Mental health is a vital aspect in body management. Maintaining your mental well-being is just as significant as maintaining your physical health. But, other people often overlook this fact. Maintaining your mental well-being would surely provide a positive effect on your overall health. It enables you to function well, have a clearer mind, and be able to cope up with all of life’s challenges being thrown at you.

If you’re looking for ways in maintaining your mental well-being, then you have come to the right place. In this article, we will be breaking down what really is mental health, what are the symptoms and some of the causes of poor mental health and how to take care of your psychological well-being.

What is good mental health?

The definition of having good mental health is subjective to each one of us. To others, having a healthy mind would mean not being bothered by their problems in life. While others may think that being mentally healthy would mean not being diagnosed with any mental health problems. 

As explained by Stephen Buckley, the Head of Information at Mind, it is likely that each person has a distinct definition of what good mental health is for them. But it’s widely understood to mean the ability to think, feel, and behave in the ways that you need and want in order to live your life fully and independently.

Having good mental health does not really mean that you are always happy or in a good mood. Additionally, it also does not mean that you will never experience any negative feelings such as sadness and anger. It is about being able to properly cope with your thoughts and feelings and will not let it overwhelm you or affect your daily life.

Photo Credit to Very Well Mind

Things that you can do if you have a good mental state

You are able to cope up with the stressors in life

According to the Cleveland Clinic, coping takes place when life changes are perceived to be difficult. Psychological stress is frequently linked to unpleasant life events such as the loss of a job or a loved one. All changes, however, necessitate some form of adaptation. Even pleasant changes, such as marriage or the birth of a child, can be difficult. It may be stressful for you to cope with the big changes in life but once you are able to overcome this obstacle, you are able to maintain your positive self-image and keep your mind healthy.

You are able to work productively

Having a good mental state enables you to focus and concentrate on the tasks at hand. Further, you will be able to handle criticisms well and would not take it personally. You are self-aware of the things that need to be improved without damaging your self-esteem.

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You are able to build and manage healthy relationships with others

Being able to manage your relationships with others means that you are able to clearly communicate your thoughts and feelings to them and you are able to handle any problems or misunderstandings between you and others. Having a healthy relationship with other people helps you build up your self-confidence. These people also inspire you to learn more about yourself and support you to try something new. 

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You are able to look after yourself

Being mentally healthy enables you to properly take care of yourself. This includes having a proper diet, exercising, finding a hobby, having enough hours of sleep, and having a clean environment (i.e. home and workspace).

You are able to take part in activities that you enjoy

Doing the activities you love gives you a sense of freedom and boosts your mood. You are also able to release your stress and will feel relaxed.

What are the symptoms of poor mental health?

Since you now know what good mental health is, you might wonder what having poor mental health would be. You might even ask if there are some ways to improve it.

Having poor mental health affects our lives detrimentally. According to Stephen Buckley, “Poor mental health affects us all in different ways. But if you’re experiencing something like depression or anxiety, you might notice changes to your feelings, thoughts and behavior.” These changes may become destructive towards our state of mind. They would disrupt our everyday life which makes it difficult for us to carry on with our lives normally. Completing such simple tasks such as eating and sleeping would be hard.

“Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of daily life. But if the feelings last for two weeks or more, or keep returning, it could be a sign you’re experiencing a mental health problem,” says Buckley.

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Symptoms of poor mental health

Excessive fears or worries and feeling anxious

It’s normal to feel stressed and get worried from time to time. However, if your anxiety, fears and worries are becoming constant and are disrupting your mentality , this can be a sign of having poor mental health. According to health direct, other symptoms of anxiety may include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, headache, sweating, trembling, feeling dizzy, restlessness, diarrhea, or having a racing mind.

Emotional outbursts

We all have ups and downs. We may feel happy at one time and sad at another time. Emotional outbursts means having a drastic change of emotional expression wherein extreme, exaggerated, or strong feelings and emotions take place. Having constant emotional outbursts and being unable to control them may interfere with your daily life. It is detrimental to yourself as well as your relationships with other people.

