When it comes to mental wellbeing, there is a tendency to talk purely in terms of mental health. There is a preconceived notice that the lack of any mental illness, is defined as mental wellbeing. This is absolutely untrue. Just like not having any physical or physiological disease, does not make you fit; not having any mental diseases, does not make you mentally well.
Let's understand mental wellbeing in depth.
What is Mental Wellbeing?
• Mental wellbeing is a situation, where an individual is able to deal effectively with the stresses of life and contribute to society, without any pressures, emotional or otherwise.
• Mental wellbeing is more of an inclusive concept. Here the absence of mental illness, objectivity and productivity are all combined to measure the mental wellness of a person.
The World Health Organization in its comprehensive definition of health, stated, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This means, not having a disease does not make you healthy. What makes you healthy is a complete state of wellbeing. This is also what applies to the concept of mental wellbeing.
Not having any mental illness, does not mean there is mental wellbeing. Whenever we talk of mental wellbeing, we are in fact talking about the overall package. Without a person has clarity of thought, objective decision making ability, productivity, etc. we can not say that the person is mentally healthy.
A common error to be taken note of, is that mentally well and mentally sound are not the same thing! They are different in definition, not only medically, but also legally. A person who is mentally sound may not be mentally well. He may be highly disturbed.
Let us now take a look at some of the common mental illnesses or disorders and understand what they are implying.
The most commonly known mental disorder, is also used as a term very synonymously with extreme sadness.
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being. People with a depressed mood can feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, ashamed or restless
(Note: Just to be clear, you are not depressed if you exhibit these symptoms alone.
Depression is something that only a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnose. The reason I am stressing this, is simple because we have a tendency to self-diagnose.)
It is a state of inner turmoil, where a person tends to feel an extreme sense of discomfort, guilt and becomes restless.
A person with an anxiety disorder, often makes up scenarios, without even realizing that they are not real. Negative thoughts start to breed and a person loses quickly calmly.
3. Mood Disorders
Mood swings of extreme range are seen in this scenario. A person with mood disorders, is often unable to find a rational level between mania and depression (Mania – extremely high end Depression – extremely low end of emotion)
4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is the inability to control the urge to perform a certain activity. It is more than often an activity which becomes a routine habit, which the person then finds impossible to do.
OCDs can be as ordinary as the need to wash ones hand every few minutes to dangerous ones like the need to self-harm.
In simple terms FEAR. A phobia is an extreme fear which stops a person from performing certain activities or dealing with certain situations. So claustrophobia, makes people feel suffocated in a crowd, etc.
As per WHO, the well-being of an individual is encompassed in the realization of their abilities, coping with normal stresses of life, productive work and contribution to their community. Even if you think about it logically, it makes sense. We would not look at a person who, has really high potential and is doing a really menial job or gets very upset about really trivial issues or does not get involved in some social activity, as a mentally well or happy person.
But, this also does not mean that a person who is always smiling and very affable and does social service, is actually happy! They say that people who smile the widest are the saddest. That is why it becomes essential to ensure mental wellbeing.
Let us now look at some of the best ways to ensure mental wellbeing.
1. Connect with people
With the advent of technology, if there is one thing we lost, it is the humane touch to our relationships. We have to remember that no matter how advanced the technology gets, the power that personal connections have, is unmatched. It is essential for mental wellbeing, that this connection with people takes place. When we talk to people we allow them to share our joys & sorrows. This affects our mental wellbeing immensely.
2. Get a life-coach
From time to time, we all need a little bit of push. A little cheering to help us move on and get on with life. A life coach can help us leave behind our problems and actually find the mental peace we so desire. It is always good to get some motivational advice and guidance. The mind clears up and we feel better.
3. Contribute to society
Does not have to be hours of social service. But a few hours a week or even if you can do something over the weekend, it can be very good for you. When you give back to society, it creates a sense of self-worth. We always feel better when we are in a position to give. It is human tendency. Contributing in any small way, can bring positive feelings.
4. Challenge yourself
Never mollycoddle yourself. Always give yourself challenging tasks and keep raising the bar. Your mind needs to feel challenged. Otherwise a sense of worthlessness and hopelessness kicks in.
So keep yourself active and up to any task at hand. Mental wellbeing comes only when there is satisfaction. What better satisfaction than completing challenges ?!
5. Take it easy
Just because I said challenge yourself, do not put yourself into undue pressure. You have your own constraints. Never overestimate your strengths. This makes you set unrealistic goals. When these goals does not get fulfilled, the mind feels low and demotivated. Mental wellbeing is impossible without positivity. So always allow yourself some space. Take it easy on yourself.
6. Notice your surroundings
It may not always seem so, but this world is a pretty amazing place. Whenever you feel like there is a lack of balance, just look around yourself. Take notice of what is happening around you. The mind will become alert and it will come up with productive solutions to problems. Mental wellbeing, has as one of its components, productivity. Pay close attention to your surroundings.
Most importantly, live in the here and now. It is absolutely foolish, to miss a beautiful today, in hopes of a better tomorrow. Enjoy the moment.
7. Ask for help
There is no shame in not being able to stay 100% in control, all the time. There is no such thing as perfection. Nobody is perfect and neither are you. So if at some point you feel out of control, just go and ask for help. Do not have to be a doctor on the first go. You could talk to a friend, a favorite teacher, your parents, a counselor or anyone! But ask for help when you need it.
Mental wellbeing is much easier to achieve when you have people you can go to for help.
The brain is really complex. We never really know, what is going on up there most of the time! But that does not mean we need to give up. Mental wellbeing is our right.
I know, it is impossible to be pleased with everything all the time. But we must try to find a little bit of sunshine in every dark day. That is the only way to ensure mental wellbeing.