Strategies to Maintain Positive Mental Health

Introduction
There are many definitions of what positive mental health is, for example Mental Health Ireland defines it as: “Balance between all aspects of life – social, physical, spiritual and emotional”.  The Irish Advocacy Network defines it as “More to do with how we feel about ourselves, others and how we are able to meet the demands of life”.

Strategies to maintain positive mental health can be looked at under the following headings:

1. Exercise
2. Sleep
3. Self Esteem
4. Diet
5. Communication
6. Relaxation
7. Relationships
8. Hobbies
9. Professional help

1. Exercise
It is widely accepted that physical exercise has a very positive affect on our Mental Health.  5 -10 minutes Aerobic exercise, that is exercise which requires oxygen, such as walking, swimming or jogging, can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. 

2. Sleep
The average person needs 7-8 hours sleep per night.  In terms of quality, the hours you get before midnight are better than those you get after.

3. Self Esteem
It is essential that we try to feel good about ourselves – what we have done, what we are doing and what we are striving to achieve in the future.  We need to have the ability to feel secure, to trust other people, to be decisive and confident.  Believe in yourself and as a result others may also believe in you.  Use positive self talk for example “I will” and “I can”.  Adopting the LENT Approach can be a very beneficial – Let’s Eliminate Negative Thinking.

4. Diet - Our Food and Fuel
It is essential to have a varied, balanced diet.  Basic things, like eating a minimum of 5 portions of vegetables, and reducing the amount of processed foods and sugar that we eat, are well accepted facts.

5. Communication
Communication is essential for good mental health; and it must be realised that it is a 2 way process – giving information and receiving information.  Our ability to articulate our feelings and concerns can greatly prevent us from sliding down the slippery slope to anxiety and depression.  Through putting how we feel into words, we think more clearly about the situation and this can help reduce the problem, or else look at it in a more manageable context.  By talking to others we can get a new perspective on the situation, and they might have some useful suggestions that might help.

6. Relaxation
If there one thing that really makes relaxing difficult, it’s being told to relax.  But it is essential to find time to relax in our busy and pressurised lives.  The best way to ensure that it happens is to plan your time, find “Time for me time” and within a few weeks you will be experiencing the benefits and wondering why you didn’t do it years ago.  Relaxation time can be time enjoying a sport or hobby, or it could take the form of meditation and quietness.

7. Relationships
Without doubt, our close relationships have a major impact on how we feel from day to day.  Having a feeling of being connected to those around you is critical for our feelings of self-worth, and it is believed by many that, who we are is determined by the series of relationships that we experience throughout our lives.

8. Hobbies
Having a hobby is nearly essential for everyday living.  Spending time doing something that you enjoy without the pressures of life is crucial and should not be overlooked.  One of the advantages of taking up a hobby is that it gives you the chance to learn new skills.  Volunteering to help out in the Community can also be a great way of maintaining positive mental health.

9. Professional help
If we are experiencing anxiety, or depression continuously for more than 2 weeks, it is important that the GP is contacted.  They are the first point of contact on the road to recovery, hopefully they will be able to listen, understand help us find a solution to the difficulties that we are experiencing.

Conclusion
The importance of maintaining positive mental health is critical for ourselves, those around us and society as a whole.  To sum up, in order to build and maintain Positive Mental Health, here is a brief and easy way to remember the main points, courtesy of the Mental Health Council of Australia, using the ABC Method:

Active  Belong  Commit

  • Active - Keep as active as possible, physically, socially and mentally.
  • Belong - Be involved in your community, join a group, talk to your neighbours and friends, try and meet new people.
  • Commit - Take on new challenges every year, get involved and volunteer.
 
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