Mental Health

Mastering Mental Health: 5 Steps to Boost Well-Being

Mastering Mental Health: 5 Steps to Boost Well-Being from Swabey Family Counselling.

We all want to improve our mental health and well-being. If not for ourselves, then for our kids, our partners, and our entire family unit. But what does it mean to have good mental health? There is a common belief that achieving good mental health means feeling happy most, if not all, of the time. Does happiness and good mental health go hand in hand? Let’s explore what it truly means to have good mental health, whether or not happiness plays a role, and how to improve emotional well-being.

The Role of Emotions in Achieving Good Mental Health

Many clients, of all ages, express the need to be happy, to feel better, and to have good mental health. The emotions people want to experience when they feel better include all the like-to-have feelings: proud, grateful, excited, love, confident, friendly, optimistic, hopeful, and brave. They don’t want to experience the hard-to-have feelings: sadness, fear, worry, stress, guilt, nervousness, and anger.  Most people believe that good mental health means experiencing a minimal amount of hard-to-have feelings. The reality is that we need all our feelings. All emotions have a purpose.

  • Fear helps us to stay safe.
  • Sadness lets us know who and what is important to us.
  • Anger helps us set boundaries when others treat us poorly.
  • Worry helps us plan and prepare.
  • Stress helps us get things done.
  • Pride helps us recognize our efforts.
  • Bravery helps us step out of our comfort zone.
  • Optimism helps us stay focused on the positive.
  • Gratitude helps us appreciate life.

How to Balance Emotions

Good mental health means experiencing a full range of emotions. Every emotion has a purpose, but yes, emotions that are too big or too small can cause problems. Too much fear can prevent us from ever stepping outside of our comfort zone. Not enough stress can stop us from getting things done. Too much confidence can prevent us from learning new things. Not enough optimism can keep us in a negative mind set. Good mental health and well-being requires insight and curiosity, tolerance, coping strategies, consistent self-care, safe and supportive relationships, and safe and supportive environments.

5 Steps to Emotional Well-Being & Good Mental Health

Step 1: Take Care of the Basics

Nutritious food, quality sleep, and consistent movement are essential for good mental health – and they’re the first ones to go when we feel ruled by emotions. Food, sleep, and movement impact our social, emotional, and mental health, not just our physical health. The basics create a solid foundation from which to tolerate and adapt to change and challenge. Consistent exercise habits improve mood, self-esteem, and energy. Sleep deprivation has many impacts on behaviour, mood, and learning; it increases emotional vulnerability, making emotions more easily triggered and intense. Food and nutrition have similar effects. It’s hard to pay attention (a necessary skill for learning, social engagement, and emotion regulation), much less make thoughtful decisions when we’re hungry. We know that a lot of teens today are impacted by both sleep deprivation and inconsistent meals. Helping them create healthier routines is important for their mental and emotional well-being.

Step 2: Engage in Safe and Supportive Relationships & Environments

Safe and supportive relationships are the not only the foundation for brain development, they help us live happier and healthier lives. Creating and maintaining those family relationships, especially in the tween and teen years, can be challenging. As parents we can be intentional about creating responsive relationships with our kids, so we set the model for what healthy looks and feels like. I know, that is easier said then done at times. Don’t worry, we got your back. We’re here to help you build the mental health knowledge and tools to strengthen family relationships during some of the most challenging years. Safe and supportive environments are just as important for mental health. Whether that’s home, school, sports teams, social clubs, or church; environments matter. We need places where we feel a sense of connection and belonging, to grow skills, and to build confidence and self-esteem.

Step 3: Build Insight & Get Curious

Insight is about understanding what’s happening inside of us: emotions, thoughts, images, sensations, urges to act, and actions. Yes, those things are connected to and influence one another.  Think about it. When you feel scared, what happens to your breath, muscles, and posture? What thoughts go through your mind? Do you stand still, run, or yell? Pay attention and notice the connections, in yourself and in your kids. Then get curious. What emotion is showing up? Why is it showing up? What is it trying to help with? At times it can be hard to stop and notice, especially when the emotions are big. It takes practice and we need some mental health strategies to help us out.

Step 4: Ride the Wave & Build Tolerance

Since emotions are purposeful, don’t push them away. Instead, make friends with them. Treat them with kindness and care. They show up to help you, so get curious about them. Identify the purpose and then establish a goal. For example, maybe anger is showing up because you were treated poorly. Anger wants to help you set a boundary. Get clear on what the boundary is and decide how you’re going to communicate it in a helpful and productive way. To do that you have to learn how to ride the emotion and not let it overtake you and become helpful. Remember that emotions are like waves: they build up and then crash back into the shore. Learning how to surf the waves builds emotional tolerance and resilience.

Step 5: Learn Strategies & Fill Your Toolbox

Tools and strategies help us ride the wave of emotions. Tools surfers use include rash guards to prevent sunburns and skin irritation, as well as board straps so they don’t lose the board when they fall. Learn mental health tips and strategies you can use, that are healthy and helpful, not ones that keep us stuck or create more problems. Remember that emotions, thoughts, body sensations, urges to act, and actions are connected. Explore and practice strategies that help change thoughts and images, body sensations, posture, facial expressions, muscles tension, urges to act, and actions. Practice strategies and evaluate their effectiveness. Know that you will need to use more than just one strategy. Try one strategy, evaluate how you feel, and then see if you need to try another mental health strategy. Repeat as needed. Remember, we’re to help you build your toolbox.

Improve Your Family’s Mental Health with Swabey Family Counselling

Good mental health is not just about happiness or like-to-have feelings. Yes, happiness comes with good mental health but so do all the other emotions. Good mental health is more about our ability to experience a range of emotions, make sense of those emotions, tolerate, and manage them, and move through them. That’s what improves our ability to tackle life’s challenges, adapt to change, and become more emotionally resilient. Achieving good mental health takes work – and I know we’re all tired and stressed. Invest in yourself and in your family. Identify just one area to start working on: building insight and curiosity, increasing tolerance, filling your toolbox full of strategies, maintaining good self-care basics, building healthy relationships, or engaging in nurturing environments. One small step can make a world of difference. Contact us to learn how we can help your family.

Note: This article is a simplistic overview of mental health.  There are various factors that disrupt mental health and well-being. Know that we’re here to help you on this journey. Reach out today for more information on our services and how we can help you reach your goals.

Disclaimer: While the content provided in this blog post offers suggestions and insights for improving mental well-being, it is not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Every individual’s mental health journey is unique, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. If you are struggling with mental health issues, it is essential to seek support from qualified professionals. 

Authored by: Jessica Swabey, MACP, CCC, RSW