How to Create Positive Mental Health

How’s your health? I’m not just talking about physical well-being. How have you been feeling lately, mentally and emotionally? And how connected are you to the things that truly motivate you?

In this tip we’ll look at 10 evidence-based strategies you can use to get back to being your best. (These come from our popular interactive Zoom session on Maintaining Positive Mental Health and Resilience in Ourselves and Others).

#1. Reconnect with your support network. Our supporters are those people who want us to flourish and be our best. Supportive relationships act as a buffer to stress, help us to bounce back from adversity, and can make a huge difference to our success. Supporters can include family members, colleagues, advisers or long-standing customers. Get on a phone or Zoom call, ask how they are going, and see what you can do to help. If you want to enjoy the benefits of a great support network, start by being a good supporter yourself.

#2. Cultivate an optimistic mindset. There is a huge body of research showing that optimism increases our resilience, helps us to find new opportunities, improves our immune system so we are less likely to get sick, and promotes a positive business culture. An optimistic mindset can be cultivated by showing gratitude for how others have helped you, and spending a few minutes before bed each day asking yourself, “What are three things that have gone well today and why?”

#3. Discover your sense of purpose. The energy generated by a strong sense of purpose can be profound in keeping us focused and persevering, especially when the chips are down. At the turn of this century, a major scientific study by some of the best and brightest psychologists in the world, discovered 24 universal values important for personal happiness. Each of us have three to five of these values, called character strengths, which shape our sense of purpose and, when we practise them, help us to feel happy and energised. Go to www.viacharacter.org for a free questionnaire to help you identify the values in your life that will bring you a deeper sense of satisfaction, energy and joy.

#4. Be more self-aware and accepting. Recent events will have triggered feelings of stress and uncertainty in many of us. This would probably have started with shock and confusion about what’s going on, followed by a sense of despondency associated with losses to our lifestyle, freedom and finances, followed by frustration or anger. One way to manage these negative feelings is to step back, name the thoughts or emotions you are experiencing, and accept them without judgement. Then ask yourself, “What would be helpful for me to do next?” This can help us to regain our sense of mental control.

#5. Wind down before bed. It is naive to think we can respond to emails and social media right up until bed time, and expect our brain to act like a computer and just turn off. The mind needs time to unwind, so make a rule to not look at your phone or computer 30 to 60 minutes before bed. Some people also find it useful to have a warm shower before bed to help them physically unwind. Doing something relaxing for 20 minutes, or practising the three questions technique I described above, is also useful.

#6. Maintain personal disciplines and routines. Routines help us to conserve energy and create a sense of certainty, which is important for family well-being and personal health. Working from home has created a challenge for many people who would benefit from more of a routine around sleeping, exercising and meal times. Having a routine in terms of dress standards and personal presentation also has a subtle impact on our vitality. Looking and feeling sharp and professional positively affects our state of mind and demeanour.

#7. Cook fresh and nutritious food. The process of cooking fresh, nutritious meals can be just as important as the contents of the meal. Cooking is a creative process that engages the mind, and even provides a degree of exercise. And there is an abundance of research to show there is no food better for our brain and our health than fresh vegetables!

#8. Do stretching exercises. Our sense of well being is influenced by the health of our nervous system, which is largely located in the spinal column. A healthy spine ensures the free flowing of impulses and energy to the various internal organs and bodily systems. Stretching exercises such as those used in Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates help to keep the spine supple and healthy.

#9. Practice equal breathing. The breath always reflects the mind. When we are upset, angry or anxious, our breathing becomes shallow and jagged. And just as the breath follows the mind, the mind also follows the breath. Breathing slowly and deeply in and out for the same time period, has a sedative, relaxing effect on the brain. For most people this count will be between 3 to 6 seconds in and 3 to 6 seconds out. Doing this just 10 times each morning, is good for our mental and physical health. It is important not to strain and find a count that is comfortable for you.

#10. Take a brisk walk every day. A brisk walk for 20 to 30 minutes a day is good for our body and mind, and has been shown to significantly reduce cardiovascular disease. While out walking, pay attention to your surroundings, enjoy the rhythm of the walk, and be considerate as you approach others who may be sensitive to physical distancing rules. You might take the initiative to give them a smile as well as adequate space as you pass.

As many of us start to re-emerge from shut-down, now is probably a good time to take stock of our personal well-being. Many franchisor teams and franchisees have found our presentations on this topic inspiring and helpful. Our Education Manager, Sarah Furlong, who is also a psychologist, would be happy to talk with you about these sessions. (You can reach her at sarah@franchiserelationships.com).

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