To avoid being ourselves a part of the general social problem of mental health, we each must follow a personal mental fitness programme just as we follow our physical health programme. In this way we can anticipate a comfortable future for ourselves and contribute to a healthier society in general.
Many people have to learn to adjust to physical disabilities and physical disease and often can still lead relatively comfortable lives but mental diseases are even more difficult. They have a powerful negative effect upon our total well-being as well as upon everybody around us and frequently one patient will require several helpers. Without mental health life can become unbearable.
We know that there are certain habits and practices which will give us good physical health but how do we know what to do to keep ourselves mentally healthy? Where can we learn to follow a mental health programme?
Mental Health Rules
If the rules and requirements for physical health and fitness are well known to be associated with hygiene, posture, nutrition, pure water, exercise, relaxation, sleep and rest, sunshine, fresh air and the need for a clean, natural environment, it seems reasonable that we can follow the same principles regarding our minds. And if we apply these rules with the same enthusiasm we give to physical fitness, we can surely expect good results to follow.
So to maintain mental health we need a clear, uncluttered mind, positive attitudes, nourishing or enriching thoughts and ideas, ample exercise to keep our minds strong and flexible, sufficient rest and sleep for restoration of our mental energies and a wholesome mental environment.
Our mental environment is as important for our minds as the physical environment is for our bodies. Our minds can only thrive in surroundings which are congenial and free of disturbing and negative thoughts and influences.
Basically then, the rules when defined, are seen to be simple, requiring only a degree of self discipline in order to put them into effect. The key to success is in the application of the principles. Then we can expect to retain our intelligent grasp on life, keep our full mental faculties unimpaired and retain a joy in living to the end of our days.
We may see others exercising for physical health and admire what they are doing but we will never know the benefits they feel until we follow suit and do the same. We each must make our own effort and this is just the same regarding mental fitness. Those who are getting good results are already following the mental health rules.
Concept Of Mental Health
To motivate us we have to have a concept to inspire us. So, just as we know how we feel when our body is in a healthy state, we need to consider what constitutes an ideal healthy mental state. These signs of good mental function and expression are recognized in a person who has balance and stability, mental strength, rationality, self-confidence, will power, vitality, mental creativity, compassion, developed talents, generosity, fearlessness, love and kindness. We refer to the ideal when we are assessing our own qualities.
Our general concept also anticipates that such a person would be cheerful rather than morose, calm instead of confused, ethical and law abiding, truthful, fair minded and self controlled. Perhaps, we would also naturally anticipate that such an individual would have a good sense of humour as well as a capacity for logical thought and common sense. They would also possess a degree of self confidence which would allow them to feel secure and therefore kindly disposed towards others rather than expressing defensive behaviour and negative traits of personality.
Any healthy minded person is intelligent and creative with a keen intellect, capable of generating new thoughts and expressing a wholesome enthusiasm for life. This latter quality is perhaps of most importance. But we need to build up a clear picture of our own as to what we are aiming for in our efforts to achieve and maintain mental health.
Above all, we wish to live untroubled and at peace within the inner world of our own mind.
Thoughts And Feelings Are Entwined
The human psyche however, is a blend of both thinking and feeling. Our nature comprises a partnership or co-operation between emotions and thought. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the difference between thought and feeling when they are blended, or even confused. But they are certainly aspects of our nature which function on different planes. Sometimes thought and feeling run parallel, sometimes not. For instance we can have happy thoughts and entertain similar joyful feelings or can have pleasant thoughts yet can experience a feeling of foreboding. Our happiest moments however, come from a positive and harmonious blending of both aspects of our psyche. So we must be sure that our thoughts and our feelings work together.
We require discipline and self-control to establish physical health and we require application of the same when we are ensuring the health of our emotional state. As our emotions have a strong influence upon our thinking we must remain positive to ensure that negative emotions have no chance to endanger the plans our mind sets for our life goals. Rather, we depend upon our strong and happy emotions to give impetus to those goals.
There is no point in spending mental energy for a cause only to have its success undermined wayward emotions. And equally it is not satisfactory to have strong positive emotions seeking expression but that are denied by our own fear or negative thinking.
Mind Must Master The Emotions
Following the natural fluctuations and difficulties between thoughts and emotions experienced in adolescence, it is fundamental to our character and well being that in maturity, our thoughts assume the responsibility of leadership over our emotions. So when conflicts arise, as can often occur, the mind can be responsible for employing the emotions in such a way as to result in happy, positive outcomes.
The mind must assume the powerful role of benign Director of our lives, encouraging our best emotions and subduing the negative. This is the starting point for mental fitness. Good teamwork between a positive mind and balanced emotions results in an ideal state to undertake mental fitness disciplines, just as a physical fitness exercise programme is a pleasant experience when the body is willing. Conflict between mind and emotions generally results in indecision, depression or in emotional storms which temporarily damage any determined intent of the mind.
Most psychological tensions are based on this disparity between what our mind aims for and what our emotions desire. They must become co-operatively harnessed to a single purpose or at least oriented in the same direction.
Get to know your emotional moods and energy and learn to be happy and to expand your capacity to experience positive emotions, the greatest of which is love. But let your emotional nature be directed under the leadership of your thought.
Just Follow The Rules
Once we know the role of the mind and its natural duty is to direct our emotions, we can accept the responsibility and feel confident that we can cope with any of our own rebellious moods and emotions. We are then free to follow the mental health rules: We need to keep a clear, uncluttered mind; maintain positive optimistic attitudes; entertain enriching thoughts and ideas; give exercise to our minds to keep them both strong and flexible; ensure we have sufficient rest and sleep for restoration of our mental energies; and provide ourselves with a wholesome mental environment.
Become Free Of Stress
Stress is said to be the most common symptom of mental disease. It is difficult to avoid exaggerated responses and to remain un-phased by extremes in others and remain calm and rational at all times. A person who can do so earns our admiration and we should try to follow instead of reacting quickly according to our old habits.
Negative moods and conditions of stress and tension in others cause us to react quickly as stress is infectious unless we keep a hold on our responses just as we have to learn to handle our own stress to avoid affecting others in a negative way.
We all experience minor symptoms of mental disturbance or anxiety on occasion and it is best that we learn to deal with stressful situations as they arise.
There are many ways to deal with stress – from learning the art of relaxation and meditation, yoga, tai-chi , taking up a hobby or a sport, deep breathing, herbal tonics and supplements, therapeutic massage and so on. But remember to be kind to yourself and be sure that you are caring for yourself as you should, enjoying a natural lifestyle of your choice, developing your inherent talents and creating a life which is according to your own plan. Then you will be so happy that there is no room for inner stress.
If you should suffer anxiety which is not due to obvious factors, it may be advisable to seek the counsel of a professional psychologist who can help you to regain perspective or advise you appropriately.
Stress is just another way of saying something is wrong in our lives, whether it is within ourselves, our circumstances or in regard to wrong decisions and choices. Each of us inwardly holds the key to what is causing our unhappiness. Each of us has the capacity to correct what is wrong if we are honest with ourselves and are prepared to make changes.
The simplest way of relieving nervous tension is by practising relaxation and meditation, But there are many simple and natural ways of relieving stress through self-help methods.