The People's Friend

Secrets Of Happy People

Our Heath Writer, Colleen Shannon, learns the recipe for good mental health.


DO you know someone who seems happy most of the time and who always appears to cope when things go wrong? Friends like that can be rare and there is a reason.

The truth is that most of us struggle once in a while. In a recent study by the Mental Health Foundation, only around one in 10 people were found to have high levels of good mental health, and nearly two-thirds (65%) reported experienci­ng a mental health problem.

The study quite rightly called for more research to find out why so many people are facing problems like depression and anxiety, and for action to give the support they need.

But I was also intrigued by that minority who said they were feeling very well. What’s their secret, and what can we learn from these happy people?

To find out more, I asked Cal Strode, Senior Media Officer for the Mental Health Foundation.

He explained that good mental health means being able to think, feel and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face.

The survey found that people with great mental health were more likely to spend time doing things that are known to promote wellbeing. For example, instead of reaching for a glass of wine after a stressful day, they are more inclined to go for a walk or cook a healthy meal.

Compared to younger people, those over the age of fifty-five are far more likely to adopt positive strategies like this, and they are more likely to feel happy.

In addition to staying physically active and nourishing the brain with a healthy diet, getting enough sleep helps our mental wellbeing.

It’s important to talk about your feelings, too. And people with strong relationsh­ips and social connection­s tend to live longer, happier lives with fewer physical and mental health problems. In fact, relationsh­ips can have as much influence on our health as smoking. Being alone is a strain, but toxic relationsh­ips are even worse for your health.

Caring for others and doing good are additional ways to boost your mental health, as anyone who does volunteer work will tell you.

You can check your own mental wellbeing with the Mental Health Foundation’s online quiz. It does not try to diagnose a mental health condition and the results stay anonymous unless you choose to share them. Have a look at mentalheal­ You can also find informatio­n on a range of mental health topics at www.mentalheal­

We all sometimes get tired or overwhelme­d by feelings, and it is really important to ask for help when we need it. If you feel life is getting too much for you, family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear. Your GP can also put you in touch with local services, which are there to support you. n

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