If your family doctor were to ask you during a routine checkup about your mental health, would you fly off the handle screaming that you were not mentally ill or would you stop to think before answering.
My family GP is a retired army doctor who is adept at explaining things and giving me pointers to understand health management. So when he asked me this question after checking my blood pressure and reviewing my blood test a few years ago, I quietly asked him “in what sense?”
His advice was to get more exercise, take walks in nature and not work on Sundays to manage the symptoms of stress which were manifesting in a high cholesterol level. He was right, as always, it was the year end reporting time and I was working over 80 hour weeks with no days off.
Confusing mental health with mental illness
The truth is that people often confuse mental health with mental illness. In fact, mental health is about our sense of well-being; our ability to enjoy life and deal with Life’s challenges.
It would be sometime before I decided to complete a post graduate diploma in psychology & psychotherapy from my bucket list. I am glad I did because I discovered the work of Corey Keyes, an American Sociologist and Psychologist; considered a pioneer in the field of positive psychology and who coined the psychological term “flourishing” which describes mentally healthy adults.
Keyes says that mental health can range from “flourishing” (good) to “languishing” (poor).
Our mental health can lie anywhere on this spectrum. The interesting thing is that people can experience poor mental health and yet not have a mental illness and people living with a mental illness can also experience good mental health.
We are not obliged to settle for poor mental health. Leveraging our strengths, working on those areas where we are weak and exercising the right coping strategies, we can move closer to flourishing end of the spectrum rather than languishing and enjoy a better life with the right stress management strategy.
The Fabulous Five Strength Builders
There are many ways to build our strength, both within us and outside of ourselves. These are my top 5:
Family and Friends
Who knows you better than your loved ones and friends? If the blues are sending you into the languishing zone, talk to them, reach out for support. Take it a step further and connect with them on a regular basis in person or over the phone. Go to the mall for window shopping or hang out with them. Arrange a picnic with family. Posting, liking, commenting on Facebook updates is not enough.
A wonderful stress resilience builder is being active, both physically and mentally. The choices are unlimited. These could be exercises, reading, leisure activities, nature walks and any activity that can distract your mind from your worries and focus on things that entertain you.
Practice the Social Law of Community Support
I mentioned this tip in my post 3 Easy Ideas to avoid December melt-down. Social support is well recognized as a way for people to deal with stress. Practice generosity by giving back to your community, volunteer time for causes that are close to your heart.
Connect with your Spiritual Self
We all have a spiritual side to our being. Our faith and spiritual practice can be a strong coping skill during times of stress, anxiety and external pressures such as bereavement, job loss and other major life changes.
You may not even know that you are using spiritual practices although you do them on a regular basis and which may actually be part of your daily routine.
This isn’t just limited to prayers, affirmations or meditation; it could include listening to music, gardening, art, going for walks with the family pet, hobbies, dancing and sports on the weekend.
These activities do more than just provide exercise for the body. They help nurture the soul and help us connect with the world around us.
Make Learning an Ongoing Process
Here I’m talking about becoming a student of Life. Learning and studying does not end with school or college, it is an ongoing process. Be curious about the world around you. Join Adult Education or Hobby classes that stimulate your mind and broaden your horizons. Learn and try new things. Maybe the candle making class you have been thinking about? The recipe you saw on Master Chef’s Master Class?
Moving towards flourishing mental health means doing something each day that makes you feel good about yourself and that is important to you. There are no hard and fast rules; it is all up to you.
This is my list of Strength Builders.
What about you? What sources of strength do you have right now? Are there any that you would like to focus on more to achieve flourishing mental health? Do share your thoughts in the comments box below!
PS. There are tons of tips and suggestions in the Stress Management Blog Category. Here are 2 that you might find useful
Written By: Vatsala ShuklaFollow Me
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