- Today is ‘World Mental Health Day’ and we’re exploring how you can improve your mental state and what to look out for if you or a loved one is suffering.
- We’ll look at how having a healthy mind can contribute to greater balance across all areas.
What is mental health?
Two of the most common mental health conditions, depression and anxiety, cost the global economy 1 trillion each year.
Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorders, and experiencing mental health challenges does not mean that there has to be extreme issues.
It’s helpful to think of mental health as an awareness of your state of mind, and the actions you can take to make it as healthy as possible. Think of this on a sliding scale – for example – we could go from a temporary anxious thought all the way to crippling chronic anxiety. This parallels physical health – it incorporates an awareness of your body and the actions you can take to make it healthier. A sliding scale here would look like an awareness that you’d be healthier if you lost some weight, to being told that your weight was posing a serious health risk by your doctor.
The world would be in a much better place if we would talk more openly about our own mental state and share how we can improve it and support each other. Not just those of us who are openly depressed, but also those unfulfilled or just let down by life. This can be especially true for men where tradition and society have taught us to not communicate our feelings.
The same way the world would be better if we talked openly about all levels of physical health, outside of simple aesthetics, but incorporating other important aspects such as strength, healthy ageing and muscle mass. Aspects of physical health that the majority of the population are affected by but because these aren’t as visual are largely ignored.
How to be aware of mental health?
Signs that indicate that mental health might need attention:
- Desire to not go outside or socialise
- Higher than normal alcohol consumption
- Not being present
- Distance in relationships
- Physical pain or discomfort
- Feeling “leaden” or extremely low in energy
- Feeling very sensitive, or irritable
When I became aware of my own mental health it had already been affected for quite some time. I just had ignored the early signs and hadn’t been taking all the steps I could to protect it. These signs were being lost in thought most of the day, lack of presence around family, and worry over things I thought I couldn’t control. I only became aware once I had physical signs: heart palpitations, tension in my neck and shoulders, pain in my upper abdomen.
How to improve mental health?
There can be a tendency to address any improvement we want to make by applying a sledgehammer to the problem before we’ve built in any proven consistent practices. Think diets or 6 week challenges for physical health instead of building healthy nutrition habits and progressive training. Think psychedelics, microdosing and extreme activities for mental health before we are using meditation, journalling, counselling etc.
Ways to improve mental health:
- Time in nature
- Talking to trusted, supportive loved ones
- Separating time in thought and planning and time in action
- Take control of your physical self (food, rest, train)
Ways to numb or worsen mental health:
- Complaining without efforts towards change
- Drugs including alcohol
- Social media
- Excessive food
- Excessive spending
- Neglecting sleep
What we covered today:
- Mental health is the awareness of mental state and the actions that can be taken to improve it, the effects do not have to be extreme.
- There are early signs to look out for that mental health might need attention and ways to improve it however incorporating these practices now would benefit everyone regardless of circumstances.
- When looking to affect health whether mental or physical, think of the sustainable lifelong practices first before looking towards more short-term or one-off solutions.
Just before you go:
We could benefit from asking ourselves and others how we are really feeling, deep down. We might have to ask this multiple times to get underneath the surface.
I think this clip from Good Will Hunting fits really well here.