Mental health is talked about a lot more than it used to be. Celebrities will now talk about depression and mental health issues in a way that they wouldn’t have before.
Who is in that photo?
This boy became a famous and much-loved man who’s been very open about his bipolar disorder.
If you’re struggling to guess you’ll need to use your Q.I..
But the way in which we approach and think about mental health is still very different to how we think about our physical health.
Just look at the area of prevention.
Most of us nowadays are super-aware of the effects of lifestyle on our physical health. We know of the likely deleterious effects of smoking, or eating badly, or not exercising, not sleeping or getting too stressed.
So we adjust our lifestyles accordingly, balancing the pleasure or pain of certain activities with the likely effects later.
But we don’t have such a developed awareness of the effects of our life and lifestyle on our mental health. But the effects can be just as powerful and debilitating.
In fact, some of the same poor lifestyle choices can clearly lead to poorer mental health as well poorer physical health. A poor diet, or lack of sleep, or not exercising, will clearly affect you mentally as well as physically.
But there are many other areas of our lives too that can, over time, affect our mental health. Here’s a non-exhaustive (but probably exhausting) list –
- Conflict in our personal relationships
- Disliking the work we do
- Unresolved personal issues
- Perpetual exposure to disturbing news stories
- Uncertainty about the future (in jobs, relationships, status, etc.)
- Financial insecurity
- The existence of Donald J. Trump
- Multiple fears and anxieties
Now, we tend to have strategies for maintaining our physical health (whether we keep to them or not), such as eating well, exercising and leading a lifestyle of moderation.
But most people tend not to have a strategy to maintain mental health.
Well, we’d say it’s worth starting to think about (and then developing your own strategy).
Here’s a non-exhaustive (but hopefully motivating) list based on what we know helps –
- Play as much as you work.
- Practise being grateful for what you have, rather than bemoaning what you don’t.
- Sit still, in silence, whether in a form of meditation, or just with a cup of tea, every day.
- Reduce your exposure to the bad news. Don’t get hooked on what’s happening in Trump land. Switch if off.
- Try to moan, complain and judge others less.
- Find people you trust whom you can talk to about things that bother you. That might be trusted friends or family, but is often best as a professional (so a counsellor or therapist).
- Try to do work you love, or try to love more what you do for work.
- Sleep more.
- Be more present to what you’re doing, without losing the pleasures of looking forwards or back to happy times.
- Look forward to happy times, like holidays, without losing your ability to be present today.
- Don’t go to bed on an argument
- Learn to let go. Don’t stress over things you can’t change. Don’t cry over spilled milk.
So, how’s your mental health?
Do you have a strategy for staying well or getting better?
Spend a few minutes now deciding on just a couple of things you’ll do every day to begin your new strategy for mental health.
Of course, with some strategies you can kill two birds with one stone. It’s worth sleeping more, exercising more, eating well and reducing stresses for both mental and physical health.
But add a couple that deal mainly with your mental health too.
Enjoy the process.
And see how you start to enjoy life more as a consequence.