Mental illness is very common. According to the National Association for Mental Health, about onein four people in Britain have this diagnosis, possibly more.
Sadly, there are no statistics for the numbers in Nigeria. It is one of the least understood conditions in society. Mental distress takes many forms. Some of the more colloquial terms of diagnosis are; depression or anxiety. This however sometimes creates a further misunderstanding of the condition and a general underestimation of how severe and incapacitating these conditions can be. Within the African societies and communities there is even further lack of understanding of the illness. The mere mention of mental health sends people running for the hills. It still conjures up images of the florid psychotic lunatic running around naked on the streets … dangerous, unpredictable and to be feared. Whereas in reality, the truth of the matter is that mental health is on a continuum on which we are all placed. It is fluid, dynamic and we can all move up and down on it depending on a range of circumstances e.g. genetics, biochemistry and environmental factors such as life events, extreme stress, and family variables. So, what are those things/attitudes that can enhance our mental health? Let’s examine some of them.
1. Smiling: This one act alone can alter a negative into a positive one. It can release tension, transform angry, unpleasant thoughts to more palatable ones. It has the power to encourage, give hope, reduce anxiety, and generate a warm internal feeling. Think of it, when you see a genuine spontaneous smile, be it from a child or adult, the purity of it is immediately infectious. So try to smile more often, bearing in mind the potential positive effects it may have on others as well as yourself.
2. Humour/Laughter: Having a sense of humour and being able to laugh can take years off your physical appearance and indeed has the potential of extending one’s life. Remember the expression that it takes more facial muscles to frown thereby causing you more wrinkles? When you laugh, you release serotonin, one of those wonderful feel good hormones. Being able to have a good sense of humour has seen many a people through great adversity. Sharing regular laughter with others generates happiness, vigour and regeneration.
3. Positive Thinking: Positive attitudes towards yourself may result in good self-esteem. As much as this may sound clichéd, it certainly can be self-fulfilling.. Positive thinking is not about hoping you may get a date or find the money to buy that frock you have been ogling for weeks. Rather, it is about changing those negative attitudes you have about yourself that are fixed or ingrained in your psyche. Those ways of thinking that hold us back from improving ourselves as human beings and progressing in other areas. Those ways of thinking that guarantees that we do not attain self-actualisation or become self-sufficient. Positive thinking ensures active developing of individual ability and encourages us to fulfil our potential.
4. Graciousness: Being gracious is an art in itself. So many of us take so much for granted. Such as when you are accorded kindness, consideration, courtesy, and thoughtfulness. Offering a cursory thank you, or being coy, coquettish is not necessarily being gracious. When you respond with grace you tend to think about the act, the
compliment and kindness you have received and it informs your own response which comes from a place of humility. Think about times when you could have been more humble with your success in the face of someone else’s failure or bad fortune. Not gloating over another’s unhappiness even if they have wronged you.
5. Love: Expressing and receiving love on a physical, emotional and spiritual level increases our sense of well-being. “Love never gives up, never loses faith, and is always hopeful.’’ Corinthians 13:7
Have you been affected in any way by mental health issues? Would you like to share any personal experiences with other readers? Or maybe you have questions you would like answered. Drop us a line we would love to hear
By GLORIA OGUNBADEJO