Promoting Positive Mental Health and Well-being
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about one million individuals commit suicide in a year. However, being mentally resilient and healthy is not just about the absence of suicidal thoughts nor a mental illness and any psychological condition. In fact, people with mental health issues can have positive mental health.
The stigma associated with mental health
Mental health has been associated with social stigma and prejudice. Its importance has been hidden behind the curtain of discrimination, causing enormous problems in terms of disability or financial concerns for individuals and families affected. For this reason, more than fifty percent of people with mental health issues avoid seeking help and delay treatment in fear of being treated differently. They are marginalized and discriminated against in several ways. But, understanding what mental health is, how it is affected by what factors, and how promoted can help.
What does positive mental health mean?
Just as we all have physical health or spiritual health, we also have mental health, which affects our overall well-being. So, what does positive mental health mean?
The Canadian Mental Health Association defines positive mental health as the ability and capacity to enjoy life despite the challenges that we face. The Government of Canada also states that positive mental health means:
- Being able to cope with stresses and challenges in life
- Being able to feel a sense of belongingness in a community like in a church, neighbourhood, school, or workplace
- Being optimistic about life experiences, such that having hope that good things happen in life
- Feeling in control of personal decisions and life in general
- Feeling physically health
- Getting adequate sleep
- Having the ability to focus at work
Come to think of it as this, having positive mental health means that an individual can handle challenges and problems in life more easily—like how a resilient person can.
What are the signs of good mental health?
Positive mental health can be characterized by an individual's ability to fulfill a number of crucial life functions and activities such as:
- Being able to maintain and form good relationships
- Get over life's challenges and uncertainties
- The ability to express or feel emotions
What factors affect mental health?
Mental health can be weakened or improved by:
- Life experiences
- Nutrition / eating pattern
- Physical activities
- Relationships (family, friends, colleagues, neighbours)
- Social status
- Working conditions
How to promote positive mental health
A combination of prevention, promotion, and management habits can help improve mental health. Several health agencies, and even NGO's, in fact, offer recommendations, including various ways targeted at multiple age groups. Integration of these health strategies helps reduce stigma, improve associated signs or symptoms, avoid deaths, and improve the economic and social environment, among others.
Researchers even found out that promotion and prevention strategies have shown to result in significant economic savings to society in general.
Here are some ways to promote positive mental health and well-being:
Accept your emotions.
Some people claim that mental health problems originate from an inability to control emotions. But, emotions are experiences that are multi-faceted. Also, it depends on what 'emotion' and 'control' mean. Emotions are the sum of physiological reactions and internal subjective experiences. They are also associated with facial expressions or behavioural responses, which might be easier to control than physiological reactions and life experiences.
The key is to allow yourself to feel emotions. Struggling with what you feel can cause more suffering. Fighting against your emotion is akin to pressing on your car's brakes and gas pedals simultaneously. So, rather than suppressing what you feel, be mindful of them and accept them. Know which ones are healthy and which ones are harmful emotions. Experiencing and processing them is a part of living. Just try to move on from negative ones and cultivate healthy emotions along the way.
Find an outlet.
Trying to accept your emotions can improve your mental health, but it doesn't mean you won't feel stressed at all. Finding an outlet can bring about less frustration and help you deal with negative thoughts more efficiently. Outlets can be in the form of meditation, time out with friends, a hobby, or anything that you can enjoy. Find an outlet and relieve your stress.
Get enough sleep (at night, preferably)
Sleeping gives your body and mind the rest it needs. You can take naps during the day but be sure to get the right amount of some shut-eye at night. Yes, and I’m going to say it again, “sleep during the night”. This might not be good news for night owls like me but several studies say that there are health consequences linked with staying up late. In one study, findings show that disturbed sleeping patterns can alter cardio-metabolic health like blood pressure, glucose control, and metabolism of lipids. However, the researchers added that these risks are not set in stone and may depend on an individual's current health status.
The relationship between mental health and sleep deprivation has been the topic of many scientific studies since ages ago. In another study published in JAMA Psychiatry Journals, it was found that a lack of sleep can lead to an increased risk of suicidal ideation. In the research, they examined sleep deprivation and suicide patterns for over ten years. The results indicate that poor quality of subjective sleep is associated with an increased risk for suicide mortality.
Know your personal values.
