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Improving Mental Health

When it comes to our physical health, we all have strategies to stay healthy. We might take the stairs instead of the elevator, make sure we eat our veggies, or wear sunscreen to protect our skin. Safeguarding our mental health is just as important. Unfortunately, many of us don’t consciously make an effort to stay mentally healthy. Many people see mental health as only meaning not having symptoms of mental illness. In reality it is much, much more than that. Mental health means feeling good about who you are, having balance in your life and in your thinking, and responding constructively to life’s highs and lows. Everyone should practice good mental health. It help protect you from mental illness, and it can help you get the most of out of life.

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So what does it take to be mentally healthier? Here are some tips and advice on protecting and improving your mental health:


Healthy bodies = Healthy minds


We know how good it is for our bodies, and exercise is also good for our mental health. Research confirms that exercise is a great stress reliever. It reduces muscle tension, improves blood flow and floods your body with feel-good chemicals. People who exercise often report having less anxiety. Exercise has also been shown to reduce symptoms of mild depression.

Eat well

Eating right is good for your physical health, and evidence suggests that healthy eating can help boost your mental health, too. Choosing the right foods more often, having a healthy breakfast, and eating regular meals can keep your mood and energy levels steady. Certain kinds of nuts, fish, fruits and vegetables also contain ingredients that are good for both mind and body.

Watch what you drink

Caffeinated drinks like coffee, black tea, and cola can all affect your mental health. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it temporarily gives you more energy, but it can also make you feel nervous, irritable or restless.

Think about why you drink alcohol

Drinking sensibly can be relaxing and enjoyable, but it’s important to think about why you drink. Some people use substances like alcohol to cope with difficulties or problems. This may be a sign of a larger problem in your life. You may also need to rethink drinking if it’s causing problems, such as financial problems or problems in your relationships with others. It’s also important to recognize times in your life when not drinking may be a healthier option. For example, alcohol interacts with many different kinds of medications.

Get enough sleep

Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it plays a huge part in your mental health. If you don’t get enough sleep, you can feel sad, anxious, stressed or grumpy. It can also leave you so tired that it’s hard to concentrate or get things done. Good-quality sleep rests the brain and repairs and replenishes brain cells. A refreshed brain helps our mood, decision-making and social interactions. If worrying thoughts keep you from getting a good night’s sleep, see the next section on healthy thinking.


Practice healthy thinking

We know that our thinking affects us. It’s tied to how we feel emotionally and physically, and it affects how we deal with problems. We often hear that we should practice positive thinking. The problem with positive thinking, though, is that no one can think positively all the time. For example, it’s likely hard to think positively about unexpectedly losing your job no matter how much of an optimist you are. The best thing we can do is think in healthy, helpful ways. Healthy thinking is thinking about something in a balanced way—looking at a situation or problem for what it really is. It means looking at all factors in a situation and then deciding how you feel about it. Practicing healthier, more balanced thinking can help you respond to life events and relationships, and it can also improve your confidence and self-esteem.


Connecting to things bigger than you is good for mental health

The desire to have a purpose and connection to things bigger than ourselves is one of the qualities that make us human. It boosts our mental health by giving us perspective and meaning, and it connects us to others who care about the same things.

Build a healthy support network

Healthy relationships with friends, family and co-workers is vital to good mental health. Loved ones can help you get through hard times, build your self-confidence, and show you that you’re valued. Different people in your support network can help in different ways. For example, friends and family can provide emotional support or practical help, like picking you up from the airport. They can also help by sharing advice or information based on their own experiences.


Mental Health Meter

Read the 5 statements below. For each statement decide if you agree or disagree with it.

If you disagreed with any of these statements or would like to take a full online mental health quiz* to learn more about mental well-being, please visit

*available in English only


You can have a diagnosed mental illness and still have mental health

A person can have a mental illness and still have positive mental health. Because mental illness can happen in cycles, most people have times when they are well. And during those times, people being treated for a mental illness often have great mental health. Through the process of treatment and recovery, they have learned that taking care of their mental health can help prevent relapses in their mental illness, and help them stay well longer.


Where do I go from here?

While most people say that mental health is important to them, a recent national poll found that only two-thirds of people are committed to making changes to improve their own mental health. To maintain positive mental health, you need to take positive action. Reading this sheet was a great start, but there are more things you can do to protect yourself. The following resources can provide you with more information about positive mental health.

Resources available in English only:

BC Partners For Mental Health and Addictions Information
Visit for useful information on positive mental health, including our Wellness Modules. These modules are worksheets that can help you learn important skills for maintaining your mental health. There are eight worksheets in total, covering:

Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division
Visit or call 1-800-555-8222 (toll-free in BC) or 604-688-3234 (in Greater Vancouver) for information and community resources on mental health or any mental illness. You can also learn more about two helpful programs:

Resources available in many languages:
*For each service below, if English is not your first language, say the name of your preferred language in English to be connected to an interpreter. More than 100 languages are available.

HealthLink BC
Call 811 or visit to access free, non-emergency health information for anyone in your family, including mental health information. Through 811, you can also speak to a registered nurse about symptoms you’re worried about, or talk with a pharmacist about medication questions.

Alcohol and Drug Information Referral Service
To get help anywhere in British Columbia, call Alcohol and Drug Information Referral Service 1-800-663-1441 (throughout BC) or 604-660-9382 (in Greater Vancouver).

Crisis lines aren’t only for people in crisis. You can call for information on local services or if you just need someone to talk to. If you are in distress, call 310-6789 (do not add 604, 778 or 250 before the number) 24 hours a day to connect to a BC crisis line, without a wait or busy signal. The crisis lines linked in through 310-6789 have received advanced training in mental health issues and services by members of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information.

© 2013

This info sheet was prepared by CMHA BC Division on behalf of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information and HeretoHelp. Funding was provided by BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority. For more resources visit

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