I’ve been procrastinating for a while now about writing a blog and this week has motivated me to get started. Mainly because it is Mental Health Awareness Week, and sometimes procrastination can actually be part of a broader issue with mental and emotional health. One way of improving our collective mental health is through removing the stigma and mystery around it.
It seems that the stigma is being challenged with a week such as this. There are also TV shows like After Life and My Mad Fat Diary. What remains, however, is the mystery behind mental health. I think most people know on some level that ‘good mental health’ is what we all would like to be aiming for, but I think it is less clear what that actually means.
‘To be happy’ is too vague; dependant on each person; and often sets our expectations too high. We have to find something more honest, more achievable if we are to feel better.
What is it, then, that defines ‘good mental health’? There’s a lyric from Asher Roth that says, “Happiness isn’t about getting what you want all the time; it’s, it’s about loving what you have”. This may seem impossible for some and difficult for others but the basic premise of it is something that is worked through in counselling – that we all have the power to shift our focus, to change our perception slightly so that we can look at the same thing but experience a different response. Or put another way – we can empower ourselves by changing where our attention is and this can have a powerful, positive impact on our mental health. If we are conditioned to look at what we don’t have, we are inevitably going to feel that we are failing or that other people have it better. We need to be kinder to ourselves and notice what we have achieved – in doing so we can mitigate the impact of depression, isolation, anger, stress or fear.
We forget that we are in control of things, and in losing sight of this fact we also give rise to other issues like anxiety, phobias or obsessions. Counselling can be a way of reminding ourselves that we are more in control than we think. And counselling can then be a place to work out how to regain that control. Shifting our focus is one way but there are many ways to do so. Feeling more in control of things brings a sense of calm, contentment and satisfaction. It is then, hopefully, that our mental health is more in line with where it needs to be.