What is Mental Health?
Well, there are several definitions. However, for the purpose of this article, we’d be sticking to these three definitions:
1. Wikipedia defines mental health as the level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. It is the state of someone who is “functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment”
2. MentalHealth.gov says that mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
3. According to World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community (my best)
From the definitions above, we can see that our Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. Therefore, Mental Health is more than the absence of mental disorders. It involves having a stable state of mind, emotions, a healthy self esteem and relationship with ourselves and others.
Now, what does it mean to be positive?
The definition of being positive is having hope and confidence in one’s ability to handle what’s tough along with remembering that nothing is all negative all the time.
Also, staying positive means looking at the bright side of events.
What being positive is not:
Being positive does not mean:
- Ignoring or denying our negative feelings or emotions.
- Willingly accepting insults or negative behaviors from others.
- Taking on other people’s pains or negative emotions.
You may likely ask at this point, what is the relationship between being positive and our mental health?
Using an illustration, let’s say our mind is to our body what the engine is to a car. No matter how beautiful the car is on the outside, if the engine is faulty, can it function properly?
In the same vein, staying positive is crucial to our mental health because our bodies depends on our minds, (representing the car’s engine in the illustration above) brain or mentality to function rationally.
If the brain(mind) is not in good shape, it will have an adverse effect on our bodies, our interactions with ourselves and others.
Simply put, our minds(brains) are made up of cells that interact with our outer world by getting signals from our senses and processing them.
Our 5 senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch) tell us what is outside our environment but our emotions determine how we process this information from outside and determines our response/reaction.
I’ll explain here. What comes to your mind when you see a lion running towards you? You’d most likely run. So, what process did this take?
1. Your eyes *saw* the lion
2. It sent a *signal* to your brain and
3. The stress hormones were activated to produce the fight/flight response. This simply means, your mind is telling your body, run! There is danger. That’s the information that has been processed. Stress hormones are then produced for a survival mechanism.
On the contrary, when we are positive, our minds are calm, balanced and at peace. In that state, our brain does not have to produce any stress hormones or fight/flight hormone. We don’t need to “run”, “hide” or “panic”. In this state, we can be present, productive and generally mentally balanced.
Therefore, constantly exposing oneself to situations where the brain always produces stress hormones leaves people in negative states like aggression, anger, sadness, depression, inexplicable mood swings, jealousy, insecurity etc.
Over time, it becomes difficult to interact with others without finding faults, blaming, getting angry/aggressive etc.
At this point, that’s when you’d hear things like: “this person is difficult to be around”, “he’s always angry”, “are you sure she doesn’t have mental problems?” and so on.
How can one move on from here?
It’s crucial to know that our minds are magnets so, we are what we attract.
Have you ever heard the saying: “a negative mind can not produce a positive life?” It’s true because ultimately, we are the sum total of our thoughts.
As they say,
Watch your thoughts, it becomes words.
Watch your words, it becomes your habit.
Watch your habit, it becomes your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
So, everything begins from our minds ultimately.
How can we develop a positive attitude/mindset?
1. By taking extra care what we let in to our minds through our senses.
a. The eyes: feed your eyes on beautiful, positive pictures, read positive, edifying pieces. Wake up to beautiful scenes or your vision board which should express a positive future.
b. The ears: Listen to positive reports. Constantly use positive words of Affirmations. That voice in your head, is it always encouraging you? What kind of songs do you listen to? What do the people around you always talk about? Do they reflect your bright, positive future or are they always complaining? Bitter? Negative?
c. The nose: avoid smelly environments. Yes! It’s very important. Don’t get familiar with such things rather, get used to positive fragrances. Use nice deodorants, air fresheners… Just anything that is positive and good.
2. Practice gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal. Focus on what you have instead of complaining about what you don’t have – yet. Being grateful even for what you are yet to receive puts you in the state of abundance instead of lack.
3. Learn to develop a positive vocabulary. For instance, instead of saying:
“I do not want problems”
“Stay out of trouble”
“I am hungry”
“I do not have a job”
“I prefer positive outcomes”
“Be safe, have a great day”
“I should be eating now” “I have to eat now”
“I am looking for job openings/opportunities.
It may mean nothing when you start out but, these little things help to re-wire the mind into positivity over time.
4. Forgiveness: There are two sets of people we should forgive.
We should forgive ourselves for mistakes we may have made, wrong decisions we have taken, right decisions we did not make or whatever else we are holding against ourselves. Also, we should forgive others for offending us, abusing us, punishing us, telling lies against us, stealing from us… Or whatever wrong they have committed. This helps to put our minds at peace and helps us avoid grudges, resentment, bitterness etc.
5. Create your own happiness: An important thing to know is nothing/no one can make you happy. Not your spouse, a good job, a good house, health etc.
These things can only make you happier. You have to be happy on your own first of all. It’s important because if your happiness is dependent on an external factor and it’s taken away, you can easily be thrown off balance mentally.
6. Avoid any negative emotions However, if it comes up, feel it, process it then, let it go, totally.
7. Learn to say NO.
8. Know your internal and external boundaries.
9. Form positive intentional relationships.
10. Learn to respond, not react.
11. Clear unhealed trauma.
12. Embrace love, joy and peace.
How to avoid negativity
1. Avoid negative talks like harmful office/general gossip.
2. Stay neutral in situations that don’t affect you directly. You can’t always save the world
3. Declutter your mind of negative thoughts and words.
4. Quickly recognize negative patterns and avoid them.
5. Make yourself familiar with positive experiences.
6. Surround yourself with positive people, visit positive places.
7. Set positive goals and achieve them, start from simple to complex.
8. Exercise regularly.
9. Develop positive routines and patterns e.g use words of Affirmations.
10. Practice giving. Look for opportunities to add value.
11. Use vision boards to reflect or project your positive future
12. Take deep breaths when you experience negative emotions e.g anger, fear etc.
13. Identify energy drainers.
14. Sleep well.
15. Identify your triggers.
16. Learn to express your feelings confidently and compassionately.
17. Accept what you can not change instead of worrying then, think of ways out/forward.
18. Avoid shame, guilt and fear. Learn how to express and process them.
19. Regularly practice self-care and self-love
20. Be grounded.
The Importance of a positive mind to our mental health can not be over emphasized.
It helps us achieve the following:
1. General well-being
2. Self esteem
3. Self awareness
4. Emotional intelligence
5. Good relationship with ourselves and others.
6. Avoiding undue pressure
7. Develop habits that helps us cope better with stress.
8. Attract a better in terms of health, finances, relationships etc.
9. Strong, positive network.
10. A balanced attitude towards work and life.
So, guard your mental health today, stay positive!
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Ochuko Ebiuwhe is a Human Resource Personel, a Mental Health Advocate/Counsellor and a Relationship Coach. In her free time, she enjoys working on excellent Interior Designs or gets involved in wholesome, edifying activities.