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What is mental health?
Mental health is an element of wellbeing that enables us to cope with everyday stress, contribute to our communities, work productively and realise our capabilities.
Affecting how we feel, think, and behave. Mental health includes our psychological, social and emotional wellbeing. Our mental health also impacts healthy choices, how we handle stress and how we communicate with others.
Good mental health helps us feel, think and live our lives positively. It enables us to earn a living and be part of our communities. A period of poor mental health can be debilitating; interactions with others can become difficult and sometimes impossible. It can feel as bad - or worse - than a physical illness.
Why is mental health important?
Anyone, anywhere, can be affected by mental health problems, and they are far more common than you probably think. Around one in four people are affected annually. These problems range from common issues such as; anxiety and depression to eating disorders and self-harming and bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
A stigma is often associated with mental health problems, that a person is 'losing their mind' or it is a sign of weakness. This is not true; most of us know someone who has experienced a mental health problem. Mental health problems happen to people from all walks of life at any age and can be debilitating, frightening and disempowering.
Taking care of our mental health
Mental health makes a huge difference in how we function day-to-day. It helps us to maintain constructive emotions, behaviours and thoughts. Nurturing our mental health can have a positive impact on our wellbeing.
The benefits of nurturing our mental health can include:
Clarity of thought
Improvement in relationships
Increase of self-esteem
How to improve your mental health - five positive approaches to mental wellbeing
Research suggests that there are five main things that we can do to nurture our mental wellbeing:
1. Be active
Being active and taking regular exercise can help with self-esteem. Activity is associated with reduced levels of depression and anxiety. When you exercise, your brain releases natural chemicals that lift your mood. Exercise doesn't have to be high intensity, just going for a regular walk can help.
Five simple ways to become more active:
Walk further; get off the bus a stop earlier, take the longer route, walk short distances instead of jumping in the car
Take the stairs, not the lift
Find some local groups that you can join - sometimes it's easier to have people to get active with
Take a walk at lunchtime.
Have a gentle stretch in the morning
2. Connect with other people
Positive relationships with others can enhance our mental wellbeing. Loneliness and isolation can have detrimental effects on our mental health. Staying connected and social, feeling close to others and feeling valued can help provide emotional support and give you the chance to share feelings and experiences. These relationships allow us to care for others and be cared for in return.
Tips to get more connected:
Phone a friend: With all the different ways to connect these days, sometimes we forget the simplest, make a call instead of a text or an email - it's often good to hear someones voice.
Listen: Ask someone a question and really listen to the response.
Turn off the TV and play a board game with your family.
Have lunch with a work buddy
Offer your support to a friend or a family member who needs it.
3. Be mindful, pay attention to the moment
Mindfulness is a buzzword, and there is good reason for that. It can help you to understand yourself better and enjoy life more.
To be mindful, we need to be present in the moment. Here are some tips for mindfulness:
Be aware of your thoughts; thoughts can creep in when relaxing. Use your breath to let them go, think and release them.
Notice everyday things; look at the sky, the trees, the flowers - pay more attention to the things you might take for granted.
Take time to be still and fully relax.
4. Give to others
It's good to give! Research suggests that giving to others can promote personal happiness and improve wellbeing, help with connection and forge friendships, and give you a sense of self-worth and purpose.
Little acts of kindness can turn someone's day from bad to great. You don't have to save the world, however. Here are some ideas of things that you can do to make someone's day a little bit better:
Little acts of kindness:
Spend time with someone who might need some company
Say thank you to someone for doing something nice
Volunteer for a charity or community group
Offer to help someone you know
Learning encourages social interaction and enhances self-worth and self-esteem. Goal setting can improve wellbeing. You don't have to enrol at university; try some of these ideas for exercising your cerebral muscles:
Do sudoku or crosswords
Sign up for a new class
Learn a new word
Different types of mental health conditions
There are several different types of mental health conditions; we have listed some of the most commonly experienced and well-known ones here with a brief overview of what they are. Please don't self-diagnose; always seek extra support and advice from professionals.
Anxiety generates feelings of fear, worry and tension. These feelings can stem from things that we think could happen in the future or things about to happen.
Occasional anxiety is a normal human experience. Extreme feelings of anxiety can become overwhelming and can cause panic attacks and sleep problems.
There are many different anxiety disorders, including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), social anxiety and panic disorder.
Bipolar disorder affects your mood. You will experience a mixture of manic or hypomanic episodes (feeling high), depressive episodes (feeling low), and potentially some psychotic symptoms.
We all have mood variations, but in bipolar disorder, the mood swings can impact day-to-day activities and feel very extreme.
Depression manifests in a feeling of low mood; this can last for a long time and affect everyday life.
Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, despair and worthlessness are common. Depression can affect your sex life, sleep, appetite, physical wellbeing and self-esteem. It can also make you feel exhausted and unmotivated.
Severe depression can lead to suicide and self-harm. In its mildest form, it can be manageable, but it makes everything harder to do.
Private mental health care
Mental health doesn't discriminate, and it is unique to everyone. It is perfectly normal for us to feel stressed, sad, upset, worried and have difficult emotions from time to time.
People suffering from mental health problems can often slip through the net. Private mental health care can help you or a loved one take the first steps to feel better.