Good mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness. Here are 8 tips for building good mental health.
1. Build relationships
Having good relationships with other people is the most important factor contributing to a sense of wellbeing. This can include family, friends, workmates and others in the community. Investing time and energy in your relationships can lead to great benefits for all involved.
2. Exercise and stay healthy
Exercise has been shown to increase wellbeing as well as reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Good physical health is related to better mental health so a healthy diet, avoiding excess alcohol or drugs, getting a good night's sleep, and regular checkups with the doctor can all help.
3. Develop gratitude
Count your blessings. Try keeping a gratitude journal and write down 3 positive things each day. This can lead to increased wellbeing.
4. Identify and use your strengths
We all have different strengths and weaknesses but finding out what you are really good at and using those talents can increase wellbeing. A strengths questionnaire is available at Authentic Happiness. (It’s free, but you need to register). Using your strengths to help others or contribute to the community creates a sense of meaning and purpose.
5. Create flow
Flow is the state of being so highly involved in an enjoyable activity that you lose track of time. This usually happens when the level of challenge is about right for your level of skill. Flow can happen during work, hobbies, creative arts or sports.
6. Give to others
Making a contribution to the community, however small, increases social wellbeing. Many people feel a sense of contributing through meaningful work, but this could also mean volunteering, helping a neighbour or performing small acts of kindness. Take some time to do the things you really enjoy. Pleasant events can lead to positive emotions that can cancel out negative feelings.
7. Spirituality or religion
For some people, being involved in spiritual or religious practices can improve wellbeing, help in coping with stress and reduce symptoms of mental illness. This can include belonging to a faith community, meditation, prayer, mindfulness or practices such as yoga and Tai Chi.
8. Seek help
If you are struggling to feel happy, cope with everyday life, find meaning or feel connected to others, see your doctor or a mental health professional. Almost half of Australians will experience a mental disorder at some time in their life — depression, anxiety and substance abuse are the most common disorders.
Not sure what to do next?
If you or someone you know are finding it difficult to manage mental health issues, try healthdirect’s Symptom Checker and get advice on when to seek professional help.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
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Last reviewed: November 2018