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What is positive mental health, and how can we foster it?

20 May, 2019
A man with positive mental health

It’s well known that getting older can put some strain on our physical health, but it’s less commonly understood that it can also impact mental health. In fact, around 10-15% of older people living in the community suffer from anxiety or depression, according to The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Fortunately, there are many ways that you can foster positive mental health and combat some of the challenges that come with the retirement years.

What is positive mental health?

Good mental health, according to the World Health Organisation, is defined as a state of well-being where individuals are able to:

  • Realise their own potential
  • Work productively
  • Cope with the normal stresses of life
  • Make a positive contribution to the community.

Mental and psychological well-being encompasses the way you feel about yourself, but also the way you deal with external situations and the quality of your relationships.

It’s important to remember that positive mental health is not simply the absence of mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. Being mentally healthy is predominantly about the presence of positive characteristics such as a feeling of purpose, contentment, maintaining fulfilling relationships and participating in life to the fullest.

Why is positive mental health important

Positive mental health allows you to enjoy all the activities you want to participate in. It doesn’t mean you will never be sad or go through emotionally-challenging times. However, those with positive mental health will be able to bounce back more easily from these experiences - this is called mental resilience.

Having mental resilience means individuals have the tools to cope with adversity, trauma and stress.

Three ways to foster positive mental health

1.Take care of your physical needs

We may be talking about the health of your mind, but mental health and your body are interconnected. ‘Healthy mind, healthy body’ goes the old Roman adage, and in many ways this is absolutely true. It’s very difficult to feel mentally on point if your physical needs are not catered for. For example, it's very hard to feel good about yourself if you feel unwashed or you’ve had nothing to eat.

When caring for yourself, you should make sure to:

  • Eat nutritious meals that include all the main food groups: proteins, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and fats.
  • Enjoy a good standard of bodily and environmental hygiene. This means washing yourself, your clothes and cleaning your living space regularly.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water to avoid dehydration.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol that can adversely impact your mood.
  • Avoid harmful activities such as smoking or drinking to excess.
  • Get enough sleep. According to Better Health Victoria healthy adults need about eight hours of sleep every night.

2. Make time for social connection

Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted among us find comfort in the company of like-minded people. The best type of interaction involves face-to-face connection. Phone calls and Skype conversations are great for keeping long distance relationships alive, but nothing beats the closeness of a physical encounter. Having a chat with a friend or close family member also gives you the opportunity to air concerns or worries that may be weighing you down.

3. Exercise and physical activity

Exercise is a way to help treat mental health complaints, according to research reported by Health Direct. When you do physical activity your brain releases endorphins which help to lift your mood and also give you energy. Regular exercise can also help you to sleep better and feel more at one with yourself. And don’t think you need to be running miles or pumping weights in the gym. Simply going for a short walk or tackling weeds in the garden can elevate your heart rate and provide a good work out.

CBHS offers mental health programs for people at risk of or diagnosed with mental health concerns. If you’ve got Hospital cover, you could be eligible. Talk to us on 02 9685 7567 or email wellness@cbhs.com.au to see if you qualify for one of our Better Living programs.

Sources:

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