Forget chasing happiness and fulfilment through material things and invest in the most important thing in your life, your mental health. So many people believe the secret to happiness is on the outside when in fact it is on the inside. You can move home, buy as many material things as you wish and jump from one relationship to another but without good mental health, you will never find the peace and happiness you are looking for.

  • Symptoms of poor mental health
  • Destructive relationships and friendships full of conflict
  • Feelings of worthlessness and depression
  • Finding no joy in anything
  • Having little to no energy and motivation
  • Irritability
  • Unable to think clearly
  • Withdrawal from the outside world
  • Irrational fears and worries
  • Poor concentration
  • Low self-esteem
  • Excessive worry about how others view you
  • Poor sleep
  • Inability to cope with everyday life
  • Anger issues
  • Lack of self-care

The trouble with poor mental health is it can lead to the opposite of what is needed to improve, which is looking after yourself physically and mentally. As the worse someone feels the more they tend to indulge in destructive behaviours or an attempt to self-medicate.

Poor mental health can lead to poor eating habits as they turn to food for comfort or lead to excessive drinking as they try to numb how they feel. So someone who drinks excessively will feel mentally worse due to the effects of alcohol, which only leads to them drinking more in an attempt to suppress how they feel and so it becomes a vicious cycle.

Also, the last thing someone wants to do when they have little to no energy is go for a walk outdoors or hit the gym. This is why poor mental health can lead to a worsening of the symptoms and become a vicious cycle.

My own experience with poor mental health

When I suffered from bad days I would initially do everything I shouldn’t do, I would go over events, stay in bed, reach for a can of beer, eat crap food or lay on the sofa all day watching TV. At the time I had no idea why I felt so bad and would keep researching ways to feel better or self-medicate in an attempt to suppress how I felt.

When none of this worked I realised it was my responsibility to improve my mental health. When I felt bad this was not a sign to turn to habits that would make things worse, it was a sign that my brain and body needed looking after more than ever. If you look after your car and service it regularly, attend to any issues with the engine and wash it then it will look and run far better than if you neglect it.

Ways to improve your mental health

  • Eat healthier
  • Reduce alcohol or give it up altogether
  • Stop smoking
  • Start to exercise, preferably outdoors
  • Let go of excessive worry and let life unfold as it does
  • Have a purpose to your day
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Join a group or class that interests you
  • Take time to do nothing and just be
  • Talk to someone about any issues bothering you, don’t bottle things up
  • Learn to give to others and be kind
  • Make social connections
  • Cut back on social media
  • Turn off the news
  • Let go of any toxic people in your life

These are just a few of the things you can do to improve your mental health but improving your mental health is about what you no longer do than what you do. I found watching the news and all the negativity it spouted out wasn’t helping my overall mood and decided many years ago to switch it off for good.

When I first began to change and make my mental and physical health a priority above anything else I found it hard to motivate myself to make the positive changes necessary but I saw my lack of energy and motivation as a symptom of not looking after myself and knew this would improve in time.

So I ditched all the crap food and improved my diet and ate at regular times, I started to walk in nature and bought a bike. I then joined a Buddhist and local art class. I cut my alcohol intake right down to where hangovers were no longer an issue. I also found a part-time job and did some volunteering so as to have a purpose to my day rather than procrastinating at home.

One other thing I did is to not put any pressure on myself to be perfect and allow myself to slip at times. Too many people set off with good intentions and then punish themselves if they don’t stick to it. I realised I wasn’t perfect and there were days when I just wanted to veg out and do nothing or eat something unhealthy and I allowed myself to do this on occasions but always went back to looking after myself.

Initially, progress was slow but I did start to see changes in my overall well-being, I found my concentration was much better, I had more mental and physical energy and my overall self-esteem increased. The irony is the better I felt, the more I wanted to look after myself as I didn’t want to ruin it by abusing my mind and body and there was nothing negative to try and suppress anymore. So just as poor mental health leads to you looking after yourself less, good mental health leads to you looking after yourself better.

Self-care is not only good for you but those around you that you care about. The better you feel the better your friendships and relationships are. Unhappy people tend to lash out whereas happy people are more inclined to help and serve others. Also when your self-esteem improves you no longer seek validation outside of yourself, leaving you to express the true you instead of putting on masks or people-pleasing in an attempt to manipulate others into liking you.

Signs of good mental health

    • Much able to cope with life challenges
    • Better concentration and mental clarity
    • Increased mental and physical energy
    • Feelings of happiness and peace
    • Forming better relationships and friendships
    • Increased self-esteem
    • More rewarding and better social interactions
    • Less worry and anxiety
    • Far less conflict
    • A change in perspective and what is important in life
    • Kinder and more giving towards others

The key here is to listen to your mind and body, if you feel down, have a lack of clarity, lack self-esteem and feel as though life has no meaning it is a clear sign that your mental health is not great. Just remember your life is a reflection of your mental state, change that and your life will look and feel completely different.

  • You care less what others think