We all have our ups and downs in life but it is important to remain emotionally well for overall wellbeing. Mental illnesses include depression and anxiety and affect many people around us. It is important that if you have one of these conditions that you ask for help from a health professional. However, there's more to good mental health than avoiding or treating mental illness. Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health at the University of Warwick, defines emotional wellbeing as more than just happiness, “there is a deeper kind of wellbeing, which is about living in a way that is good for you and good for others around you. Feelings of contentment, enjoyment, confidence and engagement with the world are all a part of mental wellbeing. Self-esteem and self-confidence are, too. So is a feeling that you can do the things you want to do. And so are good relationships, which bring joy to you and those around you.”
Researchers use tools to measure emotional wellbeing, using a series of questions to ask how people feel about themselves, their lives and the world around them. To find out how happy you are, take the test:
Today we are going to look at seven actions that promote emotional wellbeing for a positive, happy life.
Give your time, words and presence. From a small thing like a smile to volunteering your time creates positive feelings and functioning.
Be active – walk, cycle or play a game you enjoy and make it part of your life. Physical activity can increase self-belief, the ability to cope and boost endorphins in the body. Moderate exercise three or more times a week can reduce symptoms of depression, but even bouts of activity of less than 10 minutes can make improvements.
Keep learning new skills to give yourself a sense of achievement and confidence. Cooking classes, mastering a musical instrument or figuring out how to fix something keeps you curious and achieving goals.
Take notice of the little things and savour the moment. Being mindful of your feelings, thoughts, your body and the world around you can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.
Connect with the people around you, family, friends, colleagues and neighbours and spend time developing these relationships. Across all ages, relationships and participation in a social life are critical for mental wellbeing. Isn’t it interesting how many of these actions are others focused or about taking time out from the hustle and bustle? Our 21st century lifestyle can be very isolating and insular.
Manage stress and sleep well (related column)
- Modify your diet so it is well-balanced, rich in fruits, veges and low GI carbohydrates. Protein is used in the body to make serotonin, the “feel good” brain chemical, so having good sources of protein and B vitamins is crucial. Omega 3, magnesium and iodine are also important and can be found in eggs, apples, brussel sprouts, walnuts, bananas, oats, pears, salmon, strawberries, oranges, spinach, sweet potatoes, milk, dark chocolate and turkey.
But a well-balanced diet has little value if digestion is poor. Fascinating research is being done on the link between gut bacteria, digestive health and mood since the gut bacteria manufacture about 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin. Studies on mice have shown introducing harmful bacteria into the gut increased levels of anxiety while introducing beneficial bacteria to the gut caused anxiety-prone mice to calm down and produce less cortisole under stress. Probiotics such as Ethical Nutrients Inner Health Plus are a good source of beneficial bacteria.
It is also worth considering whether food intolerances are disrupting digestion. Holistic Nutritionist, Alison Cowell, operates from Ahuriri Pharmacy and can test for intolerances or work with you to improve digestion and mood disorders.