Mental health encompasses you psychological, emotional, and social well-being – and it’s one of the biggest factors affecting your day-to-day happiness. Understanding some of the issues that may be impacting your mental health can help you to take control and feel more in charge of your life and overall well-being.
Work itself can also have a positive impact on your mental health, particularly if you enjoy your job, find what you do to be personally rewarding, and/or have a supportive work environment. There is a great deal of evidence that being unemployed negatively affects mental health. One study actually found that among older workers, age 60 and above, those working part-time were happier than either those working full-time or those who were retired.
Having a strong social network including friends and family members who provide psychological, emotional, and practical support leads to better physical and mental health. Numerous studies have found that social networks make a positive difference both in your daily life and when you are under added stress. Whether you have an active church group, strong family ties, or simply close friends, your mental health will benefit greatly from having such a support network. On the other hand, those who lack any type of community network and live in social isolation show detrimental effects on their psychological well-being.
The quality of your interpersonal relationships matters. One study indicated that women in satisfying marriages or monogamous relationships had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those who were either in unsatisfying relationships or single. Conversely, couples who were fighting were actually found to have reduced immunity, making them more prone to illness.
The risk of developing dementia in those 75 and older has also been shown to be lower for people with strong personal relationships. Those with supportive relationships have even been shown to live longer, and having a spouse or life partner can actually add three years to your life expectancy. Being alone, on the other hand, can be as detrimental to your health as smoking, high blood pressure, or obesity.
How healthy you are and how you look and feel physically can have a huge impact on your mental health. Some forms of physical trauma can actually cause or contribute directly to mental illness, and poor physical health can lower your self-esteem – leading to mental health issues including anxiety and depression. Your physical and mental health are intricately related, so improving one is likely to also improve the other.
Regular exercise including dancing, walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, and gardening has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and negative moods. It also improves self-esteem, quality of sleep, and cognitive function – and it even reduces levels of social withdrawal. Those who do not engage in regular exercise may find themselves more prone to problems affecting their mental health. If you stay active, however, you are more likely to feel better psychologically, emotionally, and socially.
The bottom line is that living an active, healthy lifestyle where you nurture strong social and personal relationships is good for every aspect of your health and well-being. So reach out to family, meet up with friends, get moving – and start feeling better.