What is good mental health?

A happy man

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, but it can be a lot harder to manage. 

What is mental health?

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises 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.”

A person’s mental health can affect how they:

  • think
  • feel
  • act
  • relate to others

Signs of good mental health

Good mental health isn’t as simple as being ‘happy all the time’. Signs of good mental health can include:

  • feeling confident about new challenges and meeting new people
  • feeling positive about the future
  • maintaining reciprocal care and closeness in relationships
  • feeling a sense of purpose and accomplishment in life
  • feeling good about yourself

What can affect your mental health

There are many factors that affect your mental health. Some of the life situations that can negatively impact your mental wellbeing include:

  • relationship problems
  • loneliness
  • death of someone close to you
  • money stress
  • losing your job
  • lack of sleep
  • high stress levels

How to improve your mental health

Working on your mental health is just like working on your fitness or diet – it needs planning, dedication and maintenance. Below are some ways you can boost your mental wellbeing.

  1. Build positive relationships

    Connecting with others in reciprocal, caring relationships can help us feel a sense of belonging. Make sure you make time to connect to your friends and family and talk about how you’re feeling. If you want to expand your social circle, you can always join a group or start volunteering.

    You can find out more about building healthy relationships at Healthdirect Australia.

  2. Exercise and eat healthy

    Exercise can boost your mood and even reduce the symptoms of mild depression and anxiety. This is because when you exercise, your body releases the feel-good chemicals including endorphins and serotonin. Exercise also helps you sleep better and this means you’ll have more energy throughout the day.

    Setting small, achievable goals gives you the chance to succeed again and again. This will make you feel like you’re making progress and give your confidence a boost too.

  3. Staying positive

    If you have a pattern of negative thinking, then breaking free from it takes more than a simple decision to ‘stop doing it’.

    There are several ways to try to create positive patterns of thought and language. You can try saying the positive thought out loud, or writing it down, or keeping a journal of the times you caught and corrected yourself. Not all negative thinking is bad or unhealthy, but unnecessary negativity is probably not helpful.

    You can read about self-talk at Healthdirect Australia for more information.

  4. Practice mindfulness

    Even though you’ve probably heard and read it a million times before, mindfulness is a great way to reset or just evaluate what’s going on in your head when things are getting too much.

    Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to your thoughts and feelings. Taking the time to step back from your situation, evaluate, and continue from a calmer state is nearly always beneficial. For beginners, this practice probably won’t be the first thing to come to mind when you’re experiencing high levels of stress, anger or sadness. Like any skill, practicing over time will lead to improvement.

    You can read about practicing mindfulness at SANE Australia.

  5. Track your moods

    Tracking your moods over time can help you identify early warning signs and get support as soon as possible. You could try journaling each night to monitor how your mood changes throughout each day.

    You could also try a mood tracking app to monitor how your mood changes in response to your diet, exercise levels, and life situations. Snapshot, an app developed by the Black Dog Institute, can help you identify patterns in your mood and understand how lifestyle factors influence your wellbeing.

Where to get help

If you’re struggling with your mental health, there are a number of things you can do.

Get help now

If you or someone close to you needs help now, there are phone lines and websites available:

For immediate help in a crisis:

Seeing your GP

If you have concerns about your mental health, it’s best to see your GP.

When you see your GP, they can:

  • make a mental health assessment
  • prescribe some medications to treat anxiety or depression
  • refer you to a mental health professional
  • refer you to other support services

They can also put you on a mental health plan, and this means Medicare may subsidise up to 10 sessions with a mental health professional. You can learn more about the different types of mental health professionals at Healthdirect Australia.

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All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified health care professional.

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