Mental health doesn't begin with a diagnosis, we are all on a spectrum of mental health all of the time and, worryingly, a survey carried out by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that only 13% of us are living with what we would describe as positive mental health. This is a scary statistic and a sad indictment of where we are currently at as a society. What's more - how do we hope to reduce the incidence of mental health conditions if so many of us aren't living with positive mental health?
Tonight's post is urging you to consider your own mental health and perform a quick check in with where you are at. Would you say you have positive mental health? If not then don't worry, there are plenty of things we can all easily do to improve our mental wellbeing. Below I've listed my own personal '5 to thrive'. I'd also love to hear yours so do share them in the comments below...
Human beings are wired for discovery, we are naturally curious creatures that are designed to learn. I know that when I ignore this natural instinct I suffer as a result. The feeling of 'staying in motion' has it's pitfalls in terms of perfectionism but I can reflect and say that some of the times when I have been at my best mentally are times when I have been involved in some degree of learning. It's also important to clarify that this doesn't have to mean formal learning in educational settings, in fact, for me, the opposite is more true. Experiential 'on the job' learning seems to have a more powerful positive effect. I try to maintain this through regular exposure to books and podcasts and by incorporating reflective time throughout my schedule.
I came home this evening after a long and busy day and very nearly dived straight into writing this, conscious of all the other tasks on the list for the evening. Instead I took myself out for a 15 minute stroll in the fields where I live. In this short time the evening sun, birdsong and general sense of peace had me restored and relaxed. The words are certainly flowing a lot easier than they otherwise would have done. It's difficult for me to define exactly why being in nature is important to me but I just know that when I'm deprived of the outdoors my mental health deteriorates and, in the opposite direction, a country walk can fix most of life's ills.
7-8 hours a night is the sweet spot that we should all be shooting at. I notice a definite step change in my own mental health when I've had less than this, I become shorter and more easily stressed. When fully rested the majority of life's trials and tribulations are water off a ducks back. Building a routine around sleep that encourages relaxation is also important I find. Sleep shouldn't be something that you're rushing to fit in and stressing about getting enough. It should be something that you slowly ease into and look forward to.
Personally there are few things in life that can't be solved in the squat rack. I typically arrive at the gym feeling stressed and sluggish yet leave positive and energised. Exercise, in various forms, is a proven mood lifter and has a myriad of benefits that can help support positive mental health. If it isn't part of your 'thriving' routine then it needs to be! It doesn't matter what form, just move!
This doesn't mean having a noisy group on whatsapp or dishing out instagram likes. This is actual genuine face to face interaction with other human beings. Work doesn't count either. I feel infinitely more relaxed from having positive social engagements away from the structured activities I spend the majority of my time doing. Alcohol doesn't always have to be involved either. Ask yourself how many of your recent social engagements involved drinking. If it's the majority then that is a red flag! You shouldn't have to lean on alcohol for a good time, have people in your life that you can spend quality time with whilst sober.
I hope sharing the elements that help me thrive and maintain positive mental health have given you food for thought. Do consider what yours are and share below to help inspire others.