Six Keys for Developing Good Mental Health

The Ability to Enjoy Life - The ability to enjoy life is essential to good mental health. Being mindful of blessings from Jesus is one way to cultivate the ability to enjoy the present. We, of course, need to plan for the future at times and we also need to learn from the past. Too often we make ourselves miserable in the present by worrying about the future. We need to play and have fun.

Resilience - The ability to bounce back from adversity has been referred to as “resilience.” The ability to face problems, resolve them and learn from them. It has long been known that some people handle stress better than others.

Balance - Balance in life seems to result in greater mental health. It creates an awareness of how the mind and body interact. Just as our state of mental health can affect our physical health, the reverse is also true. We all need to balance time spent socially with time spent alone, for example the use and enjoyment of solitude. Those who spend all of their time alone may get labelled as “loners,” and they may lose many of their social skills. Extreme social isolation may even result in a split with reality. Those who ignore the need for some solitary times also risk such a split. Balancing these two needs seems to be the key—although we all balance these differently. Other areas where balance seems to be important include the balance between work and play, the balance between sleep and wakefulness, the balance between rest and exercise, and even the balance between time spent indoors and time spent outdoors.

Flexibility - We all know people who hold very rigid opinions. No amount of discussion can change their views. Such people often set themselves up for added stress by the rigid expectations that they hold. Working on making our expectations more flexible can improve our mental health. Emotional flexibility may be just as important as cognitive flexibility. Mentally healthy people experience a range of emotions and allow themselves to express these feelings. They are aware of what can go wrong. They have the ability to laugh both at themselves and at the world. Some people shut off certain feelings, finding them to be unacceptable. This emotional rigidity may result in other mental health problems.

Self-actualization - What have we made of the gifts that we have been given? We all know people who have surpassed their potential and others who seem to have squandered their gifts. We first need to recognize our gifts, of course, and the process of recognition is part of the path toward self-actualization. Mentally healthy people spend time reviewing their lives from time to time. They consider what their goals in life are and what steps are being taken to achieve them. Mentally healthy persons are persons who are in the process of actualizing their potential. They develop emotionally, creatively, intellectually and spiritually. Problems can arise when we feel that life is not satisfying and fulfilling.

Healthy Relationships - The ability to form healthy relationships with others is necessary for mental wellbeing. Social contact, having contact with others whose company we enjoy, whether at school, work, at home or as a member of a club, helps to develop social interaction. It aids initiation, development and maintenance of mutually satisfying personal relationships. This affects how we feel about other people. It engenders awareness and the capacity to empathize with them. It aids in the development of confidence and assertiveness and encourages healthy sexuality. It is important to have someone to go to with our problems and worries, such as friends, teachers or family members—someone we can trust.

Preventative Tips for Positive Mental Health

  • making time to do the things we enjoy
  • taking moderate physical exercise
  • cutting down on coffee, alcohol, nicotine and other addictive substances
  • remembering and celebrating the things we like about ourselves
  • keeping things in perspective
  • developing and sustaining friendships
  • listening to and respecting other people, even if we disagree with them
  • asking for help if we feel distressed or upset
  • listening to other people who say they feel distressed or upset
  • taking as much care of ourselves as we do the people we care for

Excerpt from GCWM Mental Health Training, Thinking Well, Living Well, "Understanding Mental Health" - Session One, by Elsie Staple