Why Awareness About Mental Health Simply Isn’t Enough
In the last few years in Australia we’ve seen a rapid increase in organisations specialising in mental health awareness. Some are privately run through sponsorship funding and some governmentally funded. What’s inspired this growth is the dramatic increase in poor mental health in our society. These bodies are reportedly seeing huge increases in anxiety and depression across the population.
On one hand it is great that we are bringing awareness to this issue, but on the other hand, the question is….What are they doing about resolving the issue? Have we seen a decrease since these organisations have appeared on the scene or has the issue continued to balloon?
I applied as a speaker at one of the organisations a while ago, offering my services to support those who may have suffered with anxiety or depression. In the interview process, they asked me what sort of topics I would be discussing in my presentations, to which I replied:
“Effective strategies to overcome the debilitating effects of anxiety, panic and depression.”
“Oh No. We don’t like to discuss strategies, we are about awareness.” They replied.
I was a bit confused.
What does awareness alone do to help people recover from a lack of mental health? Don’t these people need strategies and a process to go through to help them recover and regain their mental health back? Apparently this was not what this incredibly well funded organisation was about.
Needless to say, they declined my application.
If someone sat down in front of you and they said they were physically unhealthy, would you talk about it or propose some steps they take to improve their health? No doubt, you might suggest they exercise 3 times a week, make veggie juices, go to bed before 10pm, stretch 2-3 times a week, drink 2 litres of filtered water a day, avoid drinking too much alcohol, decrease their sugar, gluten and processed foods.
It wouldn’t be a complex process but one that once applied would certainly bring about an improvement in someone’s physical health. It shouldn’t require huge amounts of discussion and awareness, just being proactive and empowered in making choices and presenting an option. Once they take that option and embark on those steps, invariably we see their physical health improve.
The very same goes for mental health. Being mentally healthy is a process. It requires action. It requires processes. It’s not complicated to get the basics of mental health. The foundation of being mentally healthy is quite simple and presenting the options to those suffering is the key to improving someone’s state of mind.
I once had very poor mental health. It’s certainly better these days than where it was. Is it perfect? No, I’m not sure we can reach perfect mental health. Are we ever going to feel happy all the time? (Maybe the Dalai Lama?? Even there I’d be surprised.) But by taking a series of steps and continuing with them daily I found that my mental health improved dramatically. So if someone does have a lack of mental health, what steps could they take to improve the health of their mind?
1. Read self-help books daily: There’s a Sanskrit phrase, yad bhavam tat bhavati which means what we think we become. By reading positive self-help books we continuously over-ride those negative conditioned thoughts in our mind.
2. Meditate daily or ideally twice a day: Meditation is like going to the gym for your body. It’s a work out and will help develop the mind into more positive space. Science has revealed that meditation increases grey matter, and the biochemical’s of serotonin and oxytocin that help you feel happy and calm. Meditation also helps move the body out of sympathetic nervous system state and into parasympathetic nervous system where it restores balance.
3. See naturopath and get your gut health checked: The gut is considered the second brain and if we have poor gut health this can affect our moods, leading to anxiety and depression. Issues like low healthy gut flora, inflammation and lack of nutrients all influence our mental health.
4. Avoid negative media and as much as possible, negative people: As per point #1, constantly being around people and reading media that is filled with negativity will affect your thoughts and your mental health. This isn’t always as easy to do, however where possible, make mindful choices about engaging in negative gossip, discussions and watching only the negative aspects of global news. There is a lot of good going on out there as well, only it doesn’t sell as well as negative news!
5. Gratitude daily: When we feel gratitude for the good things in our life it immediately changes how we feel. It’s much easier to see the negative things in our life than the good things, so it will require a structured process. I have gratitude journal by my bedside that I write 10 things I’m grateful for that day. It can be a small as having a hot shower, the warmth and light from the sun, the oxygen provided by the trees or your family.
6. Avoiding technology and going to sleep by 10pm: A good night sleep is crucial for mental health. The mind is a muscle and if it gets overworked it gets worn out and tired. Providing sufficient time each day for the mind and body to repair is key to good mental health.
7. Eating more organic healthy wholefoods: The brain needs to be fed nutrients and minerals to be healthy. If it’s starved it will suffer. I don’t subscribe to diets, but I do like to eat nutritious whole foods preferably locally sourced from my weekly growers market. Another way to feed the brain is with the powerful micro-nutrients found in Q96 Empowerplus. The vitamins and minerals feed the brain helping to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and panic.
8. Exercise: Yes this is a physical practice that will help physical health but it has been proven to also help mental health. When we exercise we release healthy endorphins into our body, increases serotonin, and reduces inflammation by detoxing through sweating.
Mental health means just that, a healthy state of mind. To achieve physical health, requires a regular regime or process, and the same too for mental health. We need to be proactive and embrace daily actions that constantly improve our state of mind. Bringing awareness about the poor state of mental health in our society, I’m all for that, but can we also offer options and strategies to help us all continuously achieve good mental health?
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