What is Mental Wellbeing?
Your mental wellbeing is important; it governs how you feel and how you function, emotionally, psychologically, and to a great extent physically.
Mental wellbeing means more than merely the absence of mental illness. Improving your mental wellbeing won’t make you immune to things like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder etc., nor will it mean that you never experience stress or face feelings or situations that you find very difficult. It will, however, help you to be more emotionally resilient and better able to deal effectively with tough times when they do occur.
The more you do to improve your mental wellbeing, the better able you will be to deal with the difficulties and disasters, as well as the joys and successes, that life throws your way. Improving your mental wellbeing will help you to live a healthier and more fulfilling life. It will help you to feel better about yourself and the world around you, and it will help you to get the most from every part of your life. This is a deep kind of wellbeing, which is about living in a way that is good for you and good for others around you.
We are affected by what happens in our daily lives, we can’t avoid that, but the way we react to these events, the way we function in the world, is a learned process. As children our emotional ‘shape’ is moulded by the environment we grow up in. We learn from our parents or guardians and from those adults who have an input into our development, such as teachers. Sometimes the things we learn, and the way we learn to respond to life events, can be ineffective or even harmful for us and those near to us.
You Can Change That
The good news is if we can learn, as children, to react and respond badly or inappropriately, we can also be taught, as adults, to react and function better. We don’t have to remain slaves to the patterns set down when we were children.
We can raise our levels of contentment, enjoyment, confidence and engagement with the world, and so improve our self-esteem and self-confidence. We can develop emotional resilience and find ourselves better able to withstand life’s battering and recover more quickly when things get difficult.
As we become more skilled at functioning and responding positively to life events, we begin to notice we have a greater capacity for feeling happy.
Evidence suggests that good mental wellbeing also helps with our physical wellbeing. People who work on improving their mental wellbeing begin to realise that what is happening in the mind and the emotions is inextricably linked to what is going on on the body; mental wellbeing feels physically good because when we are happy the brain releases various chemicals and hormones that make us feel good all over.
You’ll have heard the old saying “misery loves company”, this is because emotions are infectious. Just as we can bring people down by our own miserable interactions with them, as we improve our mental wellbeing we find we are more able to be present with other people in a way that improves their happiness. We can spread joy instead of gloom.
What Can I Do?
There are many different things you can do to improve your mental wellbeing as an adult, including talking therapies such as those offered by the Actualise Collective.
“The first thing you can do for your own wellbeing is become curious about it…” says Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health at the University of Warwick, “Remember, no-one can give wellbeing to you. It’s you who has to take action.”
Mental Health 5-A-Day
As a starter for ten, here are five ‘ways of being’ you can incorporate into your life, beginning today. Approach them with an open mind. Try them out. Judge the results for yourself.
- Firstly, connect. Connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Spend time developing these relationships and you will reap what you sow.
- Stay physically active. You don’t have to join a gym. Start walking regularly, go for a swim, get involved in a game of five-a-side. Find something active that you enjoy, or more than one thing, and make it a part of your life.
- Developing new skills can give you a real sense of achievement and a new confidence, so don’t stop learning. Sign up for a cookery course, learn to play the guitar, pick up a new language. It can be for work or business or something purely for pleasure, but keep learning.
- Give to others. Even the smallest gift can count, whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Larger gifts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can improve your mental wellbeing and help you build new social networks.
- Take notice. Become more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and what’s happening around you. This awareness is sometimes called “mindfulness“, and it can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges. There are mindfulness classes in many places these days, have a look online and sign up to learn.