If somebody asked you what it meant to be healthy, what would you say? Most people would probably mention working out regularly, eating their greens, and keeping an eye on how much they drink. But few people would include being happy on the list. We tend to think of health as something that concerns only the body, but the definition of health is not solely focused on the absence of disease. It also mentions contentment, which begs the question, can you really be healthy if you’re not happy?
About mental health
Many of us will make a decision to go on a health drive at some point in our lives. This may be a post-Christmas weight loss mission or an attempt to give up smoking or cut down on drinking. The truth of the matter is that mental health is often overlooked. You may think that you’re incredibly healthy because you start your day with a smoothie and you go to the gym four times a week, but you’re not technically in good health unless your mind is also in shape. All too often, we put mental health to the back of our minds and focus all our attention on getting to a goal weight or trying to improve our fitness.
If you’ve never really given mental health much thought before, you may be surprised by the statistics. The most recent studies show that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health disorder of some kind every year. You may be completely unaware of it, but there are likely to be people around you who are battling anxiety, depression or stress on a daily basis.
Are you struggling with mental health issues?
As a society, we’ve become much more open in recent years, and people are encouraged to talk about mental health, but it’s still a lot more difficult to approach the subject than it is with physical illnesses. If you had flu, for example, you wouldn’t think twice about telling your colleagues why you had a couple of days off. But it’s different with something like depression. People don’t feel comfortable talking about it, and those who are on the receiving end sometimes don’t know how to react.
If you’re struggling with symptoms like prolonged periods of feeling low, feeling anxious or irritable all the time, mood swings or changes in your sleeping patterns or appetite, there is help out there. Mental health awareness charities are working tirelessly to encourage people to be more open, and ensure they get the support they need. Mental health disorders are not characterised by the odd rubbish day. Depression is not about feeling sad now and again. We all have days that don’t go to plan, but when you’ve got a mental illness, the symptoms are much more severe and persistent.
Sometimes, you can have a mental illness without being aware of it. If you feel ill when you wake up, you’re coughing, you’ve got a high temperature, and your muscles are aching, you know something isn’t quite right. But with psychological symptoms, it can be much harder to work out what’s going on. It’s easy to assume that the emotions and feelings you have will pass, but this is not always the case.
What to do if you think you may have a mental health disorder
If you think you might have a mental disorder, the best thing to do is seek help. Talk to your GP about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing, and be as honest as possible. Sometimes, depression and stress are directly linked to life events, for example, bereavement, and helping you to deal with what’s happened can ease symptoms. You may find that counselling or going to a support group helps you to express yourself and gain better control of your emotions. In other cases, treatments such as medication may be beneficial. For minor illnesses, self-help techniques like exercise, meditation, and creative activities can also be incredibly beneficial.
Many of us would assume that we’re healthy if we have a normal BMI and we can run for a bus without getting out of breath. But what about your mental health? You can have a perfectly toned six-pack and glossy, glowing skin and hair and still not be healthy if you’re not happy too. Next time you think about trying to improve your health, don’t just pour all your energy and effort into a workout regime or a healthy eating plan. Think about your mind too.