Personal values and beliefs work like an inner Global Positioning System (GPS) that can give you a sense of direction and guide you through life. If you have a sense of direction and know where your values at, it can keep you on track and point you in the right direction. Having personal values can also lead to a sense of fulfillment and boost your confidence.
Have a warm, relaxing bath.
According to Brown University researchers, taking a warm, relaxing bath can keep your happy hormones, particularly serotonin, elevated until about six hours. In addition, using scents (aromatherapy) such as jasmine, rose, vanilla or lavender in bathwater can also improve mood and have a significant effect on stress reduction. Smelling a delightful fragrance, the study says, can induce a positive, pleasurable experience.
Laugh, have some fun.
Having fun won't magically wipe all the tears away. But laughter can increase the secretion of happy hormones in our system, including endorphins. It can also lower the levels of hormones that make you feel stressed or down.
Research even say that laughing is a one of a kind cognitive behavioural therapy that can make social relationships, physical health, and psychosocial well-being healthy, ultimately leading to the improvement of one's quality of life.
Besides being a non-pharmacologic form of therapy, laughing is free, does not need special equipment, and does not require special preparations. It is non-invasive and has been supported scientifically for its effectiveness, whether it is used as a single or adjuvant form of therapy.
Live in the present.
You've probably heard it said before—probably more than ten times (or even more!)—that it is crucial to "live and enjoy the present" moment. If not, you also might have heard some sort of advice like "don't dwell in the past."
In our present lives, we understand it's not easy. It's not easy not to be haunted by the past or be caught up in the future, given this year's pandemic concerns and economic downfall. Most of us probably have harboured and accumulated various levels of anxiety, stress, uneasiness, or even unhappiness.
Living in the present may not cure negative thoughts but know that conscious awareness about life's challenges and commitment to being resilient in the "now" can help keep us grounded and connected.
Ed Haliwell, the author of the book The Mindful Manifesto, suggests that being in the present can also help us deal with hurtful emotions more effectively and improve our ability to cope with certain feelings such as anger or fear.
Share the love and be kind to others.
Another way to boost your happy hormones and other mood-boosting chemicals in the body is to send some love out there. How? It's up to you! You can say some words of encouragement and post them on social media or private message someone. It can be via Facebook messenger, Twitter, or a regular text message. You can also meet someone for a quick face to face chat. Sending a message of encouragement can help increase not only one but several happy hormones.
In fact, University of Chicago researchers found out that by sending a quick e-mail, or a text message, you can increase the production of the hormone called oxytocin by thirty-seven percent (37%) that can last for approximately two hours straight. Oxytocin, if you have heard before, is not just a childbirth-related hormone. Some people dub it "the love hormone" because it plays a vital role in feelings of love and affection. In men, oxytocin has been found to aid in the production of testosterone.
Dr. David Hamilton, a TED-talk speaker and a doctor of organic chemistry, further explains that there are three ways that sharing love or being kind to others impacts the brain and body:
- It supports the infection-fighting immune system.
- It reduces inflammation in the body.
- It promotes mental health and well-being.
Where can you find more information and help regarding mental health?
Here are some links if you want to know more about mental health and well-being, including non-profit organizations and various groups that provide help and services to all individuals across Canada and the globe.
The Canadian Mental Health Association
The CMHA, short for Canadian Mental Health Association, is a non-profit organization that offers services to individuals with mental health issues and concerns. They offer information on understanding your mental health and mental illness, as well as provide advocacy, programs and various resources to help prevent mental health problems. They support recovery and resilience, enabling all Canadians to flourish and thrive despite all life challenges.
The Crisis Services Canada
The Crisis Services Canada (CSC) is an organization that offers confidential and safe local resources and support to all Canadians since 2002. They are a collaboration between crisis and non-profit distress service centres across Canada.
Hope for Wellness Helpline
Hope for Wellness Help Line offers a toll-free telephone line and online counselling to all Indigenous peoples all over Canada who need immediate crisis intervention. They have highly experienced and culturally sensitive wellness counsellors who offer help for individuals who need someone to talk to or those who are in distress. Besides English and French, telephone counselling is also available in Cree, Inuktitut, and Ojibway on request.
Staying healthy in both body and mind is essential, especially in this current state of our world. Taking good care of your mental health can help you move from merely getting by and thrive easily during these unusual times.