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This week is Mental Health Awareness week and we therefore take a look at what mental health is and how it applies to us. When we talk about mental health, many immediately think about mental health problems or mental illness. Whether good or bad, mental health applies to everyone.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health is a state of well being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to contribute to his or her own community.
Mental health includes our psychological, emotional and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, how we make decisions and relate to others as well as how we handle stress and everyday ups and downs. Mental health applies at every stage of life.
Statistics show that approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year while in England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem such as anxiety and depression each week. There are several causes of poor mental health and if we areaware of them and learn how to deal with them, we can improve our overall mental health and help others around us.
Our general lifestyle plays a major role in our mental well being.
There is a long list of factors which can affect our mental health, some of which include stress, trauma, abuse, lack of basic needs, physical challenges etc. While we may not have control over some of these, how we respond to them can determine how they affect our mental health. Our general lifestyle plays a major role in our mental well being.
The first thing to do is to identify the symptoms of stress, anxiety or any mental health problems. Some of these symptoms include low energy, insomnia, poor digestion, poor concentration, poor memory, headaches etc. We can then take positive steps to proactively manage them.
Here are a few lifestyle factors that can help reduce the effect of stress and improve or maintain a good mental health:
Prayer and meditation
We cannot overemphasise the need for prayer. When we turn to God in sincere prayer, we can pour out our hearts to Him and ask for His help to deal with the issues that face daily. Meditation also helps relieve stress as we focus our thoughts on positive things.
Recent studies have shown that a healthy diet plays a major role in the prevention and treatment of some mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and attention deficit. A healthy supply of fruits and vegetables provides the body with the necessary nutrients required for normal hormonal function of the body and mental activities.
Sleep and rest
Proper sleep and rest help our bodies repair themselves and our brains to consolidate memories, process information and eliminate waste and toxins. Lack of sleep and rest results in physical problems such as a weak immune system, fatigue and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Regular exercise and physical activity
This can include running, brisk walking, dancing and other forms of physical activity. When we exercise our bodies release chemicals called endorphins which generally trigger a positive feeling in the body. This also helps to reduce depression, anxiety, relieves stress, improves memory, promotes better sleep, and boosts overall mood.
It is important to maintain positive and healthy relationships. Spending time with people who genuinely love, appreciate and support us helps improve our self-esteem, confidence and how we feel about ourselves.
This is another way to improve our mental health. One of the easiest things anyone can do is to pick up a sport or a hobby – something exciting such as tennis, swimming, dance, photography, music, art.
Community and charity activities
As unbelievable as it may sound, volunteering for a charity or engaging in community activities improves mental health. This is an opportunity to give something back to the community which has a positive impact on our self-esteem. Being involved in such activities is also a great way to build a network with people who share the same passion. As it is commonly said, “doing good does you good.”
Finally, a few things which also need to be avoided are smoking and alcohol. We also know that excessive use of social media and technology have had a huge negative impact of people especially.
While social media and technology are very handy tools for socialising, marketing, etc, they should not be used excessively especially late at night.
Written by Foluso Aloko
Foluso is a Senior Consultant in ICT, with a passion to bring praise and glory to God, inspire, encourage and motivate others through music, service and creativity.