Emotional Wellbeing In Humans

Scientific evidence points to five steps that we can take to improve our mental wellbeing. If you give them a try, you may feel happier, more positive and able to get the most from your life.

Your mental health is important. Some mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, are common. If you have such an illness, it’s important to get the right treatment. Read more about mental health.

However, there’s more to good mental health than avoiding or treating mental illness. There is also positive mental wellbeing.

What is mental wellbeing?

Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health at the University of Warwick and a wellbeing expert, says that when we talk about mental wellbeing, we mean more than just happiness.

“It’s useful to start with the idea that overall wellbeing involves both the mind and the body. And we know that physical and mental wellbeing are closely related.

“Of course, feeling happy is a part of mental wellbeing. But it is far from the whole. There is a deeper kind of wellbeing, which is about living in a way that is good for you and good for others around you.

“Feelings of contentment, enjoyment, confidence and engagement with the world are all a part of mental wellbeing. Self-esteem and self-confidence are, too.

“So is a feeling that you can do the things you want to do. And so are good relationships, which bring joy to you and those around you.

“Of course, good mental wellbeing does not mean that you never experience feelings or situations that you find difficult. But it does mean that you feel you have the resilience to cope when times are tougher than usual.”

Mental wellbeing can take many different forms, but a useful description is feeling good and functioning well.

Wellbeing and society

Over the last 50 years, we in Britain have become richer. Despite this, evidence from population surveys – in which people were asked to rate their own happiness or mental wellbeing – shows that mental wellbeing has not improved.

This suggests that many of the things we often think will improve our mental wellbeing – such as more possessions, more money to spend or expensive holidays – on their own do not lead to a lasting improvement in the way we feel about ourselves and our lives.

The message is clear: it’s time to rethink wellbeing.

Evidence and wellbeing

Over the last 20 years, new evidence has emerged about what really causes lasting improvements to mental wellbeing.

“Some of this evidence comes from observational studies, in which scientists look at the behavior and wellbeing of certain sections of the population,” says Professor Stewart-Brown. “Other evidence comes from trials in which scientists take a group of people and ask them to change their behavior or participate in a treatment or other intervention – such as an exercise program – and then watch what happens to their wellbeing.”

To gain evidence on wellbeing, scientists have to find ways to measure it.

Often, scientists measure wellbeing using a series of questions that ask subjects how they feel about themselves, their lives and the world around them.

Find out how happy you are: use our interactive Wellbeing self-assessment tool.

Wellbeing in your life

Many factors influence our wellbeing. Evidence shows that the actions we take and the way we think have the biggest impact.

It can help to think about “being well” as something you do, rather than something you are. The more you put in, the more you are likely to get out.

“The first thing you can do for your own wellbeing has become curious about it,” says Professor Stewart-Brown.

Start to think about what you’ve done in the past to promote mental wellbeing, and whether it worked. Then think about new things that you can try.

“Remember, no one can give wellbeing to you. It’s you who has to take action.

Why We Need To Focus On Mental Health Of Kids

“You’ve got to pull your hips into the bar, like you’ve got to kick up like that,” explained their mother, Selena.

“I tried to kick! I did this — you told me not to stick out,” said Laney indignantly.

Both girls have been diagnosed with mental illnesses — Sydney with bipolar disorder and Laney with a similar illness called disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. The family asked that their last name not be used to protect the girls’ privacy.

School has been a real challenge for them. That’s not unusual for the 1 in 5 children with a mental illness. They often suffer anxiety, difficulty focusing and social challenges. Half of them drop out of high school, in part because many schools don’t manage to meet their needs.

Selena has spent the past eight years trying to get the girls the resources to help them succeed. Like a lot of parents of kids with mental health issues, she’s had to be her children’s biggest advocate.

“It’s definitely a journey. It wasn’t easy,” she said, even though she’s a school guidance counselor herself.

Sydney describes class as “boring, distracting. It’s hard to pay attention. It’s overwhelming.” She struggles to focus or process information, which makes her so anxious and depressed that she often has to leave school in the middle of the day.

She wants to be a rock star like Courtney Love. Every so often she pretends to take drag from a bubble gum cigarette. But she’s an extremely sensitive kid, and school has been a painful experience.

“I used to cry the night before, because I didn’t want to go to school,” she said.

Laney on the other hand is a ball of chaotic energy. At school, she often gets frustrated and acts out. Sometimes, she is sent home.

Schools do not all screen students for mental health issues, and the practice varies widely across states. Even if students are successfully identified, many areas lack the community-based mental health treatment options that would be needed to help them. Just 38 percent of youth with a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder receive treatment services. In 2014, the federal government announced $48 million in new grants to support teachers, schools and communities in recognizing and responding to mental health issues. Still, many students’ mental health problems continue to go unidentified and untreated.

When Selena first noticed the girls were having problems, she took them to the doctor. Sydney started taking medication at the age of 7 and Laney at just 4, but it wasn’t a quick fix.

“The brain is complex,” said Selena. “It’s not like you just take a medicine and it fixes it.” It took years to get the girls’ diagnoses and prescriptions right.

Selena said she needed to educate teachers about her daughters’ illnesses. “I really tried to do my homework. I did a lot of research. Obviously I talked to parents online in a support group,” she said.

Schools are starting to better recognize that mental health is key to academic and social success, said Darcy Gruttadaro, director of advocacy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a grassroots organization headquartered outside Washington, D.C.

Steps For Emotional Wellbeing

Five steps to mental wellbeing

Evidence suggests there are five steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing.

If you approach them with an open mind and try them, you can judge the results yourself.

  • Connect. Connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbors. Spend time developing these relationships. Learn more in Connect for mental wellbeing.
  • Be active. You don’t have to go to the gym. Take a walk, go cycling or play a game of football. Find the activity that you enjoy, and make it a part of your life. Learn more in Get active for mental wellbeing.
  • Keep learning. Learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence. So why not sign up for that cooking course, start learning to play a musical instrument, or figure out how to fix your bike? Find out more in Learn for mental wellbeing.
  • Give to others. Even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can improve your mental wellbeing and help you build new social networks. Learn more in Give for mental wellbeing.
  • Take notice. Be more aware of the present moment, including your feelings and thoughts, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”, and it can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges. Learn more in Awareness for mental wellbeing.