What is mental health?

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Mental Health, the headline topic in the media. But what actually is it?

Mental health is very different to having a mental illness or a mental health problem. We all have a duty to look after our physical health and this is the same for your mental health. You see countless posts on Instagram about people becoming vegan because they believe it improves their physical health but people don’t often make drastic changes to improve their mental health.

According to the charity Mind, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year and 1 in 6 people report a common mental health problem (anxiety or depression) each week. Look around your colleagues at work or even your family, those are high statistics.

There is a lot of unnecessary stigma around mental health problems and people don’t like to talk about it. Maybe this is because with a lot of mental health problems they don’t ever go away. It isn’t like a cough or a cold which comes and goes. No one calls in sick and says, ‘sorry my anxiety is extremely bad today and I can’t come in’. People with mental health problems often suffer in silence and don’t even tell their close family or friends about it.

This needs to change. Nobody should feel embarrassed about saying they have a mental health problem. I think it is because of the stigma which is associated around the word ‘mental’, which has been engrained in society for hundreds if not, thousands of years. Instead, why not try actually describing how you feel to someone – anxious, stressed, depressed, worried. Most of my friends won’t even know I used to have an eating disorder or the anxiety I sometimes suffer from, as it was something I felt embarrassed to tell people. It doesn’t stop me from doing anything as I have learnt to control it. It also doesn’t have to be the topic of every conversation with my friends but you should be able to talk about it as and when you need to.

A lot of mental health problems are worsened or caused by environmental factors and these can be changed.  Even if you think your mental health is under control now, it could easily change as we are constantly under a lot of pressure both in our work and social lives, which could stem anxious, stressful or depressive thoughts.

In our 21st, sedentary lives, it is easy for negative thoughts to build-up in our minds, creating a negative outlet and therefore a negative cycle. We all need a positive way to release these environmental stresses.

One of the best ways to release stress is exercise. It is finding an exercise that you like doing and making a goal that you can achieve. There are so many new exercise clubs and classes around there will be something you enjoy! You don’t have to go running every day.

Personally, I really enjoying spinning but I know it isn’t for everyone. I find it a challenge, at the beginning of a class I always think, how am I going to get through 45 minutes of this?! By the end of the class I feel such a sense of achievement. I want to try and be more flexible so am trying to incorporate at least a day a week of Pilates and ensure I always stretch after doing exercise.  If I have had a bad day at work or struggling to motivate myself, I always find that a quick exercise class sorts me out. I am really into exercise DVDs so even if I can’t bring myself to go out in the cold, I do a YouTube video instead.

If you want some time to think, go on a run. If you want to release your anger at the world, try boxing. If you just want to relax, try some yoga or Pilates. Exercise is for everyone and for everything. Feel a sense of achievement whilst cleansing your mind.

Love MaMo X

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