What exactly is mental health? Mental health refers to our cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well being. It is all about how we think, feel, and behave. It is important for everyone to be aware of mental health and strategies that are beneficial for your own mental health regardless of whether you have a mental health disorder or not. Since May is Mental Health Awareness month, I figured it would be fitting to talk about different activities you can utilize that benefit your own mental health!
- Tell yourself something positive
Too often we are our own worst critics. Research shows us that how we think about ourselves can have a powerful effect on how we feel. When we perceive ourselves and our lives negatively, we end up viewing experiences in a way that confirms that belief. For example, instead of saying, “I don’t know anything and I won’t pass this class because I did terrible on this exam” try “I did not do as well on that exam as I would have liked, but it doesn’t mean I’ll fail the class and I can work to improve for the next one”
We all know there are physical benefits to exercising, but exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. And it’s also powerful treatment for many common mental health challenges. Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.
3. Do things you enjoy
Learning to take a break from everyday life and do things that you enjoy is so important for your mental health. Engage in your favorite activities for no other reason than that they make you feel good. Go see a movie, take a walk, listen to music, read a good book, or whatever else you like doing. Doing things that are fun is not an indulgence and is a necessity for mental health.
4. Learn how to manage stress
Stress is not always a bad thing; sometimes it can motivate us to complete what we need to get done. However, too much stress that is negatively affecting your everyday life is not good for your mental or physical health. Whether you’re feeling anxious about an important exam or stressed out about a situation at work, learning how to cope with stress in positive ways can help manage those negative emotions. There are many different strategies for relieving stress. Many of the things we’ve already talked about such as exercising and doing things you enjoy can help relieve stress. Practicing deep breathing exercises daily can also relieve stress and tension. Doing meditation and learning to quiet your mind is also a good stress reliever and is beneficial for improving your mental health.
5. Get enough sleep, it’s more important than you think
I can never stress enough about how important sleep is! There is so much research out there on sleep deprivation and how it has a negative effect on your mood, energy, productivity, memory, and just overall well-being. Try to go to bed at a regular time every day, and practice good sleep habits. Some of these habits include shutting down screens for at least an hour before bed, using your bed only for sleep or relaxing activities, and not drinking caffeinated beverages late in the day.
6. Talk to someone who is a good listener
No matter how much time you devote to improving your mental and emotional health, you will still need the company of others to feel and function at your best. Humans are social creatures with emotional needs for relationships and positive connections to others. The key is to interact with someone who is a “good listener”—someone you can regularly talk to in person, who will listen to you without their own conceptions of how you should think or feel. A good listener will listen to the feelings behind your words, and won’t interrupt, judge, or criticize you. Knowing that you are valued by others is important for helping you think more positively. Plus, being more trusting can increase your emotional well-being because as you get better at finding the positive aspects in other people, you become better at recognizing your own.
7. Know when to reach out and ask for help
If you feel the need to, consult with your doctor or a mental health professional. Mental health professionals have mental health wellness tips that can be individualized to your unique needs. Everyone has differing circumstances that need to be managed in order to maintain mental wellness. A mental health professional can help you create a plan to keep yourself well and promote mental health in your life. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness and it won’t make you a burden to others. It is important to remember that treatment is effective, and people who get appropriate care can recover from mental illness and lead full, rewarding lives.
UWEC Counseling Services located in Vicki Lord Larson Hall. Website: https://www.uwec.edu/counseling-services/
Student Health Service located in Crest Wellness Center. Website: www.uwec.edu/shs
Northwest Connections for crisis services dial 1-888-552-6642 24 hours, 4 days a week
National Suicide Prevention Hotline Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
CASA (Center for Awareness of Sexual Assault) located in Vicki Lord Larson Hall 2119. Information on sexual assault, counseling, and support for victims & concerned others, and 24 hour crisis hotline 715-836-4357.