World Mental Health Day: Promoting positive mental health

Lucy Belanger

The World Health Organization (WHO), of which Canada is a part, has designated October 10th as World Mental Health Day. The WHO uses this day as an opportunity to raise awareness about mental health issues and this year’s theme is suicide prevention. Positive mental health is the foundation upon which all health is built, is essential when dealing
with all components of health, and can help mitigate the risk of suicide. Positive mental health includes: 1) feeling in control of your life; 2) being able to manage stressful situations; 3) feeling hopeful that good things are coming your way; 4) feeling physically healthy, and; 5) feeling like you belong to a group or community.

In recognition of World Mental Health Day, here are some actions you can take to support your mental and physical health:

Manage Your Stress!

Everyone experiences stress and not everyone manages stress in a way that supports their mental health. Excellent stress management techniques include exercising, ensuring you have good sleep quality, practicing meditation, scheduling alone time, spending time in nature, and having a supportive social group of family and/or friends. The key is to develop a plan to manage your stress and not leave it to chance. If you schedule time to de-stress you are more likely to cope better when stressful situations occur.

Get Moving!

Exercise supports positive mental health by reducing stress, anxiety, mild depression, and enhances addiction recovery. Regular exercise also improves a sense of self-worth, the quality of your sleep and cognitive function. Being active also involves taking precautions to avoid injury such as wearing protective gear, exercising in well-lit areas or ensuring you are visible when exercising outdoors, and not exercising when you feel ill or when overly tired.

Eat Healthy Foods!

Healthy food choices have a positive impact on mental health. According to Dietitians of Canada, “the food we eat is associated with our mood, behavior, and cognition”. Studies show a consistent association between diet and symptoms of depression and anxiety. A Mediterranean diet that is comprised of daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats, weekly intake of fish, eggs, poultry and beans and moderate amounts of dairy products and meat, helps to boost positive mental health.
Choose Addiction-Free Living!

Positive mental health includes living a life that is free of addictions. Effective coping techniques can reduce the likelihood of addictions. Good communication skills improve the ability to identify and discuss difficult situations, reduce conflict and increase problem solving. Some additional things that are helpful include having a supportive social network and feeling socially connected. The ability to talk about stressors you are facing will also help mitigate the risk of addiction.

As you can see, positive mental health impacts all areas of health. When you take steps that encourage positive mental health you benefit, and so does your family, and community.

Lucy Belanger, M.Ed.

Lucy Belanger, M.Ed., is part of the Strengthening the Forces team and she works on the promotion of positive mental health and social wellness.

Strengthening the Forces is CAF/DND’s healthy lifestyles promotion program providing expert information, skills and tools for promoting and improving CAF members’ health and well-being.

STF offers Subject Matter Expertise in four core areas of interest: Active Living, Nutrition, Addiction Free Living, and Social Wellness.

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