Mental health is often overlooked due to factors like fighting stigma, or lack of knowledge, awareness, and understanding of how important it is. When compared to physical health, mental health seems to be much further down the priority list.
Unfortunately, this leads to overlooked and undiagnosed symptoms, which can cause serious health concerns down the road.
What is Mental Health?
First, let’s answer the question of what mental health exactly means. As the term is used more in daily conversation, the more it can be misconstrued. Try not to confuse “mental health” with “mental illness” because those are two separate concepts.
Mental health is essentially your level of psychological and emotional well-being. Having good mental health means you are in a positive state where you feel in control in all aspects of your life, whether it’s in regards to work, social connections, hobbies and activities, or during difficult times.
On the flip side, poor mental health can open the door to a number of issues, including being the cause of mental illness. The mind and body are intrinsically connected, so when your mental health suffers, your physical health can follow suit.
Depression has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, and a study from Oxford University shows severe mental illnesses can reduce life expectancy by 10 to 20 years.
How Important is Mental Health?
Once you look at the facts, it’s a no-brainer that good mental health is important. Self-care is a great way to encourage positive mental health — research shows it begins with how you think about yourself and what you tell yourself daily.
Find your strengths and acknowledge them. In addition to being kind to yourself, there are a few other ways to help improve your mental well-being.
Connect with others in more than just a superficial way. Try to be more trusting by having deep conversations and opening up with someone. Reciprocate that connection and do something for that person that not only makes them feel good but makes you feel enriched.
Having good relationships with other people is an important factor in contributing to a positive sense of well-being.
Meditate and do it often. Even just five minutes a day can make a big impact. Clearing your mind and focusing on nothing but your breath is incredibly relaxing, hugely beneficial, and gets easier the more you do it.
Meditating can help you better handle negative feels and emotions, and there are a variety of ways to practice, so try them out and find one that works for you. Grab a comfortable spot on the couch or somewhere at home where you won’t be disturbed and use a meditation app to guide you.
Close your eyes while on the transport to and from work and count your breaths. If you can carve out more time, try floatation therapy – it’s known to help combat anxiety and depression.
Make sure you’re getting enough exercise. It can be as simple as going for a walk around the neighbourhood once a day, or as rigorous as a daily exercise routine. Experts recommend a minimum of 10 minutes of moderate to intense physical movement a day to release endorphins in your brain and put you in a better mood.
To get the most out of your exercise, aim for 30 minutes a day, and when possible, get outside. Vitamin D from the sun increases your serotonin levels and helps reduce stress.
Finally, eat well and sleep plenty. Poor diet and sleep habits can have significant impacts on your mood and overall well-being, so try and limit junk food and sugars and get to bed on time. Remember, change doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t immediately make and stick with these adjustments.