What is Mental Health?
How Can I Improve mine?
“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl, but by all means, keep moving.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
Mental health is the foundation of your wellbeing.
It affects how you think and feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships, and how you experience life in general. Just as physical health is important for our overall wellbeing, mental health provides a foundation for success in life. Mental health refers to our cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being—how we think, feel, and act. It helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health comprises “subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy [or confidence], autonomy [or independence], competence [or skill level], intergenerational dependence [or support from family or society], and self-actualization [the fulfillment of one’s potential]”—all of which contribute to an individual’s ability to thrive in all environments. Mental health affects how you handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior ARE affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems including biological aspects such as genes or brain chemistry; life experiences such as trauma or abuse; and family history of mental health problems.
Mental health problems are common but help is available. People with mental health problems can get better and may be able to recover completely.
Mental Health Includes:
- Emotional Well-Being
- Psychological Well-Being
- Social Well-Being
What are Coping Skills?
Coping skills are the behaviors you use to help manage your symptoms when they arise. You can have good coping skills and bad coping skills. Good coping skills generally use healthy methods (you may have heard them called ‘outlets’) of dealing with stress, whereas bad coping skills don’t deal with the stress at all or are unhealthy methods of dealing with stress and either delay recovery or can worsen your situation.
Some common examples of good coping skills include:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Relaxation breathing
- Talking to friends and family about problems
- Expressing emotions through art projects (drawing, painting, writing)
- Focusing on hobbies (reading, music, gardening)
Some examples of bad coping skills include:
- Avoiding problems rather than dealing with them (avoidance is a very common symptom in people who struggle with mental illness)
- Using drugs or alcohol as a means of calming down (this is also called self-medicating)“Building healthy coping skills can help you manage most of your symptoms when they arise. Being physically active can help boost your self-esteem and mood, strengthen muscles, reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, increase energy levels, support creativity, and critical thinking skills, improve brain function, and increase overall productivity. Even starting with 5 pushups or taking a walk around the block will be beneficial to your journey.
- “I now run a mile to two miles a day and it gets me happy when I wake up sad. Which is most days. ” -Jeremy (Author)
Other activities include but are not limited to:
• Jumping jacks
• Skipping rope
• Yoga or stretching exercises
• Walking or running up and down the stairs in your house/apartment building (this does not include climbing flights of stairs for the purpose of the exercise)
• Cleaning your room/house/apartment
(these can all be done at home)
Just like your physical health, you can improve and maintain your mental health throughout life.
Coping Skills into Your Purpose
If you don’t already, you should try to have some good coping skills you can use when you are feeling symptoms of your mental illness, try learning some new ones. There are so many websites out there nowadays to help you find some direction. Here are some steps to take to help find some purpose: Develop a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset is linked to having a sense of purpose. …
- Create a personal vision statement. … (start a diary or journal about what goals you want to accomplish)
- Give back. … (it can be as easy as picking up trash around your neighborhood or block)
- Practice gratitude. … (saying thank you or starting affirmations…we will get to those in another article)
- Turn your pain into purpose. … (this is referring to healthy outlets)
- Explore your passions. … (actually give some of your ideas for positive outlets a try. If you have something particular in mind, GIVE IT A TRY!)
- Be part of a community. … (this doesn’t have to be church although it could be, it could also be finding a local group with which your interests align)
- Spend time with people who inspire you. (you can find many inspirational people on youtube, do your research and start with people who are credible and positive)
Try to swap out some bad habits with time in one of these areas. You won’t see immediate progress, but give it a few days, a week, a month and you will.
When you’re faced with problems, people often try to find a quick solution. Unfortunately, there are some situations where the cause of your stress is out of your control. For example, you can’t control how other people act or what natural disasters might occur. In these cases, it’s helpful to have coping skills that help you manage the emotional response that comes along with stressful situations. It’s also important to find healthy ways to cope with your mental health symptoms—like distress and anxiety—when they arise throughout the day.
The types of coping skills used depend on each individual person as well as their specific needs at a given moment.
Some common coping strategies include:
- Using relaxation exercises such as yoga, meditation or deep breathing;
- Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal; or
- Taking time for a favorite hobby.
These are just some ideas—everyone has different methods of dealing with life’s challenges that work best for them!
Good mental health contributes to better physical health as well as stronger relationships and a higher quality of life overall. When you have good mental health, it means you can: deal with stress, build and maintain healthy relationships, cope with life’s challenges and recover from adversity.
Mental health disorders are common; in fact, approximately one in four people experience a mental illness at some point in their lives. Mental illnesses are serious disorders that affect your thinking, mood, and behavior; they can be mild to severe and can impact every aspect of your life. We have discussed what mental health is, how it can affect you and your life, as well as coping skills. We will cover more in-depth descriptions of mental illnesses in other articles. This is enough to read and practice for now. Understanding what mental health is, is a huge start. Developing healthy coping skills is hard, but so is life. You got this. You’re not alone.