12 Great Ways to Take Charge of Your Mental Health
What is Mental Health?
The Mental Health Foundation describes good mental health as making the best of your potential, being able to cope with life, and contributing to family, workplace, community, and friends. Mental health affects how you think, feel, and behave. There are mental health indicators in three domains:
- emotional well-being, including satisfaction and happiness
- psychological well-being, including self-acceptance, optimism, and positive relationships
- social well-being, including personal self-worth and a sense of community.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is more than the absence of mental illness, but a state of well-being in which a person realizes his own potential, copes with the normal stresses of life, works productively, and contributes to his community.
From these definitions of mental health, it is evident that your mental health impacts all areas of your life. However, there are many factors that could have a negative impact your mental health. These could include social, cultural, and physical stressors. Research also suggests that factors such as genetics, chemical imbalances, and negative experiences such as trauma could affect your mental health.
What is important is that you take the necessary steps to enhance your mental health daily. It is also critical that you seek the professional help and support you need, where there are signs that you are not coping effectively.
Based on my professional experience, I find that these 12 steps can be helpful as you move towards pursuing a more balanced lifestyle and improved mental health.
Important Facts on Mental Health
Mental illness could impair your daily cognitive, emotional and cognitive functions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
- Approximately 20 percent of the children and adolescents in the world have mental health problem
- The leading cause of disability worldwide results from mental and substance abuse disorders
- Mental health problems are ranked among the most prominent causes of suicide.
- Traumatic occurrences like wars and disasters have an impact on mental health
Stigma leads to abuse and rejection of people with mental health problems, and this hinders them from seeking care
Learn About Mental Health
Improving Your Mental Health: Important Steps
What is Mental Health Poll
Why is good mental health essential?
By taking these steps and making simple changes in your life, you could experience tremendous positive impact on your mental health.
1. Accept Yourself
Recognize and make good use of your strengths, abilities, and talent. At the same time, know your areas of weaknesses. While you are taking steps to strengthen these areas, accept yourself. This means understanding, respecting, being kind to yourself.
It is important that you come to terms with the fact that people are different, and as such, they have different qualities and areas of strengths and limitations. So while you might not be good at maths like a co-worker, you might be a terrific cook
Take time to celebrate, be thankful for your achievements, and at the same time reach out and commend the achievements of others. Focus on what is working in your life instead of commiserating about the adverse situations in your life.
Learn from your mistakes. Then use these lessons to clarify your goals and move forward with the confidence that you can achieve your dreams.
2. Express Your Feelings
Your emotions are an important part of who you are. So express your feelings in appropriate ways. Let people know if there are things that are bothering you. This could have a beneficial effect on your mental health.
When you bottle up feelings, such as anger and sadness, this could lead to deeper feelings of depression and anxiety. You might hide your feelings because you consider talking about them as a sign of weakness.
Talking about how you feel about situations helps you to cope with problems that trouble you. Then, through conversation with people who actively listen, you can get support and encouragement.
I can't change the direction of the wind but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.— Jimmy Dean
3. Promote Social Connections
Research indicates that there is an association between relationship and mental health, and enduring relationships are associated with good mental health. This not surprising since we all need a sense of belonging which we find in nurturing relationships.
Spend time with your friends and loved ones, for example, rekindle the romance in your marriage. Build healthy relationship with people who can help you solve problems in practical ways. They can give you fresh insights on challenging situations.
This support and encouragement should be mutual, as you find opportunities to build up others in your network. In the end, you enjoy a sense of relatedness that enhances you mental health.
Physical Activity Poll
How often do you exercise or are involved in physical activity?
4. Maintain Your Physical Health
Be sure to maintain proper eating habits including having balanced meals. The food you eat affect how you feel. Studies suggest that good nutrition is essential to mental health, so ensure that you eat foods with adequate amounts of necessary nutrients.
It is also important that you know foods you need to avoid, such as saturated fats and too much sugar. On the hand, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and a balance of food to improve your mental functioning
Don't abuse alcohol of drugs. But get adequate sleep and rest which have mental health benefits. For example, sleep helps sharpen your attention and decreases your stress.
5. Stay Physically Active
Your mental health is related to your physical health. For example, physical activity clears your mind and improve your health and mood. Regular exercise could also boost your self-esteem, and help you to sleep better.
Physical activity improves your health including controlling body weight and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Such disease could take a toll on your mental health. Find something you enjoy doing, for example, walking, and then you are more likely to stick to it.
Larry M. Leith, in his book, Exercising your way to Better Mental Health, explains how exercise impacts your mental health. The book discusses the value of exercise in promoting positive mental health.
It provides checklists, worksheets and guidelines for specific exercises to help readers to take charge of their mental health. It will expose you to various types of exercises and tools that can help you to stick to your exercise program and improve your mental health.
6. Practice Self-Discipline
Practising self-discipline means making the right choices in your life, even when you don't feel like doing so. It is taking responsibility for your choices, and not blaming others for your wrong decisions.
Professional speaker, Brian Tracy, explains that "when you practice self-discipline you like and respect yourself more." This boosts your self-esteem. Self-discipline also gives you the power to stick to your decisions and to follow through the goals you set yourself.
