Your mental and emotional health is important as it affects how you think, feel and behave. Being emotionally healthy benefits all aspects of your life, allowing you to build strong relationships, enjoy the good times and handle the bad ones. The good news is your mental wellbeing is largely under your control.
Mental Health Awareness Week
The month of May sees the launch of the Mental Health Awareness Week which, once again, brings the problem into the media spotlight. This is so important as figures show that over 65% of the UK population have suffered due to mental and emotional health issues. The problem is made worse by the reluctance of many people to open up and talk about their worries.
Experts say that women over the age of 50 are particularly affected for a number of reasons. The pandemic has also had an adverse affect with the normal routines and social interactions being set aside and additional fears, anxieties and worries coming to the fore.
This year’s campaign is focusing on Nature and the positive effect that nature can have in promoting our mental health. We may not realise it but nature is all around us: whether it is a small pot plant on our windowsill, our own small back yard or a local park, signs of nature are all around us and can uplift our spirits.
Simple ways to appreciate the nature around us –
- Listen to the range of birdsong outside your window
- Notice the changes in the weather
- Admire the different colours and shapes of new leaves on the trees
- Look out for bees and butterflies and the flowers they visit
- Get out for a few minutes each day if you can and look around
- If you can’t get out, connecting to nature via the TV is also beneficial
The health benefits of connecting to nature cannot be underestimated. A large US study found that access to nature significantly improved the quality of sleep especially in men and seniors. The physical benefits of walking outside are also matched by the mental benefits of a reduction in stress levels, an easing of depression and an improvement in our overall mood.
What Does it Mean to be Emotionally Healthy?
People who are mentally and emotionally healthy generally feel content with their lives. They’re able to relax and have fun, but can also deal with challenges and stress. They’re able to build and maintain fulfilling relationships, balance work and play, learn new things, and adapt to change. They also have self-confidence and self-esteem.
It’s important to remember that there’s more to good mental health than avoiding mental illness. Not feeling bad is not the same as feeling good. Strong emotional health is defined by positive feelings that give you a zest for life.
While positive mental wellbeing doesn’t mean you’ll never experience problems or bad feelings, it will give you the ability to cope with difficult situations and maintain a positive outlook. Your mental health is also connected to your physical health. Often habits and behaviours that are good for your mental wellbeing benefit your physical health too.
What Can You Do To Improve Your Mental and Emotional Health?
Your mental and emotional wellbeing are largely determined by your actions, so there’s plenty you can do to improve them. Don’t think of strong mental health as something you either have or you don’t – think of “being well” as something you do. Try taking some of these steps and see for yourself what a positive impact they can have on your state of mind.
- Connect with Other People
Humans are social creatures with an emotional need for relationships and positive connections to others. Sadly these connections and relationships have been put on hold during the pandemic but there is light at the end of what has seemed like a very long tunnel. We can now start thinking of making small cautious steps out of lockdown and can start to plan and look forward to a return to a nearer normal life.
Supportive relationships are the foundation of emotional health – you’ll never feel at your best without them. Make sure you spend plenty of time with the people you’re close to, talking and engaging in enjoyable activities together. Don’t let the TV or computer keep you from valuable face-to-face interactions. Doing social activities that allow you to meet new people is also beneficial when you are able to do so again. Try volunteering for a charitable organisation or joining a special interest group.
- Be Active
Getting enough physical activity is an important part of maintaining your emotional wellbeing. Exercise boosts your mood and relieves stress, as well as reducing your risk of depression. You don’t have to spend time at the gym – find a form of exercise that you’ll enjoy, whether that means joining a yoga class, making regular trips to your local pool, or simply going for jogs and brisk walks. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. There are also small ways you can fit more activity into your routine here and there, such as taking the stairs instead of elevators or getting off your bus a stop earlier than usual.
- Keep Learning
Learning new things and picking up new skills can give you a sense of achievement and confidence, building up your self-esteem. No matter how intelligent and brimming with skills you are, there’s always more to learn. Use the emerging freedom of lockdown to try something new When you are able, why not sign up for a cooking course, join a book club or start learning to play a musical instrument? Even simply visiting a museum or travelling somewhere new will help you learn new things.
- Make Leisure Time a Priority
Work and family obligations may leave you short on free time, but it’s important to find the right balance between work and play. You need to spend some time doing things simply because you want to do them, whether that’s taking a walk in the park, reading a good book or meeting up with friends. Spending that time doing something creative and productive can give your self-esteem a particularly strong boost so try gardening, drawing, painting or writing. Leisure time is not an indulgence, but an emotional and mental necessity. It helps you feel happier and more content.
- Manage Stress Levels
That leisure time will also play a key role in keeping your stress levels down. You need to keep stress under control or it will take a heavy toll on your mental and emotional health. While it can’t always be avoided, it can be minimised if dealt with appropriately. There are plenty of effective ways to de-stress – you just need to find what works best for you. It may be exercise, deep breathing techniques, a soothing hobby or simply talking to someone.
- Make Time for Contemplation and Appreciation
Something as simple as taking the time to think about all that is positive in your life can have a surprising impact on your mental wellbeing. Think about the things you’re grateful for, the people who make you happy and the things that make you enjoy life.
When to Seek Help for Emotional Problems
Sometimes people experience emotional problems that they just can’t seem to overcome. If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental wellbeing but can’t get past emotional difficulties you’re dealing with, it may be time to seek professional help. Signs that you need this help immediately include:
- Feeling down, hopeless or helpless most of the time
- Concentration problems interfering with your work and home life
- Using nicotine, alcohol or drugs to cope with difficult emotions
- Negative or self-destructive thoughts
- Inability to sleep
These red flags shouldn’t be ignored as they suggest serious emotional problems.
If you would like to speak to a professional organisation who have comprehensive experience in dealing with the emotional problems which may be overwhelming you, you might like to contact the charity, Mental Health Foundation by clicking on this link.
For most however, building up strong mental and emotional health is something you can do for yourself. It may take time and effort, but it will undoubtedly be a rewarding experience that reduces your problems and adds to your overall enjoyment of life.