The Characteristics of Good Mental Health

What does it mean to function well in life? What does it mean to have good mental health? It means we exhibit the following traits:

  1. Feeling good about ourselves; accepting that we have both strengths and weaknesses. Understanding that change takes time, and being patient with ourselves. 
  2. Being able to effectively manage our emotions so we’re not controlled or overwhelmed by them (Feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, rage, bitterness, hatred, jealousy, and so on).
  3. Being able to form and enjoy stable, healthy, boundaried and meaningful relationships.
  4. Feeling at ease in the company of others.
  5. Not taking life too seriously; being able to laugh at ourselves.
  6. Respecting ourself, our values, beliefs, attitudes, choices and decisions. Also, respecting others and their right to think, choose, decide and act for themselves.
  7. Being able to accept, and to cope with, disappointment. This includes being able to adapt and compromise when this is healthy and appropriate.
  8. Being able to cope with life’s pressures and demands, and managing the problems we encounter in life.
  9. Being able to think, and decide, for ourselves. Not allowing others to define who we are.  
  10. Being able to influence our world for good, and leaving behind a strong legacy.

These are qualities and traits which develop gradually. They come from experiencing both good and bad in life, and learning what’s important, and what’s a waste of time. They speak of small decisions to press on and persevere, to forgive ourselves and others, to be more compassionate, and to overlook the small stuff, and to focus on the good. 

Finding Hope – Some Practical Steps

“Hope is being able to see that there is light, despite all the darkness.”

It can be hard to find hope when we’re battling despair. But there are some strategies that can help with hopelessness, and the feeling that “it’s pointless – because nothing’s going to change.” They include: 

1. Try joining the dots: Think of how you would like your life to look like (This should be something you can actually picture. Something that’s different from how things are today – but which you believe is achievable). Chances are you will need to break that picture down into smaller goals, things you can work on one by one. Now put these steps and goals in order. Which would it make sense to work on first? What would you work on after that? Try to picture how you will feel after reaching the first goal, and the next goal, and the next goal.  

2. Look around for role models who have walked this path already: A lot of people face adversity – and yet they survive, and create a life that is inspiring, meaningful and beautiful. Look for those people and, maybe, emulate them. What lessons and secrets can they pass on to you? What enabled them to rebuild from the rubble? How can you apply that to your own situation? It is going to take time – but it’s good to have ideas, and to see how other people have turned their life around.

3. Do what you can for now: Tough times and trauma turn our whole world upside down. It is often hard to think, and you have no energy. So take the pressure off yourself. You will need to start small. Maybe start with something simple … like going for a walk. Perhaps another day you could yourself a meal. You build from there, one small step by one small step

4. Check in with a kind and caring friend: It’s ok to withdraw when you’re low on energy. But a kind and caring friend can offer us encouragement. And we need that support to overcome inertia, and to resist the powerful urge to give up when things are tough. A friend who understands can be worth their weight in gold!

5. Try to keep your focus on the here and now: It’s natural for our thoughts to wander back into the past. To replay all the failures; all the times when things went wrong. Or, to stare into the future with anxiety and fear, and think that there’s no way things are going to change.

But staying focused on the present, and on what you’re doing now, or working on being mindful helps to keep the hope alive.

I’d also love to know what has worked for you ….

Believe it. Live it.

“I’m learning to love myself. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

How do we get to the place in life where we have to work on loving ourselves? This was never the way it was meant to be.

And whatever has happened, whatever has been said, it doesn’t detract from your value and worth.

It will never detract from your value and worth.

If you had a different family …  if you had some different friends … Can you picture how differently you’d feel about yourself?

You are worthy of being loved. You are beautiful inside.

Don’t listen to the lies. Don’t let them rule your life.

It is time to start afresh. Make a new pact with yourself.

Make that choice to respect you. See yourself through healthy eyes.

See the good that’s in your heart. The potential that is there.

This is who you really are.

It is true.

Go – Live it out.

Let me Introduce you to my Badass Bodyguard

“She threw away all of her masks, and put on her soul.”

The comedian Duncan Trussel has been quoted as saying that when you first meet him, you meet his bodyguard. And I think this is true for many of us.

My personal bodyguard is very pleasant and warm. She’ll show an interest in you, and she’s laid back and calm. She doesn’t crack at all if you insult or attack her. My body guard makes sure that these never penetrate.

But beneath that glistening armour there’s a very human person who’s sensitive, and kind, and who wants relationships. Sometimes she’s a real mess. She can get insecure and anxious. She also gets impatient, and can even be demanding.

