What the Heck is Mental Health and How can I Improve It?

Most people think ‘mental health’ refers to a problem, a disorder, a diagnosis, but that is only one side of things. When you are in good mental health it means that you are able to cope easily with what life throws at you, it means you can achieve to your potential, and it means you can really ‘be there’ in the various roles you play in your day to day life. The problem is that when our mental health is not up to par we are at risk of developing anxiety, depression, or other issues. Here are some ideas to keep you as fit as a fiddle mental health wise.

1.Tuck yourself in: most adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep to function optimally, 6 at the bare minimum! Obviously sometimes things happen that get in the way of a good night’s sleep. However, without enough sleep on a consistent basis it is hard to stay rational, handle crises that come up, and keep frutration and anger in check.
2.Feed Yourself: stick to a healthy well balanced diet. Research shows that things like refined sugar, processed foods, hydrogenated oils, caffeine, and alcohol can lead to increased anxiety or depression, or make an existing issue worse.
3.Take yourself for a walk: exercise is one of the best antidotes for stress, anxiety, and depression. Plus if you are outside you get the added bonus of sunlight (vitamin D), which also helps to improve mood and decrease stress. In Canada we need to take advantage of daylight hours!
4.Help someone else: doing something positive for someone else helps us feel good too. We can make a difference and in the process improve our mental health.
5.Find a pet: caring for a pet can be a lot of work but it also brings many benefits. A pet can give you unconditional love, get you out of the house, and provide purpose.

It can be overwhelming to make too many changes at the same time, so pick one thing and work on that first. Make slow and steady changes knowing it will have a positive impact on your mental health.

It’s also important to keep your eyes open for red flags. If you notice any of the following it is a good idea to talk with someone:

  • *Inability to sleep (taking a very long time to sleep, waking often, or not sleeping at all)
    *Feeling down, hopeless, or helpless most of the time
    *Concentration problems that are interfering with your work or home life (to an extent making it hard to function)
    *Using nicotine, food, drugs, or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions
    *Negative or self-destructive thoughts or fears that you can’t control
    *Thoughts of death or suicide
  • If a friend or family member is dealing with any of these symptoms let them know you’re concerned and recommend they talk with someone too.