It is World Mental Health Day on 10th October, with the objective of raising awareness of global mental health issues.
It’s a good opportunity to take stock of how successfully we prioritise our own mental wellness. Take a quick look at this far-from-exhaustive list to see how well you’re taking care of your mental health.
- Rest when you’re tired?
- Eat well?
- Feel good about yourself?
- Feel optimistic about the future?
- Make time for activities that make you happy?
- Ask for help when you need it?
- Talk to others about their feelings and your own?
The other important factor is your attitude to drinking alcohol. Drinking too much can adversely affect mental health, and new research points to how much happier we could be if we quit altogether.
Alcohol-Free and Happier
The narrative that alcohol can soothe away stress and make us feel more relaxed is an artificial one; for many people, it’s the opposite.
The science backs up the notion that we’re happier without booze. For example, a recent study featured in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that women who stopped drinking alcohol reported the highest levels of mental wellbeing out of various test groups.
Alcohol is widely considered to be a depressant, in that it can inhabit neural activity. Drink too much of it and the initial stimulating effect of booze can often be replaced with impaired thinking, distorted perception and anxiety. And that’s before the hangover kicks in.
Protect Your Mental Health
We should all be protective of our mental health. We go to the gym or take part in some kind of exercise to stay physically fit, we try to remember to eat whole-foods and fresh stuff, but what do we do to make sure that we’re feeling happy enough?
Going back to that list above, if you answer ‘no’ to two or more of the questions, then take note. Robust mental health is paramount – and quitting booze can help.
Even putting aside the science bit for a moment, it makes sense: stop drinking and you're likely to feel more energetic, have more time to pursue your interests and more money to spend. It might sound simple, but these are precisely the things that make us feel… well, happier.
OYNB and Self-Improvement
It helps you feel good about yourself as well. *Sam started OYNB after feeling that his post-work drinking had spiralled out of control. “I was spending too much money, getting home too late and feeling lousy about myself in the morning. I was knackered half the time, overweight and work was suffering. OYNB was exactly what I needed,” Sam explains. But his drinking pals weren’t impressed.
“I carried on going to the pub but ordered alcohol-free drinks. Someone half-jokingly suggested that I thought I was better than everyone else because I had stopped drinking. It was drunken rubbish, but it did spark a thought. Of course I didn’t think I was better than other people, but I DID feel like I was better than the bloke I had been before OYNB.”
“It was a profound moment for me. I compared myself to the person I was 6 months ago. I was happier, stronger and more in control of my life. I was feeling physically better than I had in years and work was under control again. I also felt quietly proud of myself for making the changes and engineering my own happiness.”
It is a powerful notion, isn’t it? Tweaking something in your life and improving your mental health as a result. Of course, we shouldn’t try to function as a self-sufficient unit – always chat with your GP or healthcare provider about your mental health if you have any concerns – but we can make positive changes and choices for ourselves as well.
Roadmap to Robust Mental Health
Imagine that list again, reframed as a statement of intent:
- Rest when you’re tired.
- Eat well.
- Feel good about yourself.
- Feel optimistic about the future.
- Make time for activities that make you happy.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Talk to others about their feelings and your own.
Most of these aims are things that we probably did instinctively as kids and somehow grew out of. Life might be more complicated than it was at 9 years old, but let’s face it: controlling – or preferably quitting – alcohol makes everything on that list more achievable.
Feeling Better Together
World Mental Health Day is a great opportunity to check in with yourself that you’re feeling okay, and if you’re not, to address it. Likewise, if you think someone you care about might be struggling, let them know you’re there to chat.
Happy World Mental Health Day, everyone.