Mental health is arguably more important than physical health. It includes your emotional and psychological well-being. Mental health is paramount at every stage of life from childhood all the way to adulthood. Suffering from any mental illnesses can have serious effects on your relationships and work.
Taking care of your mental health isn’t just limited to seeking professional treatment. Just like going to the gym to stay in shape, you’re in a position to improve your well-being on your own. One of the best things you can do is to engage more in those things that bring you happiness. It may sound like wishful thinking but extensive research makes a compelling case for it.
Here we’ll look at how doing more of what you love can have a positive impact on your mental health.
Helps You Cope With Depression
Depression is a common mental disorder that affects more than 300 million people globally. It’s often associated with intense feelings of sadness and loss of interest. Symptoms vary but can also include changes in appetite, trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
Energy levels can drop drastically if you’re feeling depressed. But the last thing you want to do is to remain idle as it will only make you dwell on negative thoughts and feel even more bogged down. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that participation in social recreational activities is associated with fewer depressive symptoms. Shifting your attention to recreational activities you enjoy can help overcome your symptoms. It doesn’t need to be complicated as even a small hike in nature can greatly lift your mood.
Focuses Your Attention in the Present
Have you ever been so consumed by an activity that time seems to fly by? What you’ve experienced has been identified as “flow”, a concept named by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. At that moment nothing else seems to matter as all your attention is focused in the present moment. Not in the past or future where negative thoughts can build on itself.
Csíkszentmihályi advocates that the time spent in the flow state makes us feel happier as it leads to personal development and growth. Extensive research has shown a strong positive correlation between flow and affect (a term in psychology to describe feelings or emotions).
So what can you do to achieve flow? In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csíkszentmihályi explains that flow occurs when there is a clear set of goals and an individual is engaged in an activity that stretches their current ability. A good example would be playing a game of chess against a slightly more capable opponent. In this instance you have specific goals (e.g. win at least one round) and are able to get immediate feedback.
Any activity can be turned into a flow state. But it needs to meet the conditions as laid out by Csíkszentmihályi to be effective and should be something you enjoy. Achieving flow takes practice but it can have a positive impact on your well-being and make you more competent in a chosen area. Start today by doing more of what you love and in the process you’ll be building better mental health.
Alex Morrison has worked with a range of businesses giving him an in depth understanding of many different industries including home improvement, financial support and health care. He has used his knowledge and experience to work for clients as diverse as Acacia Pest Control, Cosh Living and Me Bank to help them reach their business goals.