There is “no health without mental health” is one of the principles at the core of the World Health Organization’s mental health action plan.
At any given time, 10% of Canadians are experiencing some form of mental illness and the most common is depression; and traditionally, stress has been viewed as a major risk factor for depression.
Every year on the 10th of October, the WHO joins in celebrating World Mental Health Day. The day was created by this organization to raise public awareness of mental health issues. It’s thought that around 154 million people around the world suffer from some form of mental disorder from depression to more severe debilitation.
Good mental health is not just about the absence of illness. Mental health (or well- being) is defined as a balance of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. Caring relationships, a place to call home, a supportive community, and a balance of work and leisure all contribute to mental health.
However, no one’s life is perfect. So in order to enjoy life, and cope with its challenges, here are some ways to stay emotionally ready for life’s ups and downs.
Get physical – the benefits of exercise are a way to enhance and maintain mental fitness. Physical activity is increasingly becoming one of the recommended treatments for depression and anxiety.
Smart eating – mental health professionals point out that good eating habits can optimize our ability to cope with life’s ups and downs.
Emotional health – happiness is perhaps one of the most important barometers for mental health. Signs of depression – such as ongoing sadness or a loss of interest in life – can be the opposite of happiness and joy.
In The Happiness Prescription, Deepak Chopra, spiritual teacher and author, defines happiness as a subjective state of well-being, joy and ease. If you’re happy, he says, you are going to be healthier.
Most of us spend a large part of our lives striving for what we think will make us happy, only to find that once we get there, we keep wanting the next thing. It seems most things make us happy on a short-term basis.
But does happiness have to be a carrot dangling just out of reach?
Studies show that gratitude, saying ‘I love you’ to someone each day, and even a ready smile when greeting people, can increase levels of well-being and happiness among those who cultivate it. Expressing your happiness to others is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism and empathy.
In addition, spiritual health has been referred to as ‘the forgotten dimension’ of mental health care. According to the World Health Organization, ‘Patients and physicians have begun to realize the value of elements such as faith, hope and compassion in the healing process’. Acknowledging these elements – which may be called ‘spiritual values’ – and employing them in daily practice is proven to give strength in adversity and to aid in restoring a healthy mental balance.
John M. Grohol, founder and CEO of Psych Central, cites new research that followed a group of people over 10 years and resulted in affirming that a “strong sense of spirituality or religion can help you ward off depression.”
And Dr. Larry Culliford, psychiatrist and author of ‘Healing from Within: Spirituality and Mental Health’, writes: “Comprehensive research evidence shows that religious and spiritual beliefs and practices help prevent many physical and mental illnesses, reducing both symptom severity and relapse rate, speeding up and enhancing recovery, as well as rendering distress and disability easier to endure.”
There’s good reason that building our spiritual foundation and/or having a faith practice produces these results. It can build our understanding of, and trust in, being connected to a divine source that is powerful and loving. This allows us to let go of both fear and worry about the future or guilt and regret about the past. And, that produces resilience that wards off stress and ill health.
Simple steps to good mental health can begin in your consciousness, your own thinking.
Mary Baker Eddy, Christian theologian and author, writes: “If you wish to be happy, argue with yourself on the side of happiness; take the side you wish to carry, and be careful not to talk on both sides, or to argue stronger for sorrow than for joy.”
Good mental health, regardless of where you live in the world, is a winning combination of emotional, physical and spiritual attributes and qualities. This mental fitness – learned and practiced – can foster a new sense of hope and peace of mind.
What a great way to prepare for and celebrate Mental Health Day – and every day.