• Dr Phoebe Lau

How to think about your mental health

One of my goals is to play my part in helping to de-stigmitise mental health. I like to explain it like this, just like we have physical health, we all have mental health. You read that right, you have mental health, I have mental health, your friends have mental health, your loved ones have mental health, your colleagues have mental health and even your boss has mental health. 

Black pug on his mat
Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

Simply put, like physical health, mental health exists on a continuum. In the world of physical health, there are people who have serious physical and medical illnesses on one end of the spectrum, and those who are physically well and healthy on the other end of the spectrum. Most of us, are somewhere in the middle, moving up and down the spectrum depending on our actions and behaviour in context of our environment and any hereditary conditions. This is similar to the mental health continuum where on one end there are serious mental health disorders, and on the other hand there are those with strong and resilient mental health. Again, most of us are somewhere between these two ends moving up and down depending on our actions or behaviour, in context of our environment and any genetic cards we were dealt. 

For decades we have come to accept that there is “physical health” because most of us have grown up with campaigns on nutrition and exercise. Think of the food pyramid - when did you first see one? Does any one remember “Healthy Harold”, the giraffe puppet that visited Australian primary schools to talk about healthy eating habits? How about that old proverb, “eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, most of us have been exposed to these health campaigns for as long as we can remember. In comparison to our physical health, we are only starting to discuss mental health more openly, and learn that it’s an integral part of every day health.

This can be an empowering perspective as it means that we have more control over our mental health than we think. Here are a few questions to consider about your mental health:

  1. Do you have beliefs about “emotional health” or “mental health”? Are these beliefs, negative, positive, or neutral?

  2. What attitudes do people have around you about emotional or mental health? How much influence does it have on you?

  3. Do you have mental health goals like you might have physical health goals?

  4. What do you do on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis to take care of your mental health?

The way we think about our mental health will determine our behaviour towards our mental health. It’s important to consider what might be some of your thoughts and beliefs around taking care of yourself. 

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