You can improve your self-discipline with daily practice. For example, take step to strengthen your self-discipline to overcome procrastination that could cause stress in your life. Self-discipline leads to achieving your goals and a sense satisfaction and fulfilment.
When you practice self-discipline you like and respect yourself more.— Brian Tracey
Being a Highly Disciplined Person
7. Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
There is always something to be thankful for, so take some time to express gratitude and thankfulness for even the small things in life. It is so easy to take some things for granted. But when you cultivate a grateful spirit, you show appreciation for benefits and blessings in your life. Then you are happier and more content.
You will need to be proactive in your approach, and take simple steps to be more thankful. You could start by keeping a gratitude journal. In your journal, list things in your life that you are grateful for, and then describe the positive difference they make. This exercise could encourage you in challenging times.
Enhancing Mental Wellness Poll
What is the most important step you take daily to enhance your mental health?
8. Maintain a Positive Outlook on Life
Related to your attitude of gratitude is a positive outlook. This optimism helps you to be hopeful even in adverse situations. When you see and interpret the world around you in a positive light, you see opportunities instead of problems.
According to the Mayo Clinic, research suggests that there are health benefits associated with positive thinking including better psychological well-being and coping skills in adverse situations.
So start with paying attention to your self-talk. What you say to yourself affects how you feel and how you behave. Practice overcoming negative self-talk by using positive affirmations about yourself and relabeling situations in positive ways.
9. Promote Your Spirituality
You are more than physical; the spiritual aspect of your life has a great impact on how you view life and deal with the challenges you face. Since you don't have all the answers, you will need to extend your faith to someone greater than yourself.
Your spirituality should provide a source of strength that under-girds your mental health. For example, I find that my faith in God helps me to overcome life's challenges.
As I meditate on God's Word and reflect on how much he loves and cares for me. I experience feelings of acceptance and security. My knowledge of God's love for me is the greatest protective factor which enhances my mental health, and my faith guides me towards spiritual growth.
Understand the difference between "failing," which each of us does often, and "being a failure," which is a state of mind no one should ever allow themselves to fall into.— Jonathan Lockwood Huie
10. Make Positive Changes in Your Life
Change can be difficult, but there are times when they are necessary to help you to grow and move into new opportunities. For example, motivational speaker. Brian Tracy insists that you, "change your words for a positive outlook." When you embrace change, this could improve your mental health and energize you to pursue a new place with fresh possibilities.
There are times that you might need a change of pace, which could mean slowing down your career because it is becoming too stressful, or you need to give more attention to your family life. On the other hand, you could begin to pursue new hobbies like writing or gardening. Whatever the form, change takes courage, and so you have to draw from you inner spiritual resources.
Improving Your Mental Health
Tips for Promoting Mental Wellness
Recognize your strengths and abilities
Nurture your spirituality
Proper eating habits
Connect with others
Strengthen weak areas where possible
Cultivate a grateful atitude
Stay physically active
Spend time with friends and loved ones
Understand that people are different
Practice making responsible choices
Get adequate sleep and rest
Receive fresh insights on problems
Recognize your feelings as important
Pay attention to your self-talk
Abstain from alcohol and drugs
Enjoy mutual support
Express your feelings
Use positive affirmations
Enjoy the outdoors
Help others; volunteer
Brian Tracy: Words That Can Change Your Life
11. Reach Out To Others
Helping others is beneficial, not just to them, but also to you. For example, when you volunteer in your community it impacts others, but it also gives you a sense satisfaction and builds your self-esteem.
Reaching out to others keeps the focus off you. You connect with people, make new friends, and strengthen relationships. You also get a chance to practice and develop new skills.
12. Ask for and Accept Help
If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. Recognise when you are experiencing difficulty and get help to cope from a relative, trusted friend, mental health professional or support group.
Accepting support is a part of being human, we need each other. The sooner you take steps to get help, the sooner you will get on track to experiencing the purposeful life you desire.
Maintaining Your Mental Well-Being
Your mental health impacts every area of your life. Good mental health is more than being free from mental disorders like anxiety and depression. It involves your overall well-being and includes a sense of contentment, life with meaning, and nurturing relationships.
You might need to make changes to improve your mental health. For example, finding the right balance in your work and relationships is beneficial to mental health. Be sure to set achievable goals for your life and move forward to achieving them.
These twelve steps could go a far way in improving your mental health. But it will take self-discipline to keep taking the steps to maintain your mental health even when you don't feel like doing so. But as you set realistic goals and achieve them, you will experience a sense of accomplishment and your mental well-being will improve.
References and Further Reading
BrookHaven Hospital (2013). What is mental health. Accessed March 18, 2014.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mental health basics. Accessed March 17, 2014.
Mayo Clinic (2014). Positive thinking: Stop self-talk to reduce stress. Accessed August 24, 2015.
McKoy, K. (2011). Healthy, place, relationship and mental health. Accessed March 18, 2014.
Mental Health Foundation (n. d.) What is mental health? Accessed March 17, 2014.
World Health Organization (WHO). 10 facts on mental health. Accessed March 18, 2014.
© 2014 Yvette Stupart PhD