When most people hear the words ‘mental health’ perhaps what they are most likely to think of is mental difficulties, or mental ill-health. I always think it’s such a shame that ‘mental health’ has these negative connotations, whereas just the word ‘health’ doesn’t seem to.
I am a big believer in being proactive about mental health and wellbeing, and in the importance of doing things to stay mentally and emotionally well – just as you might keep active, eat a healthy diet and clean your teeth to keep your body well and healthy. There is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a huge overlap between a person’s emotional and physical wellbeing. The negative impact of stress on health and wellbeing has been well researched.
Positive Psychology is a branch of psychology founded by Martin Seligman, which is concerned with the positive aspects of life; it focuses on potential and thriving, or as one book puts it ‘positive psychology is concerned not with how to transform, for example, -8 to -2 but with how to bring +2 to +8’.
So, what might be the emotional equivalents of cleaning your teeth or keeping active be? There are lots of ideas that can be helpful, and some will suit certain people more than others. It is worth trying out a few different ideas to see what works well for you. Using a planner can help, to ensure that you are regularly and frequently doing something specifically to have a positive impact on your emotional wellbeing. It’s good to have a mixture of things across a week, including things that bring you pleasure and things that bring a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment.
The list below includes different ideas and strategies drawn from Positive Psychology, and other areas of psychology:
- Engaging in physical activity
- Noticing your strengths
- Actively relaxing – this could be using imagery, or a progressive muscle relaxation
- Random acts of kindness
- Spending time engaging in hobbies
- Spending time with, and investing in close relationships
- Completing the ‘Three good things’ exercise; every night for a week spend some time to identify and write down three things that were good about the day and notice your role in them
- Thinking about someone you are grateful to or for, and telling them about it
- Spending some time paying attention to the present moment (Mindfulness)
Later this year I will be running a series of workshops along with a physiotherapist, looking at tips for having a healthy body and healthy mind which will go further into the topics discussed in this blog.
Dr Emma Stevens, HCPC Registered, is an experienced Clinical Psychologist. She has an integrative approach drawing on Cognitive Behavioural, Systemic and Psychodynamic models, as well as Attachment Theory. Emma sees individuals primarily for sort-term work. Emma is available at our Lewes Practice.
 Positive Psychology in a Nutshell, 2nd edition. Boniwell, I. (2008).