OPINION

World Mental Health Day: tips on how to build mental health balance

Palta's medical advisor: what affects our mental health and what steps can help keep ourselves mentally healthy.
Image credits: Unsplash
On 10 October, we will observe World Mental Health Day, presented by the World Federation of Mental Health. The goal is to help raise mental health awareness. We spoke to our expert - Andrei Beloveshkin, Medical Advisor at Palta, to determine what affects our mental health and what steps can help keep ourselves mentally healthy.
Nowadays, people think much more about their mental health. We used to believe that there were mentally healthy people and people with diseases to be treated by default. If you had a mental health problem, it was shameful to seek help because of social attitudes. Now we accept that mental health and physical health are equally important parts of our well-being.
What is mental health?
Mental health is our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also determines how we cope with stress, communicate with others and make choices in life. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood to adulthood.

Very often, mental health is associated with mental illness. However, these are far from the same thing. A person may have poor mental health but not be diagnosed with a mental illness. In the same way, a person diagnosed with mental illness may experience emotional or psychological well-being.

Similarly to physical health, mental health is not the absence of disease. It's a state of well-being, integrity, continuity, adaptability, energy levels, spontaneity, and interest in life. If our body has enough food and physical activities, our brain consumes information and produces specific ideas and thoughts. Body health depends on food quality and exercise. The same mental health depends on an "information diet" - what we hear, see, read, and people surround us. "Exercise" for the brain is the ability to concentrate, generate ideas and plans, search for meanings and connections, and create mental models.
Characteristics of mental health
If everything is clear with physical health: it is based on nutrition, sports, and sleep, then mental health is a little more complicated. The criteria for mental health include the following:

  1. Respect for self-interest. Emotionally healthy people primarily respect personal interests and sacrifice to a certain extent without harming themselves.
  2. Sufficient energy levels. It means to have a desire to live, act and be involved in different activities.
  3. Curiosity and interest. It stands for fascination, inspiration and curiosity about the details of life. To some extent, it is a sign of psychological youth. As soon as a person ceases to be interested in what they are doing in their life, he starts to lose his energy and grows mentally old.
  4. Taste of life. Healthy people enjoy and take pleasure in simple things.
  5. To be spontaneous and creative in one's daily life. It implies having a flexible mindset and not setting rigid rules for themselves or others.
  6. Stress-resistance. We can draw a comparison: a healthy mind is like surfing. Stress is the wave, and the surfer is our attitude toward stress. We should either choose to use the wave's energy for great things or wait until the wave hits us.
  7. Emotional intelligence. It refers to the ability to identify your emotions and understand what is happening to you. People who are not aware of identifying their feelings are at greater risk for various mental disorders

Many people think that there is no way to change our personality. Our psyche is constantly evolving, which means that some of its characteristics can be built like body muscles. As a result, our mental health improves.
How can you improve your mental health?
  1. Take care of your physical health. First of all, we should pay enough attention to our food, exercise and sleep. One of the signs for our quality of life is our internal emotional state when we fall asleep and wake up. If we fall asleep relaxed, satisfied with ourselves, and wake up in the morning inspired, it is a good indicator of mental health. Ask yourself self-check questions all the time: How do I feel before I go to sleep/wake up in the morning?
  2. Have information hygiene. The world has changed for our psyche as well. We are chronically stressed as many different temptations have emerged. They are all vying for our attention and desire. Too much such information hurts our mental health, so we learn to focus on the important things.
  3. Take time for self-care. The idea is to find the way of self-care that is right for you. You don't have to spend a lot of time on this, 5-10 minutes a day would be enough.
  4. Practice mindfulness. It should become as much of a habit as eating. Try to observe yourself without trying to get involved. How do you feel when you eat a particular food? After interacting with people, do you feel exhausted? What activities in life bring you more joy? Our brains give us many clues. We have to learn how to see them.
  5. Don't chase after pleasures. Our brains are addicted to various rewards and treats. The more we "reward" ourselves for nothing, the less motivated we are to do anything in the future. Quick rewards gradually become devalued (the so-called hedonistic adaptation), leading to a gradual loss of life enjoyment. The best pleasure comes from a job well done.

Our brains rebuild much faster than our bodies. It can happen at any age. One of the best things now you can do for your mental health is to take a break and remember that your emotional well-being is worth love. Do small things every day and remember that small steps lead to significant benefits in the long run.

ANDREI BELOVESHKIN
Medical Advisor at Palta
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