We all go through ups and downs — it’s natural and the pattern of life. Our moods change all the time and we all have good days and bad days. But there are things we can do to build and maintain a sense of good mental well-being which I explore below.
What is ‘good’ mental well-being?
Good mental well-being means that, in general, you feel comfortable and confident; you’re able to express your thoughts and feelings, nurture good relationships with other people, and be resilient. This means you can bounce back quickly when things go wrong, adapt to change and cope with the stresses of everyday life.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? So what can you build into your life that can help you work towards this? Here are some ideas.
1. Make a daily well-being recipe
Have a think about some of the key things you know you need to do or to happen every day to make you feel fulfilled. This will be unique to you and factors in your emotional, social and physical needs. It could be exercising, doing something creative, reading or spending time with a friend.
Make a list and then use it as a checklist throughout the day over a week or so to see where your needs are being met, or where there are gaps. If you’ve got some gaps, you can start to bring the things that are missing into your day.
It’s easy to miss what might be affecting your mental well-being when your days and weeks are so busy. So a well-being ‘recipe’ or checklist could be a good place to start.
2. Learn something new
Learning new things throughout your life opens doors, boosts self-esteem and builds social relationships. These are all great components for good mental well-being. Furthermore, setting goals and working towards them is linked to higher levels of well-being.
Learning doesn’t have to stop after formal education. There are opportunities everywhere to expand your mind and horizons.
- Read a book you wouldn’t normally read. For example, if you always choose fiction, choose a non-fiction book. Or if that’s not to your tastes, choose a novel in a different genre for a change.
- Do the mind games in the newspaper — like crosswords and Sudoku. Learn how to do the cryptic crossword if you’re already a dab hand at the standard ones.
- Sign up for a course — drawing, dancing, cooking, learning a language — choose something you’ve always fancied doing.
You can even look a bit closer to home and find out something new about your colleagues or partner.
3. Be mindful
Taking notice of what’s going on around you is a good way to be in the present moment. Mindfulness is the regular practice of this — you don’t think about the past or the future, you just focus on staying in the moment, observing it without any judgement. This can help you manage your feelings and be accepting of what’s happening around you and in your life.
Research shows that mindfulness can reduce how stressed you feel, improve your sleep and reduce tiredness and it can help you spend less time ruminating (which means repeatedly going over things in your head).
The great thing about mindfulness is that you can learn to practice it in lots of places — step outside and take a few moments to focus on what you can see, hear and smell. You can even do it when you’re brushing your teeth or hanging up the washing! It might help to set aside some dedicated time to being mindful. You could pick the same time each day, which may help make it a habit that you’re likely to find easier to stick to.
Or you can try this in a more spontaneous way. Think of a few new ways you can take notice today. It might be taking a new route to work, eating at a new restaurant, or really noticing the sky and how the weather changes.
4. Be kind to yourself
Be your own cheerleader — learn how to be kinder to yourself. This might mean talking positively to yourself, allowing yourself to feel what you feel, and taking care not to compare yourself or your life to other people. People who are kind to themselves are more likely to bounce back after a setback. This is essential for building up your resilience.
A good way to tune into your inner voice is to sit quietly and listen to your inner monologue. Do you speak to yourself with kindness or are you harsh and critical? Next time something goes wrong, make a conscious effort to speak kindly to yourself — you’re only human and you’re doing the best you can. Think about how you’d talk to your best friend and apply the same tone to yourself.
5. Make a connection
Social connection — with loved ones, friends and even people you don’t know well — all contribute to our sense of feeling valued and supports us in our day-to-day living.
There are lots of ways you can strengthen your relationships and interactions with others such as:
- saying hi to your neighbor or someone new
- making eye contact and smiling with the person at your coffee shop
- having a conversation with a colleague about a task rather than sending an email about it
- practicing active listening — ask someone about their day and really focus on listening to them
Don't Forget To Give Yourself A Break
It’s important to bear in mind that it’s not realistic to feel great all the time, so don’t put yourself under pressure to feel like you should. Sometimes, just accepting how you’re feeling and focusing on being gentle with yourself is what’s important. And sometimes we might not feel great for longer than this — some things take time to work through and get over. There might be a recognizable reason such as a change in your life, or there might not be a clear reason at all.
Focus on building positive relationships with those around you, having a support network can really help. Look after your physical health too such as eating well, getting some exercise and getting enough sleep. And if you’re feeling as though you’re struggling, you’re not alone — talk to someone or see your GP for help and support.