How to Maintain Mental Health

Mental illness sounds negative and a little scary.

Posted Sep 25, 2015

Mental illness sounds negative and a little scary. But the opposite of mental illness is mental health, so let’s think about how we can focus on improving our mental health instead of focusing always on what’s wrong.

Express Your Emotions: Some people need to learn how to laugh and cry, and understand they can do so without embarrassment. Many perceive crying as being overly sentimental, a sign of emotional imbalance or perhaps manipulative, while others see tears as a sign of emotional strength and expression; emotions are a normal part of being human. Occasional tears can be effective and powerful messengers, but they can sometimes carry mixed messages. For example, a good cry occasionally can release a lot of pent up frustration or stress. While tears relay frustration and loss, they can also convey messages of joy, victory, love, and reunion.

Very similarly, laughter can be a spontaneous burst of joy or a signal of nervous uncertainty or disbelief. We have all felt the effects of a heart-felt laugh, including how good we generally felt afterwards.  An old saying is — a merry heart is good medicine. Learn to laugh at life a little more and you will probably feel better.

All of our emotions can bring people closer together. While the reason for our tears or laughter is unique to each of us, we have a shared recognition of the significance and validity of our emotional reactions. Tears alert us that invaluable information may be forthcoming and can warn us to pay close attention to ourselves and to others by initiating a deeper connection between family and friends. Walking around with a big smile on your face will often get a positive reaction even from strangers.

Spend Time with People You Value: Socializing with other people is also essential for long-term mental health. Humans are social creatures and contact with others is important, even for those individuals who enjoy their privacy or spending time alone. Socializing is not always easy for some of us, but this can be worked on like most goals in life. Sometimes a pet is a good start because it can give you a reason to get out and meet people with a common interest, by seeing and meeting regulars at a local pet store or maybe at a dog park. Volunteering at an animal rescue, for example, is a way to meet a completely new group of people whom you may really enjoy.

Everyone needs companionship sometimes, to talk with or listen to us and offer empathy. Try being friendly and you may be amazed how others will react; you might make a new friend. Take responsibility for your emotional health and do something positive about keeping yourself happy and healthy. Mental health professionals can answer specific questions, provide therapies and teach techniques to prevent minor symptoms from getting out of control. Remember, mental health is just as important as physical health.