Having problems with sleeping

According to  health direct, “Lasting changes to a person’s sleep patterns could be a symptom of a mental health disorder”. Having too much or too little sleep can both be symptoms of depression or having a sleeping disorder. Insomnia is a sleeping disorder that makes it hard to fall asleep, or waking up very early and not being able to go back to sleep. Having insomnia may be a sign of anxiety or substance abuse. 

Changes in appetite and extreme weight loss or weight gain

According to Gary Kennedy, MD, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York, “Loss of appetite can be an early sign of depression or a warning of a depression relapse. On the other hand, some people can’t stop eating when they are depressed.” Having a drastic change in weight, either losing or gaining weight, may be a symptom of having depression and poor mental health.

Being withdrawn from life

Isolating oneself from the world, not joining any social activities, and having little to no interactions to others even with their own family may be a sign of having poor mental health. A person may want to be alone because talking to others takes up a lot of energy and it is very tiring and upsetting. They may also think that other people do not understand them at all and would rather be alone, making them withdraw from society.

What causes poor mental health?

Having poor mental health does not only stem from one root cause. There are a lot of factors to be considered such as biological, psychological, and environmental factors. It may be one, or a combination of these three factors.

Biological Factors

As stated by Smitha Bhandari, MD of WebMD, “Some mental illnesses have been linked to abnormal functioning of nerve cell circuits or pathways that connect particular brain regions.” One of the causes for having poor mental health is associated with the abnormality, defect, or injury to certain parts of the brain.

Biological factors that may cause poor mental health:

Inherited traits

Having poor mental health or having a mental illness may come from the genes of the family. If you have a relative that has suffered a mental illness, there is a probability that you would have one too. As said by Bhandari, “Susceptibility is passed on in families through genes. Experts believe many mental illnesses are linked to abnormalities in many genes rather than just one or a few. How these genes interact with the environment is unique for every person (even identical twins).” Although this is the case, it would not necessarily develop into a mental illness unless it is combined with other factors such as stress, abuse, or any traumatic experiences.

Brain injuries or brain defects

As previously stated, having poor mental health may be caused by defect or injury to certain parts of the brain.

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Substance abuse

Substance abuse and poor mental health are closely linked to one another. One does not really directly cause the other.  Substance abuse may be the cause of a mental health problem and vice versa. “Long-term substance abuse, in particular, has been linked to anxiety, depression, and paranoia,” Bhandari said.

Psychological Factors

Aside from the biological factors, the psychological factors such as trauma would cause a person to have poor mental health.

Psychological factors that may cause poor mental health:

Childhood abuse and neglect

People who experience severe psychological trauma during their childhood such as physical, psychological, verbal, and sexual abuse increases their risk of developing a mental illness or would have poor mental health.

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Early loss of a parent

The loss of an important figure of a person’s life at such an early age is detrimental to their mental health. It increases their risk of long-term emotional and mental health issues.

Inability to relate to others

Since they have poor ability to relate to other people, they tend to think that others don’t understand them well. Because of this, they would often isolate themselves and withdraw from society.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are closely associated with psychological and biological factors. There are some stressors from the surroundings that may trigger the people who are already susceptible to mental illnesses.

Environmental factors that may cause poor mental health:

Sudden change in lifestyle

This includes a divorce or separation of a partner, death of a loved one, and change in jobs or schools. An abrupt change in one’s lifestyle can cause a person to feel stressed, anxious, and worried.

Social and Cultural expectations

People are often pressured by society and their culture to adhere to its norms. This includes the view of society that being slim is beautiful and would mock those who are not. With these pressures, a person may develop certain mental illnesses and would have poor mental health.

What is self-care?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”

From this definition, self-care is looking after yourself, managing your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This includes proper hygiene, proper nutrition, lifestyle, and self-medication. “Self-care is anything that you do for yourself that feels nourishing,” says Marni Amsellem, Ph. D., from Smart Health Psychology

Self-care is subjective. It is different for each person, but its effects are the same: it improves a person’s quality of life. Self-care has a huge impact on a person’s mental well-being. Looking after yourself would help you manage your stress, lower your risk of health problems (both physically and mentally), and increase your positive energy. 

