Unlike many illnesses, there is no blanket cure for mental health issues. If you become physically sick, whether it’s from the common cold or a debilitating virus, there’s usually something that can be prescribed. Unfortunately, mental health is very different to physical health: medication may alleviate the symptoms, but the damage is still there, relieved rather than reversed, and could even remain indefinitely.
Some people may not wish to take medication and others may suffer adverse effects, instead having to handle issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, OCD and schizophrenia in their own way. Whatever the case, telling someone to snap out of it, cheer up or look on the bright side is like telling a broken arm to mend because there’s no real point in being fractured.
Today, Friday 10th October, is World Mental Health Day. 1 in 4 people experience mental health problems at any given time, which means that around 116,000 Scousers, 562,000 Parisians, two million New Yorkers and a staggering six million people in Shanghai are living with a condition this very moment, be it fleeting or long-term.
Though the diagnosis and treatment of a mental health problem is entirely specific to the individual and their circumstances, the five steps below are universal. By taking these on board and applying them each day, you can help to improve your mental wellbeing, not to mention your quality of life.
Connect – People are important. Put aside time for your family, keep in touch with old friends and make new ones, go out with colleagues after work now and then, and chat to the person at the counter when buying your groceries.
Be active – It’s not a case of “go hard or go home”. Find an activity that you enjoy, or even just incorporate a little more exercise into your daily routine, such as walking to work and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Keep learning – Humans are designed to learn and you’re never too old. Whether you decide to memorise a new word or fact every day, start an academic course, take up a new language or hobby, or simply read more articles and news updates, your mind will benefit from the workout the same way your body benefits from a long walk.
Give to others – Helping other people and making their day better is extremely rewarding and can motivate the mind no end. Smile more, offer your seat to someone on a packed bus, buy a coworker lunch or even start volunteering for a worthy cause. Do it your way and make a difference.
Take notice – Mindfulness is the act of being aware of the present moment, your surroundings, how you feel and the thoughts in your head. It’s a hectic planet, but you have the power to be in control of your own world.
For more information on World Mental Health Day and mental health in general, please visit the Mental Health Foundation.