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Column The five steps to emotional well-being

Positive mental health is a journey – sometimes enlightening, sometimes challenging, but most definitely worthwhile.

WORLD MENTAL HEALTH Day, celebrated worldwide on 10th October, is an opportunity to bring awareness to the topic on an international, national and local scale – informing and educating people about their mental health and well-being.

Our vision is for an Ireland where mental health is valued as being an essential part of personal well-being and the health of the nation. Rather than focusing on emotional pain as something to be eradicated, we need to promote the message that it is normal and indeed natural to feel down at times, and that feeling vulnerable is an inherent part of being human.

Mental Health Ireland (MHI) have launched our ‘Plan to Protect your Mental Health & Well-being’ campaign. It encourages everyone to become aware of their emotional well-being by incorporating these five steps into our daily lives:

1. Connect – do you connect with people around you? Family, friends, colleagues, neighbours? At home, work, school, in your local community?

2. Be active – do you exercise? Do you get outside, go for walks, potter in the garden? Have a sustainable pattern of doing more regularly, rather than being active one day and not the rest.

3. Take notice – do you take time to notice how you are feeling? Are you aware of the world around you: sights, smells, sounds, temperature? Do you savour the moment?

4. Keep learning – when was the last time you tried something new? Have you set yourself a challenge recently?

5. Give – do you see yourself and your happiness in relation to the wider community?Have you tried volunteering? When did you last do something nice for a relative, friend or stranger?

(These five steps were identified by the New Economics Forum (NEF) in 2008 as key actions to enhance well-being.)

Connect: Other people play such an important part in emotional and mental well-being.
Research shows that building personal relationships enhances our emotional well-being and strengthens our self-worth and confidence. Strong relationships with family and friends can allow us to share our feelings and know that we are understood. They provide an opportunity to share positive experiences, and can give us emotional support, as well as the chance to support others.

Be active: There is a clear link between physical and mental health. Physical activity causes chemical changes in the brain, which can help to positively change our mood and give us that ‘feel good factor’. Scientists confirm that being active can help improve well-being because it brings about a sense of greater self-esteem, self-control and the ability to rise to a challenge. You don’t need to run a marathon to get active. Chose what suits your ability and lifestyle and incorporate it into your week, every week.

Take notice: When people hear the phrase ‘take notice’ they may think of taking notice of things around them. This is important, however it’s just as important to tune into what’s going on inside, paying attention to our thoughts, emotions and moods. Reflecting on our reactions and habits helps us to develop self-awareness and make better choices.

Keep learning: Learning new skills can develop self-confidence and empowerment in those willing to try. It doesn’t have to mean going back to education; it can be learning a new skill like cooking or a musical instrument or spending time in your local library or online to learn about a new interest. Research confirms that setting goals and working towards them plays an important role in the way learning influences well-being. Setting targets and hitting them can create positive feelings of accomplishment and achievement.

Give: Giving your time and energy to others can be the most gratifying experience. It can be a small act of kindness or volunteering your time with a local organisation. It helps the giver and the receiver and research has proven that those that give their time or volunteer with local organisations for just a few hours a month lead more enriched lives and feel emotionally happy and content.

The five steps outlined in the #PlanToProtect campaign are good basis for everyone to enhance their well-being. Positive mental health is a journey – sometimes enlightening, sometimes challenging, but most definitely worthwhile.

Orla Barry is CEO of Mental Health Ireland.

If you would like to learn more about Mental Health Ireland and to support your local Mental Health Association please see Information about Mental Health Week and our #PlanToProtect campaign can be downloaded from the home page.

Text MHI to 50300 to donate €4 to Mental Health Ireland – 100% of text goes to MHI across most network providers. Some providers apply vat which means that a minimum of €3.26 will go to MHI. Service provider: likecharity. Helpline 01 4433890

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