believing makes it happen 4 11
 Social activities like going on a group hike in nature can be one way of supporting your mental health. Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock

The number of people struggling with poor mental health and mental disorders has been rising around the world over the past few decades. Those who are struggling are increasingly facing difficulties accessing the kind of support they need – leaving many waiting months for help, if they even qualify for treatment.

While it’s clear that more needs to be done to improve access to treatment, it doesn’t mean people inevitably have to struggle with their mental health as a result. In fact, there are many things people can do on their own to maintain good mental health – and even prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place. According to our recent research, one of the steps you can take to improve your mental wellbeing may be as simple as believing that you can.

In our recent study, we asked 3,015 Danish adults to fill out a survey that asked questions about mental health – such as whether they believe they can do something to keep mentally healthy, whether they had done something in the past two weeks to support their mental health, and also whether they were currently struggling with a mental health problem. We then assessed their level of mental wellbeing using the Short Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale, which is widely used by healthcare professionals and researchers to measure mental wellbeing.

As you’d expect, we found that mental wellbeing was highest among those who had done things to improve their mental health compared with the other participants.

innerself subscribe graphic

Interestingly however, we found that – whether or not our respondents had actually taken action to improve their mental wellbeing – people who believed they could do something to keep mentally healthy tended to have higher mental wellbeing than those who didn’t have this belief.

So while it’s most beneficial to take steps to improve your mental health, even just believing that you can improve it is associated with better overall mental wellbeing.

Though our study didn’t look at the reasons for this link between belief and better mental health, it could be explained by a psychological concept known as the “wellbeing locus of control”. According to this concept, people who have an internal wellbeing locus of control believe that their own attitudes and behaviour control their wellbeing. On the other hand, people with an external wellbeing locus of control think their mental wellbeing is largely controlled by factors or circumstances outside of their control (such as by other people or by chance).

It’s possible that having an internal wellbeing locus of control may subconsciously influence one’s outlook, lifestyle or coping mechanisms. This in turn may also affect mental health – and previous research has linked this type of belief to fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.

This concept may explain why participants who believe they can do something to change their mental health are also more likely to have a high level of mental wellbeing. And this finding in itself has enormous preventative potential, as a high level of mental wellbeing is associated with a 69-90% lower risk of developing a common mental disorder.

Keep mentally healthy

We know from a large body of research that there are many simple things people can do in their day to day to support and even improve their mental health. This is why we developed the Act-Belong-Commit campaign, which provides a research-based mental health “ABC” that can be used by everyone, regardless of whether they’re struggling with a mental health problem or not.

Act: Keep physically, mentally, socially and spiritually active. Do something – such as going for walks, reading, playing games or taking up a hobby. An active mind and body can foster wellbeing and help quell overthinking or worrying about things that may be outside of your control.

Belong: Keep up friendships and close social ties, engage in group activities, and participate in community events. Do something with someone – whether that’s going to dinner with friends or joining a recreational sports league. Spending time with other people can help you feel more connected and build a sense of identity.

Commit: Set goals and challenges, engage in activities that provide meaning and purpose in life, including taking up causes and volunteering to help others. Do something meaningful. This can help you build a sense of meaning, mattering and self worth.

All three of these domains are fundamental to good mental health. Doing just some of these activities is associated with a range of wellbeing benefits, including higher life satisfaction, and lower risk of mental disorders, problematic alcohol use and even cognitive impairment. Feeling active, socially connected, and engaged in meaningful activities are generally linked with better health and a longer lifespan.

As part of our study, we were able to show that knowing these ABC principles can make an important difference. Among those who knew about them, about 80% said that the ABCs had given them new knowledge about what they can do to support their mental health, and about 15% said that they had also taken action to enhance it.

We should view the current mental health crisis as a wake-up call about how critically important it is that people are equipped with tools that may help them to support and maintain good mental health. The results of our study may serve to remind us just how much of an impact we can have ourselves when it comes to looking after our own mental wellbeing – even if it’s just believing that we can.The Conversation

About The Author

Ziggi Ivan Santini, Mental Health Researcher, University of Southern Denmark; Charlotte Meilstrup, Postdoctoral fellow, University of Copenhagen; Line Nielsen, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Copenhagen; Rob Donovan, Adjunct professor, The University of Western Australia, and Vibeke Jenny Koushede, Professor and Head of the Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Books Improving Attitude and Behavior from Amazon's Best Sellers list

"Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones"

by James Clear

In this book, James Clear presents a comprehensive guide to building good habits and breaking bad ones. The book includes practical advice and strategies for creating lasting behavior change, based on the latest research in psychology and neuroscience.

Click for more info or to order

"Unf*ck Your Brain: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers"

by Faith G. Harper, PhD, LPC-S, ACS, ACN

In this book, Dr. Faith Harper offers a guide to understanding and managing common emotional and behavioral issues, including anxiety, depression, and anger. The book includes information on the science behind these issues, as well as practical advice and exercises for coping and healing.

Click for more info or to order

"The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business"

by Charles Duhigg

In this book, Charles Duhigg explores the science of habit formation and how habits impact our lives, both personally and professionally. The book includes stories of individuals and organizations who have successfully changed their habits, as well as practical advice for creating lasting behavior change.

Click for more info or to order

"Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything"

by BJ Fogg

In this book, BJ Fogg presents a guide to creating lasting behavior change through small, incremental habits. The book includes practical advice and strategies for identifying and implementing tiny habits that can lead to big changes over time.

Click for more info or to order

"The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning, Elevate Your Life"

by Robin Sharma

In this book, Robin Sharma presents a guide to maximizing your productivity and potential by starting your day early. The book includes practical advice and strategies for creating a morning routine that supports your goals and values, as well as inspiring stories of individuals who have transformed their lives through early rising.

Click for more info or to order