How to Maintain a Positive Mental Health-By Joy Ngoiri

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World Health Organization (WHO) describes mental health as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. I describe mental health as simply having peace of mind.

We all feel sad sometimes. That is part of being human. We are often told that we need to distinguish between an emotion and a mental illness. That when someone feels sad, it does not mean someone is depressed. But where exactly do we draw the line?

Depression is described as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. Depression often causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.

With the unprecedented events of the pandemic, most people have been struggling with how to stay afloat, feelings of loneliness and anxiety and the fact is, everybody is feeling something.

There are several ways you can try to cope with negative mental health at this moment. One of the best ways that I have discovered that can do wonders in calming and slowing down your thoughts is journaling. Journaling is basically just writing or noting down your thoughts and how you’re feeling. It can be compared to writing in a diary.

It sounds childish when you think about it through writing in a diary context, but journaling has proven to be very effective in calming down racing thoughts. Sometimes you have no explanation for how you are feeling, your mind is constantly racing with thoughts and you can’t exactly pinpoint what the problem is. You end up feeling sad the whole morning, afternoon or even the whole day but when someone asks you what is wrong, you genuinely have no answer and cannot explain exactly how you feel. That is the best moment to a journal. Write down exactly your exact thoughts. Whether you note down some mumble jumble, note it down. If you feel like life is hard, write it down. If you feel like you are not good enough and your insecurities get the best of you, write it down. This will at least help these thoughts not to be crumpled in your mind.

The other method that can help you maintain positive mental health is meditation. I know the word meditation sounds exotic and something that ‘black people don’t do but meditation has been proven to be very effective in calming someone down. We have seen people who get angry a lot take a deep breath two times and calm themselves down, that is ideally a method of meditation. Meditation is a practice for settling the mind and redirecting your thoughts. It is basically getting a new sense of perspective. It is not trying to shut down your thoughts or feelings, it’s about learning to be okay with them without being insecure about them. I like to think of meditation as exercising a muscle, only it’s my mind.

It is important to note that the mind is one weird place. Your mind will wander off when meditating and this is okay. Don’t give up. It takes constant practice. There are different types of meditation and one should try what works for them. One particular site that can help with meditation is mindful.org.

Another way to keep good mental health is staying active and exercising. This is a more practical way. We have all heard stories of people who were overweight and insecure about themselves and they used that insecurity to motivate them to exercise and become a better healthier version of themselves. Exercising daily, even for 30 minutes, whether it is home exercises or gym exercises helps to improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative moods. Exercising also helps to improve self-esteem and cognitive function. Once your self-esteem is top-notch, your insecurities will fade away.

Most people cannot afford a gym membership, this is where home workouts come in. Home workouts are hard to follow every day. Consistency becomes hard when nobody is following up with you. However, everything is in the mind. Sounds cliché, but once you put your mind to something and determine yourself to do it, it is easy to follow up.

These three are the most commonly used ways that help in maintaining positive mental health. Never feel like you are pressured to try everything. Everything happens in its own time. However, you have to take the first step in bettering yourself for yourself and for the people around you.

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