There is no dearth of people who promote a healthy way of living through regular exercise and good eating habits. But there’s something most of them end up missing while talking about this healthy lifestyle and that is the importance of mental health.
As the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a lot of people who are facing mental health problems that may have been caused due to the chaos around or have simply been triggered by it. Now, there’s a lot of talks around staying healthy mentally but how do we know that our constant effort towards strengthening our mind and emotions is being fruitful.
Well, Sneha George, consultant psychologist at Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai, mentions the following signs that indicate that your efforts might be working and that your mental health is in a good shape:
1. You understand that the fluctuations in your mental health are natural
Good mental health does not mean that you’ll always feel pleasant, or that sadness or mental health issues such as anxiety and depression won’t surface. It simply means that you, over the course of time, become resilient, and know that these negative emotions are just waves that will pass to make way for good times.
It is also characterized by the awareness that negative emotions are a part and parcel of life. In the end, it’s really about overcoming them instead of letting them become a pattern. Not to mention, it also involves not resisting help from loved ones or a professional counsellor if need be because we all need people, we love to get us through the tough times.
2. You feel good: If you have good mental health, you tend to feel good and satisfied overall. You will experience the emotions of happiness, love, joy, and compassion while preferring to avoid being sucked into negative emotions or patterns.
“You feel good about yourself; you choose to see different perspectives in a situation; you don’t always blame yourself; and you know when to take responsibility for your actions,” mentions George.
3. There’s a sense of belonging: According to George, you are also likely to feel like you belong to a community and are contributing to society when your mental health is in good shape. You might have a sense of spiritual well-being, such as feeling connected to a higher power, a sense of meaning or purpose, or feelings of peace or transcendence.
4. You cope up with your circumstances well: We all face challenges in life. But George says that people who have good mental health are more likely to be able to cope with the ups and downs as well as the normal stresses of life while managing to work productively, realize their potential, and contribute to the community.
5. You do say ‘no’ to people: Mentally strong people know when to say ‘no’. If you’re mentally strong, you know where your emotional responsibility ends and another person’s begins, and vice versa.
You feel comfortable standing up for yourself and have learned that saying ‘no’ to boundary violations, aggression, and unjust behavior benefits you in the end. You don’t feel shame or guilt about expressing your emotions and conveying your displeasure, and instead, feel liberated and free while doing so.
6. You have healthy relationships: If your mental health is in good shape, you’re more likely to treat others fairly which means you love and respect those who are worthy of it and don’t waste your resources (time, money, energy) on toxic people or tolerate their disturbing behavior.
If you come across something that seems toxic or unhealthy, you make a decision about it instead of reacting emotionally or passively accepting it. You reevaluate your relationships with others on a regular basis and come to conclusions that will help maintain your boundaries as well as mental peace.
7. You don’t try to please everyone: The truth is that no matter who you are and what you do, there will be people who dislike you. You do not like everybody, so it is only natural that not everybody will like you. Mentally strong people do not aggress against or mistreat others but also accept that social rejection is unavoidable and understand that it is alright.
8. You’ve got a healthy self-focus: “Instead of concentrating on what you can’t control or having unrealistic or disturbing goals, you simply live life as healthfully and as consciously as possible if your mental health is in good shape. You have your circle of people who truly care about you and whom you love deeply. You actively create a better life for yourself without aggressing against others and constantly work on improving yourself and your immediate environment,” says George.
But, what can you do to boost your mental health?
George recommends some activities and intentions to include in your routines for better mental health.
1. Talk about your feelings: Expressing your feelings can help you stay healthy mentally and deal with difficult times better. It is not a sign of weakness, but it is a part of taking charge of your well-being and doing what you can to stay healthy. Talking can be a great way to cope with a problem you have been carrying around in your head for a while. Just being heard can help you feel supported and less lonely. It works both ways. If you open up, it might encourage others to do the same.
2. Stay active: Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, and feel better. Exercising doesn’t just mean practicing a sport or going to the gym. Walks in the park, gardening, or housework can also help keep you active. Try to include an enjoyable physical activity to your day.
3. Handle one task at a time: While multitasking has become a very common and the accepted method of working, juggling with so many things at once can cause a serious blow to our mental health. Multitasking has been linked to increased levels of stress and anxiety, which can lead to a mental health issue. Instead of multitasking, prioritize your tasks and get to them one at a time. You will find that you can focus better on each task, and your mood will improve as well.
4. Maintain a journal: You probably kept a journal or diary during your teenage years, but it is a habit that’s worth picking up again as an adult. Writing down how you are feeling has been proven to benefit your mental health and help you keep a track of your moods. It allows you to take account of your worries and fears. It also helps you to identify possible triggers and patterns of behavior. Try to get into the habit of writing once a day, even if it’s just a bullet point list.
5. Indulge in more activities that bring you joy: Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you are good at it and achieving something can boost your self-esteem. Concentrating on a hobby like gardening or the crossword can help you forget your worries for a while and change your mood. It can be good to have an interest where you are not seen as someone’s mum or dad,
partner, or employee. You’re just you!
6. Take enough breaks: A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning your kitchen, a half-an-hour lunch break at work, or a weekend exploring a new place. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’. Taking a break may mean being very active or may mean not doing very much at all. It could also just be putting your feet up, taking a deep breath, and relaxing. Listen to your body. If you’re tired, give yourself time to sleep. Sometimes the world can wait.
If you’re making an effort towards your mental health, it will surely show results!