Mental health is about more than being free of mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. It is also about having a positive sense of wellbeing. Positive mental health allows us to enjoy life’s pleasures, believe in our own abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, work/study productively and enjoy socialising.
What is positive mental health?
Positive mental health is about reaching our potential and feeling like we always have the chance to give everything our best shot. Not just feeling positive, but also getting out there in the big bad world. Positive mental health not only prevents mental ill health, it also leads to greater enjoyment and satisfaction with one’s life.
What can I do to help maintain positive mental health?
- Eat well, be well. A lot of what you put into your body can affect how you feel inside and out. The right food and drinks can help keep your mind hydrated, active, energetic and at optimum levels for concentration.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Most people need at least 7 hours of quality sleep to function properly; if this is causing you problems then it can affect your mood. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of other things you can work on to get better sleep.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. You don’t have to run 5k every day or anything, just get your heart rate going for 30 mins of activity at least 5 days a week. Walking, dancing, swimming, team sports are only a few ways you can do this.
- Talk it out. Chatting about things that bother you can help reduce the problem, as they say ‘a problem halved is a problem solved’. If you’re not comfortable talking to a friend or family member, then it could be good to try a non-judgemental listening service like the Samaritans.
- Cut down on alcohol. Drinking booze when you’re not feeling great can make you feel worse. Alcohol is a depressant so taking a break from it or cutting down on your intake might help improve your mood.
- Stay in touch with friends. Maintaining relationships is a great way to keep a positive mental health. It can be easy to lose touch with people after school or college and this is a natural occurrence a lot of the time but make the effort to meet up and socialise, it’ll be worth it.
- Take time out. Some people find it hard to balance life between school/college/work/socialising but it’s important to remember to take time out for yourself sometimes and do things that you enjoy. Me time can be just as vital as maintaining contact with friends and family!
Factors associated with positive mental health:
Happiness at Work/School
If you are happy at work or school/college, this will help to boost your mental health. You will likely feel satisfied by your accomplishments - the pats on the back for a job well done or the good grades showing evidence of your hard work. We humans love routine and a stable work/school/ college life provides this.
Having close friends and family is very good for mental health. Having someone to chat to and socialise with is pretty essential for well-being. If you do not feel supported by your family, friends can really swoop in and be there for you. As the saying goes ‘Friends are the family you choose for yourself’.
If you are in a situation where you are being bullied, it is important to get help. It is not your fault, no matter what the bullies say. Bullies pick on people so that they can feel good about themselves and this says more about them than it does about you.
Having enough money seems to be important for mental health. Worrying daily that the bank/landlord will knock on your door is very stressful in itself. It also helps when you have enough money to buy healthy food. Cheaper food may be high in sugar or fat and more healthy food may be more expensive. The link between food and mood is so significant that the mental health charity, Mind, has written a guide on the link between the two.
Freedom from discrimination
Discrimination seriously impacts mood and mental health. Many groups in society are discriminated against, for reasons ranging from hair colour to skin colour to sexuality to gender. There are various organisations that help to support people being discriminated against. These organisations provide legal advice also.
It is always good to have an outlet for stress or even happiness. Anything from baking to sewing to singing will help release any pent up frustrations. It is also good to be able to express a full range of emotions and creative pursuits allow you to do this.