases endorphins – this is a ‘feel good’ chemical which improves our mood. Exercise has been linked to an increase in self-confidence and esteem, helps us sleep better, gets us to feel more positively about ourselves and life in general, reduces stress, anxiety and depression, along with a whole lot more. And I mean a whole lot more. Every important life skill that you could possibly need can be practised, developed and improved through sport.
3- Talk about it– It’s okay to not be okay. We all have ups and downs and talking about how we feel (both the good stuff and the bad) is really healthy. Sharing the burden with other people prevents us feeling isolated and alone. Sometimes it can be difficult to make sense of our emotions. They can be chaotic and messy, and trying to unravel them is hard. Starting conversations around this might feel a little awkward at first, but gently persisting with this can lead to some incredibly positive breakthroughs and it might encourage others to open up too.
4- Surround Yourself With Positivity- A negative person has vampiric like qualities, sucking the energy out of us. They have such a draining effect that it’s can be quite difficult to hold on to your own positivity. Limit your time around people like this and set firm boundaries. This doesn’t mean surrounding yourself with people who agree with you all the time, but the people who act like rechargeable batteries.