What makes you happy, keeps you mentally strong

It's important for all of us to work together to break through the stigma of mental illness, because it can affect anyone.

By Adi Jaffe

Published: Tue 30 Apr 2019, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 30 Apr 2019, 9:30 PM

I always felt like I was the only one who was an anxious mess inside, that everyone else around me knew how to feel comfortable, were proud of who they were, and lived struggle free. The feeling of not fitting in drove me to look for solutions that led me down some pretty dark paths... I now know that I was wrong the whole time - everyone has an internal struggle and most never reveal it for fear that, they too, are alone in their pain.
It's important for all of us to work together to break through the stigma of mental illness, because it can affect anyone. Even celebrities experience mental health issues and people such as Adele (postpartum depression), Miley Cyrus (depression), Dwayne Johnson (depression) and Lena Durham (OCD and anxiety) have gone public about their struggles. This is so important in bringing awareness to mental illness.
May is the Mental Health Month. So, here are six ways to boost mental health and general wellness:
Pet companionship: Many people with mental illness become socially isolated, and having a pet gives affection and companionship without judgment. Not only does having a pet dog encourage exercise and getting outdoors (which can help reduce depression symptoms), many people struggling with mental health issues experience a deep emotional connection with their pet that isn't always available from friends and family.
Spirituality: When people think of spirituality you probably picture a place of worship, but spirituality doesn't just have to only include institutionalised religion. Spirituality looks different for everyone. Practicing mindfulness can be spiritual, so can practicing yoga or meditating. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is recommended as a relapse prevention training for recurrent depression. Even having a nature walk or sitting on the back porch watching the birds at sunrise, can be spiritually grounding for some people.
Humour: Although scientific studies into humour is relatively new, research over the past 30 years suggests that humorous subject matter and the act of laughing may have a positive impact on mental and physical health. It can relieve pain, strengthen the immune system, help people cope with/ or distract them from stress, connect them with others and effectuate positive emotions.
Work-life balance: Long working hours, being disconnected from friends and family and not having time to 'clock out' from the job are contributing factors for stress and mental health issues. Establish healthy boundaries. Be clear about what time you will start and finish work and try to stick to those times. If you can, switch off any electronic connections to work when you're not working.
Recreation: Recreation is a broad term that encompasses all types of hobbies and interests. This may include social recreation (bowling or playing chess), creative activities (writing, music or painting) or physical activity (swimming or running). All of these are good for our mental health because they enhance our social, psychological and physical wellbeing.
Social connection: Since loneliness plays a key role in developing addiction and mental health issues, the best way to counteract is to connect with other human beings! Get involved in your community. The website Meetup.com offers a slew of options for joining others for essentially any activity.
If you are struggling with mental health or addiction issues, choose a treatment that has a social element to it as well as educational and inspirational components. Reach out for help. Reach out and connect with other people who are experiencing the same challenges as you, and seek an approach that is the best fit for you. Don't concern yourself too much with everyone else's opinion - find one that speaks to you and move forward.
-Psychology Today
Adi Jaffe is a lecturer at UCLA

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