There are different ways of caring for yourself and it might even take some time for you to find out what works best for you.

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Practices that would help you in taking care of yourself

Exercising regularly

Simple exercises can boost your mood. A study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that running for 15 minutes or simply walking for an hour a day reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.

Eating healthy and regularly, and staying hydrated

Having a balanced and proper diet as drinking plenty of water everyday can improve your mood, energy and concentration.

Have a proper amount of sleep

Make sure that you get enough sleep for your brain to function properly. If you have too much or too little sleep, it can also be harmful to your health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Blue light from devices and screens can make it harder to fall asleep”. So, make sure that you turn off your phones before going to bed.

Practice gratitude

Remind yourself of all the good things that have happened to you or you have received. Hence, create a list of all the things that you are grateful for. Then repeat them to yourself daily, especially during the times when you feel down.

Get outside and stay connected

Spending time outside with your friends and family can alleviate your thoughts and emotions. They can provide you with emotional support and practical help whenever you need them.

Be optimistic

Dwelling on negative and unhelpful thoughts would result in mental instability. So, just focus on the positive side of things.

What are the ways in maintaining and improving mental well-being?

Maintaining and improving your mental well-being is similar to taking care of yourself. Some of the practices for self-care are also ways to manage your mental health.

Ways in maintaining and improving your mental well-being

Open up to others

Talking about your thoughts and feelings to others does not make you weak. It’s part of taking care of your mental well-being and doing what you can to stay mentally healthy. Further, opening up to others is also a way to cope with your problems and stresses in life.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help

Just like talking to others about your thoughts and feelings, asking for help does not make you any less of a human. Sometimes, all of life’s challenges overwhelm us. Because of this immense feeling, we need a helping hand. Just remember: No man is an island.

Take a break

Another way of maintaining your mental well-being would to take a break. We are all just normal humans and we need to take a break and rest. It can also help us think clearly and make proper decisions. Just a little break and “me-time” could help you destress.

Do something that you enjoy

Enjoying yourself can help you beat your stress. It takes your mind off of your problems and would even boost your self-esteem whenever you achieve something from doing such activities.

Learn to accept and love yourself

Self-acceptance and self-love could help you boost your self-esteem. It helps you learn more about yourself, on what you are good at, what you want, and what you can do more. Additionally, it boosts your confidence to go out of your comfort zone. This includes learning new skills, visiting new places, and socializing with other people.

Don’t forget to care for others

Just like you, your friends and family are humans too and would be needing the support, love and care from you. Building and maintaining relationships is a two-way street. Maintaining your mental well-being would also mean that you make sure that others’ mental health are taken care of as well. Caring for one another may improve your relationship and bring you closer to one another.

The bottom-line 

Maintaining your mental well-being includes taking care of yourself and others. Moreover, we should all be empathetic towards one another because we never know what the other person is going through and that they may suffer from mental health problems. 

Being able to manage and maintain your mental health is no easy task and would take a lot of trial and error. In fact, we also go through a lengthy process before we can clearly know what is the best for us. Mental health is just as important as physical health and we should not take it lightly. Just remember that you are not alone. Sharing your troubles with someone you trust is the first step to recovery.

References Summary:

  1. (Milly Evans, 2020) What is ‘good mental health’?
  2. (Health Direct, 2021) Good mental health
  3. (Cleveland Clinic, 2020) Stress: Coping With Life’s Stressors
  4. (Health Direct, 2021) Building and maintaining healthy relationships
  5. (Health Direct, 2021) Nine Signs of Mental Health Issues
  6. (Rachel Nall, 2019) What to Know About Being Unable to Control Emotions
  7. (Chris Iliades, 2012) Depression’s Effect on Your Appetite
  8. (Smitha Bhandari, 2020) Causes of Mental Illness
  9. (World Health Organization, n.d.) What do we mean by self-care?
  10. (Moira Lawler, 2021) What Is Self-Care and Why Is It So Important for Your Health?
  11. (Mental Health Organization UK, n.d.) How to look after your mental health
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