5 Keys to Good Mental Health

Americans are taught on a regular basis that exercise and diet are the keys to great health and preventive care from later health problems. However, I believe the real secret to even good physical health is good mental health. Over my forty-plus years of life I have observed many truths that work in life and I have compiled a short 5-point list on what I believe are the most essential for daily optimal mental health.

#1) Positive Self-Statements

We all define ourselves in some way, either mostly positive or negative. How we view ourselves is one of the single most critical factors in determining whether you will have good mental health. Do you hear yourself saying, “I am so stupid, not good enough, worthless, piece of trash, no good to anyone” or do you tend to accentuate the positives about yourself and focus on your good qualities more than the bad.

Self-love and not self-loathing or the other extreme of self-absorption is the key here.

If you have trouble in this area then you need to write down daily 5 qualities that you do possess and resolve to believe these things about yourself. Do this for at least two straight weeks. If you have trouble birthing these qualities then ask a trusted friend or family friend for them. Remember, God doesn’t make junk-but we sure would like to throw ourselves out once in awhile.

#2) Forgiveness

Research shows time and time again that our psyche wards and behavioral units are filled with people because of a common identifier-unresolved guilt. Guilt over bad things you have done or even perceived guilt is a killer to our mental well being. Guilt will bleed over into depression and make us miserable. We have to be in some way in process to absolve our guilt. We must forgive others and ourselves if we are to enjoy life the way we were intended. If you have had trouble in your attempts try turning it over to a higher power named God.

At some point we must conclude that we all have flaws and shortcomings that inevitably will hurt other people. The bottom line is that we are just as much in need of forgiveness as the next person. We are broken people living in a broken world. Jesus identified the great human need for ongoing forgiveness when he said in the Lord’s Prayer, “…and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” (Luke 11:4).

#3) Volunteerism

The oldest people that are the happiest are the ones that figured out that something that feels good inside of us is released when we help others. Not too long ago a homeless man dropped by and stayed overnight on our church parking lot. Over time I have spent countless hours talking to this man, getting to know him, helping him do his laundry, pay for showers at a truck stop, buy food for him, watch him get an apartment and grow closer to God. Being part of the growth process for another human being is one of the single most rewarding things a person can do in life and the dividends pay off exponentially in the realm of mental health.

#4) Accountability

Every single person has a set of personal flaws, struggles or deficiencies that cause or are indiscretions themselves that cause us pain. In order to successfully maneuver through our barriers we must incorporate a team of mentors, counselors and friends that we can be transparent with and be held accountable to.

I had a woman share with me one time that her boyfriend struggles with pornography. I told her that unless he ropes in a male accountability partner he would most likely never break free. We have to have someone that we report to on a daily or weekly basis on how we are dealing with our struggles or goals that we have set for ourselves. We were not meant to bare our burdens alone.

Interdependency is the key here. Not co-dependency or independency (self-sufficiency). No one is truly self-sufficient. Who do you call when your cable TV goes out? Yourself?

#5) Boundaries

In life at some point other people will try to take advantage of us or unknowingly allow their dysfunction to make us feel guilty for not helping like they would like us to. We have to learn when to say, “yes” and when to say, “no.” We have to learn our limits and have enough respect for people that set their boundaries with us (accepting their limits) if we are going to experience good mental health. A great book that I have referred umpteen people to is called Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend .

These are the five most critical factors that I have observed over the years that will affect one’s mental health and overall well-being in ways that others simply do not.