When our physical health suffers, we go to the doctor for a physical checkup. But what about our minds? When was the last time you got a checkup for your mental health? The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of wellbeing where a person can realize their own potential, deal with life’s normal stresses, be a productive worker, and make positive contributions to their community. If you are struggling with any one of these aspects, you might find that your mental health is suffering. Here are four ways you can try to improve it.
- Balanced Thinking: Always dwelling on the negative in life’s circumstances is one sure fire way to bring you down fast. Your thoughts not only affect how you treat yourself but how you treat others. Only focusing on the negative will make you feel worse about a situation and about yourself as well. As a result, it is important to maintain good mental health and learn how to balance your thought patterns by considering all parts of a situation and coming to a realistic conclusion about it. Balanced thinking means that when faced with an overwhelming situation you need to consider the facts, your own opinions, how you feel, and how you are reacting. If you just allow one aspect, such as your feelings, control your thinking than your thoughts are going to become distorted.
- Exercise: Getting off of the couch and into the gym has more than just physical benefits it has plenty of mental health benefits as well. For example, physical activity increases endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine levels, all of which promote feelings of happiness and well-being. It also helps to manage feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression which can manifest in our bodies and cause muscle tension. Regular activity increases cerebral blood flow and circulation to the rest of the body allowing muscles to relax and in turn promotes mental relaxation as well. Remember, when you look good you feel good. In the long run, taking steps toward physical fitness can improve your self-esteem by changing the way you think about yourself, therefore promoting mental health.
- Relaxation: When our mind is constantly consumed with thoughts about the past and the future, it’s easy to become weighed down with fears about what will happen in the future. This creates an overflow of overwhelming thoughts in our minds and causes anxiety to build. Mental health involves allowing your mind to relax so you can concentrate on what you can control, in the here and now. You can practice meditation in order to give your mind a break and help it to focus on the present, as opposed to the past or future thoughts. Simply close your eyes, focus on your breathing and clear your mind of any thoughts unrelated to the moment. By doing this you are helping your body to relax and allowing your mind to experience a healthy period of rest.
- Expression: We all know that it’s not healthy to keep our emotions locked up inside, but when life’s pressures don’t give us the time to have a mental breakdown it’s easy to get in the habit of repressing how we really feel. Unfortunately, regular repression only builds up and manifests itself in other ways eventually affecting our physical and mental health. If you can’t talk about something or don’t know how to, try to figure out another way you can express those feelings and get them out in the open. Using self expression as an alternative way of coping has been known to help relieve emotional tension and decrease stress. Self expression can involve working on art, playing music, writing a story, or learning how to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Think of your new hobby as a way to detoxify your negative emotions while discovering new abilities or strengthening old ones. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to express yourself, as long as you find that it is helping you to release negative energy rather than bottling it up inside.
How do you maintain mental health?