On October 10, World Mental Health Day, many people took to their social media to share a quote or inspirational story to advocate and honour mental health.
However, this year, I noticed the prominence of poor mental health within young people, and more specifically, young people I knew. I was shocked to read and see the abundance of them taking to their Instagram or Twitter to share their own stories, which discussed their own personal battles with their thoughts. I did some reading, and saw “half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14“, and because I was fourteen almost nine years ago (pls), it made me think that so many people I’ve crossed paths with over the years could have a mental health issue that they don’t actively talk about.
So, what can we do to assist our friends, or even strangers, that are suffering from poor mental health?
Well, after I read a splurge of stories on my timeline, it began to resonate within me that there shouldn’t be just one day in the year where people are more empathetic, more considerate, more pleasant or more compassionate. I realised that we just need to be more, and we need to be it more often.
- Being compassionate: When someone experiences misfortune, there is solace for them in knowing somebody is trying to understand and sympathise. It’s easy to forget, but a simple text to say you’re thinking of your friend can go a long way in times of their struggle.
- Being empathetic: Following sympathy, there is comfort in knowing you’re not alone, especially when your mind is tricking you into thinking you are. Empathising with people when they’re in situations you have previously been, or are currently, in, can be extremely beneficial to mental health. For example, sharing advice and understanding when someone has lost a family member.
- Showing consideration: Be considerate in your actions that are going to affect people around you. Even after a stressful day at work, always remember to consider how other people are feeling. In a LinkedIn article I read online, it discussed how a man had jumped off The Golden Gate Bridge, leaving a note at his home which read: ‘I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I won’t jump.’ Our smallest actions can have the biggest impacts on another person.
- Being pleasant: Being a pleasant person is the more obvious example of how we can benefit the people’s lives around us. However, being pleasant can also benefit our own mental health: “It can reduce stress, improve our emotional wellbeing and even benefit our physical health.” It’s a win-win for everybody involved!
Now, it’s early days yet, and I don’t want to jinx it, but I would say 2018 has been my year (finally, says I to you). However, that’s because I’ve actively took the bull by the horns and did what I had to do to make myself happy. I am refusing to sit in the backseat of my life, and instead I’m upfront steering it in the pursuit of happiness.
I noticed that happiness comes from within, and usually is either environmental or situational for me. Below are some brief tips on how you, too, can make a change.
Exercise. Sweat. Run. Sweat. Dead lift. Sweat. Squat. Sweat.
Your mum, doctor, and the internet were all correct. If this was a physical piece of paper I would underline that word so many times. Exercise. It is the cheapest form of therapy you can provide yourself with. Exercise has obvious physical benefits, but also positive effects on: our mood, our stress, our self-esteem and “can be an alternative treatment for depression”. After getting a personal trainer at the beginning of the year, I have found the benefits have went far beyond my physicality.
Eating the correct foods
Eating sugary foods causes our body to have initial ‘high’ or surge of energy that soon wears off as the body increases its insulin production, leaving you feeling tired and low. Therefore, the consumption of whole grain foods is more important, which lessens the chances of mood-swings and lethargy. Start each morning with a healthy and nutritious breakfast – it takes only 21 days to form a habit, and by doing this you’re less likely to “fall off the horse”. Enhancing your knowledge on nutrition is also vital to enabling your change of diet and lifestyle – I’ve come a long way from Pot Noodles in the Holylands, or rolling out of the Hatfield and into Together Chinese.
Prioritising your own happiness
I love the craic, but over the years it has left me in positions where I’ve been swayed into doing things I actually have no interest in doing (serious FOMO, y’know), and I’ve then been left mentally unsatisfied and usually out of pocket. This year, I made an oath to put myself first and no longer entertain the idea that I’m missing out on things I actually don’t like doing; whether it be going to clubs that I secretly loathe, working in jobs I have found mind-numbing, or even watching things that I just don’t enjoy (and so far, so good). If you feel like missing the Bot for some down-time watching Netflix – you should. We all need time to recharge our batteries.
Moreover, it is important to understand your body; what causes your stress and discomfort, and then face them head on. With this, you will feel in control, and this will have a positive impact on your interpersonal communication and confidence.
Communicate & seek help
Talk. Talk to your friends, your family, a stranger or a doctor. Just talk. There is nothing more mentally liberating than expressing what is getting you down. It can be the most daunting thing, and probably sitting firmly at the bottom of your list; but it will help – a problem shared is a problem halved. There are people literally at the other end of the phone during times of distress.
Mark Daly is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markdaly123 or Instagram at @markdaly2.