Positive mental health doesn’t mean being happy all the time, it just means you can enjoy life and feel positive emotions. Just like a physically healthy person may still get a cold occasionally, someone with good mental health will still be faced with difficult situations like grief or relationship breakdown. However, they are more likely to bounce back from adversity more quickly and have developed positive coping skills.
Working on your mental health is just as important as your physical health, but how do we help our brains be more resilient and our thoughts and feelings more positive? There is tonnes of research into positive mental health and I have included below some tips that could improve your mental wellbeing:
- Social connections
Sharing experiences with other people, whether they are positive or negative, builds bonds and improves your coping mechanisms. It is even thought social relationships are linked to better cardiovascular health and better immune systems.
- Staying active
Being active helps improve both your physical and mental fitness. Going for a run or to the gym for some people may feel like a chore (I am one of those people!) so find something active you enjoy. It could be dancing or walking somewhere beautiful and taking in the scenery. If you enjoy it, you’re more likely to keep going and get more out of it. Anything active has a whole heap of benefits from better sleep, mood and health, as well as helping to manage stress and anxiety.
- Being present (mindfulness)
In general, anxiety is linked to a preoccupation with the future and depression with a preoccupation with the past. So being more present in the here and now can reduce symptoms of both these conditions. One way of being more present is mindfulness and there are many ways to practise this – find one that works for you. There is meditation, which is
Modern life is fast paced and we all feel the pressure to be productive and fill our days. However, this can quickly lead to stress and burn out. Finding time to have some ‘me’ time can make a big difference to your mental health and wellbeing. It doesn’t have to take a long time but is a part of your day where you are focussed on yourself rather than being productive. Self-care is individual to each person but some good examples include a bubble bath, reading a book or listening to music.
Practising gratitude is a great way to train your brain to focus on the positive aspects of your day. Studies have shown that people who consciously count their blessings and embrace a mind-set of gratitude are happier and less depressed. Some people keep a gratitude diary, others use apps or notes on their phones to quickly jot down what they have been grateful for each day. It could be anything you were grateful for that day like “I was grateful to see the first flowers of spring” or “Seeing my sister today made me feel happy”. Whether you decide to actively spend time each day writing down 5 things you are grateful for each day or whether you just silently acknowledge one thing that made you smile each day, you should reap the benefits of this practise.
Of course, sometimes these tips alone are not enough and you need speak to a mental health professional. Counselling can help you whether you have a mental health condition or not because it provides a space for you to verbalise your thoughts and feelings and view them in new ways, as well as developing your coping strategies.
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light”
– Aristotle Onassis