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What is mental health & how do we stay mentally healthy?

Mental health is complex, really important, is a part of everyone and something we need to look after. It's not a weakness, anything to be ashamed of or something that can't be changed. With one in four adults in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year, we need to learn how to nurture our mental health and give it the time and care it needs.


A simplistic way of looking at it is to say our mental health is the sum of our thoughts and emotions. It refers to our emotional, psychological and social well being and affects how we think, feel and act while also impacting how we cope, interact and form relationships with others. It also affects how we function day to day so it really is all encompassing and something to take seriously. It can be measured by how people can adapt to cope with everyday stressors and is not to be confused with having a mental illness.


So mental health can therefore have a significant impact on quality of life and if it is ignored can affect physical health, relationships, contribution to life/work and resilience to stress. Overwhelm, low self esteem, procrastination and low motivation can all be signs of a decline in our mental health which may lead to a more negative outlook on life as a result.


It’s unrealistic to say we feel in perfect mental health every hour of every day or maybe you are one of the lucky ones. I know for certain there are stages of my life where I have struggled with my mental health and these episodes all coincided with periods of extreme stress, over working, relationship issues or traumatic events. That said, mental health can be impacted by everyday life like poor sleep, poor diet, not enjoying work, family logistics, drinking alcohol excessively, social isolation plus many more.


The point is, it is whatever is relevant to YOU and your individual circumstances because no one person is the same. Mental health is individual so it can be harmful to compare yourself to others, as people’s capacity for coping varies. In addition, be mindful that a number of risk factors may increase the likelihood of mental health problems in individuals such as substance use, social inequality, poor social skills, low self esteem, low income, medical illness, having a family history of poor mental health or having experienced trauma.


How can we therefore give ourselves the best chance of staying mentally healthy in order to maintain a good quality of life and reach our full potential?


Perhaps check in with yourself right now. How are you feeling? Would you say you have a positive outlook today? Are you coping well with everyday work or life stressors? How is your physical health? Do you feel you can take on anything that life throws at you? Are your relationships intact and considered healthy? Are you in check of your emotions? How would you say your overall mental health is today?


Look through the following suggestions to find something that resonates to improve your mental health, IF you feel that could be beneficial after your personal check in.


Physical health

Take care of your physical health by moving more, eat whole foods, support your gut health, avoid processed foods and takeaways, moderate alcohol intake and sleep on average six to eight hours a night to support rest and digestion in the body and the brain.


Get outside in nature

By being outside and in daylight/sunshine this can increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and is also called our happy hormone.


Perform a random act of kindness

Doing something kind for another person not only makes you feel good but increases your connection to others which in turn, helps you to see value and worth in yourself.


Include self care in your day

Take just five minutes to prioritise yourself during the day, put it in your diary if necessary but keep that time just for you. Be it a quiet cup of coffee before the rest of the house wakes up, listening to your favourite tunes, reading a few pages of your book, dancing, being still…. just anything that feels like self care to you and puts your emotional needs first.


Spend time with others

Time with friends or family members that bring out the best in you or who you feel comfortable being around. Interaction, social connection, laughter and talking about things can boost your sense of emotional wellbeing in turn lightening your perceived load.


Stress management

Learn how to manage perceived stress better by incorporating breath work or mindfulness techniques into your daily routine to keep you present, away from the stress response and in the relaxed response. This allows your body to function from a rational level where you are more able to make clear decisions, you are in control and therefore may feel stronger in thoughts and emotions.


Ask for help when you feel overwhelmed

There’s no badge of honour for doing it all on your own so try not to be afraid of asking for support when you are overwhelmed, sad, angry, upset or unable to cope. The earlier you ask the better and if you feel you have no one to turn to, then speak to your Dr or a counsellor for further support.


Practice gratitude

At the end of a really bad day, force yourself to think of three things that you were grateful for that day. This forces you to go back to your memory bank and pull out the positives from your day, even when it was a really bad one. This puts your mind in a more positive and optimistic frame which in turn can support your mental health better the next day.


Learn something new

A focus or a new challenge can be great for our sense of self, if we feel we are learning we are growing which in turn can boost self esteem and well being. The focus and concentration involved in learning something new also gives us a sense of achievement and increases confidence levels.


Emotional regulation

Feel those feelings and try not to leave them unchecked, in other words try to express yourself and don’t bottle it all up. Being able to express emotions, what you like and in turn what you don’t like can help declutter your mind supporting mental health.


There are many individual factors that can influence our mental health, but if you are really struggling please do contact your Doctor and reach out for support. Alternatively if you are suicidal or are having suicidal thoughts then reach out to the Samaritans by calling 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258.


If it is support, accountability or help with making change you are after, I am a mindset & behaviour change coach. To find out more about my coaching methods click here. I can help if you are currently struggling with life’s challenges especially around stress, weight management (including gut health), life balance and habit change. I also have a women's only menopause mind and body programme.


Please contact me antonia@healthyhabitslife.co.uk or to book your FREE exploratory consultation visit my contact page. I would be so happy to hear from you :)







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