Stress can have a profound effect on our mental health. Good mental health can protect us from the harmful effects of stress.
Many people confuse the terms mental health and mental illness. People often think that mental health is simply the absence of a mental illness. Mental health is the presence of a feeling of well-being that comes from knowing that you can cope with the challenges life sends your way and feeling satisfied with your life. Mental health is about our ability to enjoy life, deal with challenges and life events, and experiencing positive and meaningful connections with other people. Mental health is about balance between all aspects of our lives social, physical, spiritual, and emotional. Good mental health is essential to good health and quality of life.
Mental health can range from “flourishing” (good) to “languishing” (poor). Unfortunately, many people are languishing, which means that they experience few of the signs of good mental health and simply accept their present state as normal for them. People can experience poor mental health and yet not have a mental illness and people living with a mental illness can also experience good mental health.
But none of us, even those who may be languishing or experiencing a mental illness, needs to settle for poor mental health. If we can recognize our strengths and address those areas in which we struggle, we can move closer to flourishing instead of just getting by. It is possible for each and every one of us to enjoy life more.
We can all improve our mental health, in the same way that we can our physical health. We can practice good mental-health habits and exercise our strengths and coping strategies. We can build good mental health, one step at a time.
Below is a list of things that contribute to good mental health. By taking time to think about these different aspects of life, you get to know yourself better, and identify those areas of your life that you might wish to pay closer attention to in order to enjoy life more and experience a greater sense of well being. No one feels happy and fulfilled all the time and everyone can learn and grow.
Achieving good mental health is a life long journey and may start by asking yourself some simple questions in order to better understand your strengths and those areas in your life you might wish to strengthen. Asking ourselves questions and exploring these different parts of yourself is not about trying to figure out what’s wrong but rather it’s all about discovering and unlocking your full potential and learning how to get the most out of living.
The things that contribute towards are wellbeing includes;
Am I normally happy and interested in life? Do I smile a lot? Can I tolerate and cope with such difficult emotions as anger, fear, anxiety, and sadness?
Do I like who and what I am? Can I acknowledge both the positive and negative parts of myself.
Do I recognize my own potential and feel a sense of continued development? Am I open to new experiences and change?
Purpose in life:
Does my life have direction and meaning?
Mastery of the environment:
Do I address my needs in a positive, constructive, and non-violent way?
Do I live according to my own standards and values? What are the personal beliefs that guide me? Do I accept without question what other people tell me or do I weigh them? Do I feel able to ask questions and challenge others in a respectful way? Do I recognize my own needs and am I able to communicate them to others?
Positive relationships with others:
Do I have warm, trusting, and meaningful personal relationships?
Am I positive toward others and accept their differences? Do I trust people?
Attitudes about people:
Do I believe that people and society in general have potential and can grow positively?
Contribution to society:
Is what I do every day useful to and valued by others and by myself?
Interest in people:
Am I interested in people, society, and the world around me? Am I concerned for the welfare of others?
Sense of belonging:
Do I feel that I belong to my community and that it supports and comforts me?
Quality of life:
Am I normally highly satisfied with my life?
Hopefully these questions have been helpful and have got you thinking and talking more about mental health wellness. Talking and listening is always an important part of personal growth, it’s how most of us learn. Include trusted friends and family members in these conversations and remember other resources can include your doctor, spiritual health care provider, or other health care providers such as mental health professionals.
(Note: This section on Mental Health has adapted from material originally produced by Corey Keyes, 2007.)
We can derive strength from a variety of sources-- both from within ourselves (such as things we do that help us cope with the ups and downs in life), and from outside ourselves. Examples are:
people who guide, teach, and challenge us
- healthyful activities
leisure and creative activities, sports, exercise, reading, and activities that distract and entertain us
faith, and those qualities that provide meaning and purpose, the way we experience a connection to others, to nature, the earth and the world around us
- mental health
doing something each day that is important to you and that makes you feel better about the day and yourself, managing stress, paying attention to the moments when you are feeling good, not only when you are feeling bad
- access to medical services and support
giving back to your community, being interested in and helping others, volunteering
Look at the list above and determine which of them are sources of strength for you right now?
Which areas would you like to strengthen and pay closer attention to? Over the last year or two, is there an area that has become stronger?
(Note: Knowing What Gives You Strength was adapted from Sources of Strength
Reseachers in the U.K. have identified five strategies that contribute most to mental health and that can be sources of strength:
- 1. Give
help others, volunteer, give back to your community.
- 2. Keep learning
learn and try new things, find a mentor (someone who will challenge you in positive ways), become a student of life.
- 3. Be active
be physically and mentally active, exercise, keep moving.
- 4. Take notice
-- be curious and adopt a beginner’s mind, observe the world around you.
- 5. Connect
connect with others, cultivate and nurture relationships, get involved in your community, connect with yourself, pay attention to your needs, wants, feelings and experiences.
Sponsored by the Government of Manitoba, Department of Healthy Living.
© 2009-2011 Klinic Community Health Centre • Winnipeg Manitoba Canada