Since early 2008, my life has been intertwined with the complicated and personal topic of mental illness and emotional health. Prior to losing my daughter, son, and sister-in-law, I did not give much credence to psychology or mental health per se. In many aspects, I was what I refer to as a “typical guy”. But I have evolved, due to necessity.
Over the years, I have spoken to numerous groups about the general topic of mental health but also how I personally have survived and pushed forward amidst considerable grief and obstacles. I am not a licensed mental health counselor, but I have lived through quite a lot- and also have researched much of these points over the past decade.
Top Ways To Improve Your Mental / Emotional Health
Deal with problems or feelings early on; do not ignore it. Mental illness typically starts as a small issue and over time (untreated or misdiagnosed) escalates into a more serious or broad psychiatric problem.
Exercise regularly. This is an excellent stress-reducer and also increases your overall feeling of well being.
See an expert/ therapist 1 on 1, as needed. In some cases, this is absolutely necessary. Most people avoid therapy like the plague. However, there is no “magic pill” that will work the same as counseling does.
Peer-led support groups can do wonders. Support groups combine empathy, sympathy, and comradery that is critical to someone in need.
Religion seems to get a bad rap by some today, but for many people religion/faith/spirituality is a big boost to their mental health, mainly by providing hope and perspective.
Laughter can be the best medicine.
Do SOMETHING that you choose and want to do EVERY day, or at least every other day. (Even if it is only for 15 or 20 minutes.) This is crucial to feeling that you are in charge of your own life. Sometimes the doldrums and responsibilities of adult life can make you feel like you are in a type of prison. I like to lie down to bed thinking that I at least did one thing that I enjoyed and wanted to do that day.
Nutrition can and does affect your mental health and how you feel. Many research papers over the past 10-15 years have proven this. Certain supplements/minerals have a positive impact, and there are also some which actually hinder your own psyche.
Mental illness can lead to substance abuse, and vice-versa. There is significant correlation in both of these concerns. Abusers often seem to have a diagnoseable mental illness.
Isolation and loneliness are key contributors to mental health problems. On the flip side, strong interpersonal connections are a positive factor in one’s emotional health.
Set the right expectations. My father preached to me many times that “life isn’t fair; you just gotta make the best of it”. This is important, especially in Western society over the past few decades. People that expect their life to be near-perfect are bound for numerous, painful let-downs.
More than a few times I have been asked over the years,
“How do you go on after what has happened?”.
My simple answer is that I go to bed, and then the next morning I wake up for another day. As long as I’m allowed to have a breath, I have a life to live.
My choice is how to feel and what to do with the day. Unfortunately I cannot alter what happened, and I’ve come to accept that my life will never be precisely what I envisioned. However, there are still plenty of good days ahead….
About the Writer: Ken Lambert
Ken has been involved in the field of mental health advocacy and suicide prevention for several years, following a tragic incident which took the lives of his young daughter and son in 2008. Since then, he had led a nonprofit charity called Keep Sound Minds for nearly 8 years. In addition, Ken produced and created a documentary on suicide prevention, and currently is Vice President of AcademicWindow – which offers web-based effective school counseling services.