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Connecting with the world around you can enhance your mental health

Connecting with the world around you can enhance your mental health
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Five ways to increase
well-being

View the "21 Ways to Enjoy Life More" booklet

BY LAURIE MCPHERSON
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, Summer 2010

How did you feel when you woke up this morning? Were you feeling ready to face another day? Or did you want to hide your head under the pillow?

If you were feeling a bit down, don't worry: You're not alone. Thousands of Canadians wake up every day feeling the same way. Life can be complicated: there are tough decisions to make, relationship issues, parenting demands, and work deadlines. Then there are the everyday hassles like traffic tie ups, piles of laundry and noisy neighbours that can eventually wear us down.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to put ourselves in a more positive frame of mind, ready to meet the challenges of the day with enthusiasm.

The fact is good mental health involves much more than not having mental-health problems. Being mentally healthy every day helps us to enjoy life more, and involves three main areas of our lives: emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. When we feel emotionally well, we feel cheerful, calm and interested in life. We are generally satisfied with life and we look forward to the activities in our day like finishing a project at work or going to a movie. We also feel hopeful about the future and have goals such as finishing school or buying a car.

Psychological wellness includes having a positive attitude toward ourselves and life. This aspect of mental health means that we can usually find ways to solve problems and we have a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. This could be feeling rewarded in your role as a parent, finding meaning in being a volunteer at your local community centre, or caring for your pet.

Social well-being is another very important aspect of good mental health. Being able to give and receive comfort and support from the people around us can be a strong buffer against mental-health problems. A genuine sense of belonging within our families and communities gives us meaning and helps us through the tough times. Families, workplaces, clubs, social groups, sports teams, community organizations and spiritual groups are all examples of meaningful social connections.

It may strike you that the ingredients of good mental health are not that complicated.

While they aren't complicated, it's important to remember that many other factors affect our mental health. Heredity, personality and life circumstances such as living with a disability, living in unsafe housing or in poverty, physical illness or chronic health conditions also play a role.

The ability to "bounce back" in the face of life's challenges, often called resilience, is developed by accepting the things in life that we cannot change while working toward wellness every day. For example, people living with diabetes or other chronic health conditions can learn to effectively manage their nutrition and physical activity to maximize their overall wellness.

So what can we do to promote and strengthen good mental health? We all have a role to play in helping to foster supportive and healthy schools, workplaces and communities. This could mean doing things like contributing to a community garden, reaching out to people who are isolated in your neighbourhood, speaking with your government representative about matters that are important to you, or sharing your talents such as through coaching, mentoring or volunteering.

As individuals, we can take care of the basics like getting enough sleep, eating well and being physically active everyday. We all have different energy levels, so everyone needs to find a balance between work and play that works for them. Make sure you find time for the activities you enjoy like reading, music, creative hobbies and other interests.

Practice good self-care strategies by maintaining a sense of humour, taking the time to be with people you enjoy, and finding a sense of purpose in your life.

By accepting who you are and focusing on the positives in your life, you will be better able to solve problems and meet life's challenges. If you start to feel overwhelmed, practise strategies to reduce your stress, such as relaxation breathing, yoga or meditation. Talk to someone you trust and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

There are rewards and challenges at every stage of life. Positive mental health can help you to enjoy life more; it's worth striving for every day!

Laurie McPherson is a mental health promotion co-ordinator with the Winnipeg Health Region.

Wave

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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