Now that we've spent time talking about mental health and what it is (click here for the video), I think it's time to focus on why good mental health is important and how to maintain it. According to the WHO, "Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community." This means that for us to be productive citizens of our individual communities, we have to be in a peaceful frame of mind to be able to give back. So how do we do this?
1. Simplifying our lives. Taking on too many responsibilities can create unnecessary stressors that continually clutter our mind space and rob us of the peace we need to function productively. Living in a world that is driven by achievement and material gratification, there's a temptation to be constantly on the go. We need to identify the clutter in our lives that take up unnecessary time and keep our lives simple.
2. Discovering who we are and what we're designed to do to. Once we discover who we truly are and what we are designed to do, we're able to focus on that and contribute to our society. Our efforts will be focused on developing ourselves and using our gifts and talents to help others. There is a peace and joy that comes with helping others.
3. Avoid comparing ourselves to others. Whenever we compare ourselves to others, we begin to entertain feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, dissatisfaction and sadness about our lives. Many people end up taking on extra debt just to fit in or they try to live other people's lives. Once we realize who we are and what we are designed to do, we focus on becoming the best “us” we can be and avoid comparing ourselves to others.
4. Writing down all our negative thoughts. Thoughts are like seeds, if we ponder on them long enough they will germinate and bear lots of fruits that can be good or bad. A friend once challenged a group of us to write down our fears and go back to re-evaluate them after a few months. She said 99% of the time, these fears DO NOT come to pass. I tested out this principle and found it to be true. We allow the fear of the unknown to control us and cause us to worry. A lot of this worry and fear is what leads to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. We need to learn to control what we allow our minds to think about.
For more resources on research and other tips to maintaining a good mental health see below:
About the author: Anita Glover, MD. is the Mental Health Ambassador for Engage Africa Foundation. She is passionate about creating open, honest dialogue about the myths, stigmas and truths surrounding mental health issues.
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