Mental health is an important part of overall health. It includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects our thoughts, feelings, actions, decisions, response to stress, and the way we relate to others. Like a strong and healthy body, mental well-being is essential to functioning well in life.
Signs of mental well-being
If you have positive mental health and overall well-being, you may find that that you:
- Can accept who you are and have a realistic sense of self-worth
- Can laugh at yourself and others
- Have lasting and satisfying personal relationships
- Are comfortable or at ease around other people
- Respect yourself and others even if there are differences
- Are able to accept life’s disappointments
- Are able to meet life’s demands and handle problems as they arise
- Are able to make your own decisions
- Can shape and adjust to your environment
Certainly no one can have all of these characteristics all of the time. Being mentally healthy doesn’t mean you are never unhappy or angry or that you never struggle with tough decisions or experience problems in relationships, for example. Emotions and disagreements are part of being human — they are healthy.
But just as you pay attention to physical symptoms — such as pain, fever, or fatigue — that alert you if something is not right with your physical health, it is important to recognize when something is off with your mental health. And just as there are things you do daily — such as eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly — to improve your physical health, there are also things you can do to improve your mental health.
Improving your mental health
Mental health and physical health are closely intertwined. Mental health problems such as ongoing anxiety or depression can increase your risk of lasting health problems including diabetes and heart disease; physical health problems can also increase your risk of mental health problems. Fortunately, many of the same things you do to promote your physical health can also improve your mental health.
Other things you can do to improve mental health include:
- Be aware of your emotions and reactions
- Don’t bottle up negative emotions
- Manage stress through relaxation techniques and relaxing activities
- Keep alcohol to a minimum and avoid other drugs, unless prescribed by a doctor
- Take time for activities you enjoy
- Connect with others, especially those who are positive and supportive
- Engage in activities that give your life meaning; volunteer for a cause that is important to you
- Focus on the positive; keep a gratitude journal
- See a therapist when you need help
The importance of professional help
Rather than a sign of weakness, acknowledging you need help is a sign of strength and therapy can be beneficial to your overall well-being. Whether your goal is to learn relaxation techniques, improve skills for decision making or expressing emotions, or get through a difficult situation in your life, a therapist or mental health professional can help you address any issues that keep you from being as mentally healthy as you can be.