But she can be forgiving, and she’ll find the best in you. And when she’s beaten down, she’ll bounce back, and try again. She’ll look hard in the mirror … then she’ll tell her bodyguard that: “We’re an awesome team” and “Together, we can do this”.

Also … my bodyguard reminds me to maintain a sense of humour. To love the true, real me who is there, beneath the layers. And to let that self peep through when she says it’s safe to do so … To throw away the mask, to connect, and just be real.   

So that’s my bodyguard … She’s my guardian and protector.

Do you have a bodyguard who looks out for you, too?       

Your Growth is a Good Thing

Understand that some people are only able to handle older versions of you. They will turn away from who you currently are because they don’t know what growth looks like. But you are not required to live out older roles in order to make other people comfortable.” – iambrillyant

Just in case you needed to hear this today …

Your growth is a good thing.

It is wholesome and life-giving.

Keep on going after what is best for you.

You only have one life to live, so live it to the full.

Hello Darkness my Old Friend

Life doesn’t always go according to plan.

Some days are hard. They are really, really hard.

And despite what we read in the quotes – and on some blogs – you can’t always get what you ‘go for’ in the end.

And that is life.

That is reality.

Not that I don’t believe in hope and optimism, in believing in yourself, and in doing all you can. I believe in those things. I am usually positive. It is worth the work and effort. It is worth not giving up.

But on those bleak or darker days when things aren’t working out, or we get some chilling news, or we feel ‘it’s all too much’, perhaps we’ll find it helps if we ‘tell it like it is’. If we’re honest with ourselves about how we really feel.

For that is the beginning of genuine self-care.

It is showing self respect when we say that we feel hurt. Or we don’t have the reserves, or we’ve lost the will to fight. That we’ve done our very best … and it still wasn’t enough. That we’re fed up, and depressed. That we find it hard to hope.

So, perhaps, you need to offer yourself some true self care. And admit that it is tough to be where you are right now. To give yourself a hug. To be gentle with yourself. To give yourself a break. And to show yourself self-love.

“Things I know about healing: speaking kindly to yourself helps a lot.”

No, we Can’t Just Forget the Past

“I did not ask for the things I’ve been through, and I certainly didn’t ask my mind to paint and repaint the memories in the form of flashbacks.”

The majority of people who are living with trauma wish they could simply forget the past. But the fact is we can’t just wipe the slate clean, put it all behind us, and move on with our lives. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. By definition: trauma is unbearable and intolerable.

2. Thus, perhaps it’s not surprising that the traumatized person tries to avoid remembering the past, and push the experiences out of their mind.

3.  It’s impossible for survivors to put into words the traumatic experience, and the impact it has had. They do their very best to bury all the memories and pain, and to act as if everything in life is okay.

4. However, living in this way requires tremendous energy. It is extremely difficult to function normally while carrying the memory of the shock and the pain, the disorientation, the helplessness and shame, and the feeling of powerlessness and vulnerability.

5. But the brain isn’t good at denying the truth. Even though the painful memories may have been repressed, it still remembers we were deeply traumatized.

6. Thus, years after the event, a sudden unexpected trigger can reactivate the buried memories. The brain senses danger and it jumps back into action. It mobilizes circuits that are programmed to protect us.

7. It releases stress hormones and we experience, again, the symptoms associated with PTSD. We feel overwhelmed and weak, powerless, out of control, and we start to believe that we are damaged to the core.

8. Gaining understanding and talking can help; also meaningful connections, drugs, EMDR, yoga, meditation and neurofeedback.

Still, it takes a lot of effort, patient and hard work to help us to gain freedom from the torment of the past.

I Want to be Remembered as ….

When my kids were small, we used to really enjoy making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Tossing them, however, was another matter.

Often, we would have to scrape them off the frying pan. And occasionally we scraped them off the walls and floor. But most of the time, they made it on to our plates, and then we would cover them in chocolate and fruit … and all sorts of other delicious things.

Yes, Shrove Tuesday was a lot of fun.

I was vaguely aware that the day after that was something called Ash Wednesday. But, honestly, Ash Wednesday meant nothing to me.

And it’s only recently that I’ve heard the phrase: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The words associated with Ash Wednesday.

An interesting phrase. One that really made me think.

We tend to live our lives as if we’re never going to die. And the more we enjoy life, the harder it can be to contemplate the fact that one day our life will end.  

It’s not the kind of thing we really want to think about.

But knowing we will die can also help us to live well. It can help us each to think about the legacy we’ll leave. And that can be a really good thing.  

So maybe take some time today to stop and ask yourself:

“How do I want to be remembered?”