Maintaining Our Mental Health: Feeling Good Can Improve our Lives

Maintaining our mental health is a necessary part of thriving in life today.  Feeling good and feeling good about ourselves can improve our lives.  In maintaining our mental health, it is of utmost importance that we focus on the following three aspects of our lives:  self esteem, how we feel about ourselves, self awareness, knowing ourselves and understanding ourselves, and our support system, who we have in our lives, who we receive support from.

These three elements- self esteem, self awareness, and support system can be interrelated. Who we surround ourselves with can affect our self esteem and vice versa. Additionally, the more self aware we are, the better we can maintain a positive self esteem and a strengthening support system.  Understanding our feelings, and understanding ourselves can be one of the most important things we can do to feel good about ourselves, and positive about our lives.

So “feeling good” is dependent upon maintaining a positive self esteem, and maintaining a support system. By maintaining a support system, we need to have support accessible, whether it is family, friends, or even a mental health professional, or a support group.

How can we maintain a positive self esteem?

In consideration of your mental health (and maintaining a positive self esteem and sense of self), what is important is knowing yourself, and understanding yourself, your self awareness.

It becomes relevant to just check in with yourself.  You can assess yourself, by questioning your feelings.  This induces the awareness, a significant part of the process.  Sometimes we do not even realize how we are feeling on the inside, or how we are feeling “about” ourselves. We may be overwhelmed or preoccupied with our schedules, our relationships, and our interactions with others. We are inundated with responsibilities, in our everyday lives, and possibly busy maintaining our physical health, that we may forget to process our feelings. This can be how things build up, to the extent where we may even have trouble understanding ourselves. We need to have time for thinking, exploring, and processing.

We may experience struggle, pain, or disappointment, and feel misunderstood or isolated at times, as a result. If we do not take the time to understand and process experiences we have, or interactions with others, that can be hurtful and disappointing, we risk building up unresolved feelings within ourselves. Over time if we do not maintain a strong belief in ourselves, and our own capabilities, we may internalize negative or misunderstood views that others have of us. We have to be careful not to assume opinions of ourselves that others have of us. A more mild example being- If I am late in meeting someone, or getting somewhere, others may hold the opinion that I am inconsiderate or selfish in some way, for being reckless or careless with their time. But, if I know myself, and I know I am not an inconsiderate person. I try to be supportive, caring, and think of others when I can, however, I have a time management issue, that is not related to who I think I am or how I think I treat people. But, it is so important to know how I feel about myself before I take on any negative opinions from others about who I am. Just because someone thinks something about you, does not mean that it’s true. Self awareness helps us to realize that.

Therefore, working hard to maintain a positive self esteem and appreciating everything that makes you, you (or your individuality) becomes an important part of thriving in life. You must value yourself first, and foremost. Even if we give ourselves little reminders to choose positive thoughts of ourselves, over anyone else’s commentary that we come into contact with- we can listen to responses and feedback from loved ones, but it’s important to make a conscious effort not to internalize views others may have of us, or mistake others’ views of us for our own view of ourselves.

Even if we are not feeling positive about our lives one day, or at any given moment, identifying it, and realizing it, is an essential part of the process to getting there. If we don’t know how we’re feeling we will not even know what we’re working on or that we need to work on something.

Being honest with yourself, and truthful with your feelings, is one of the most important things you can do- whether you’re feeling down or disappointed, actually knowing that you are- can be the first step.

Another important thing to realize is that you have power and freedom over how you choose to react. I am not saying that you should tell yourself you’re feeling “great”. I’m saying the opposite. Give yourself the freedom to feel anything that you do. This goes for physical ailments too- Hiding our discomfort mentally, and physically, that we may be experiencing, can actually create isolation. Being within an environment where we may not be honest with ourselves, or those around us, can feel stifling. It separates us, and feeling connected is actually what can help us and make us feel better.

Maximizing support for ourselves

We need to identify those who can be supportive to us, in our lives.  Additionally, we need to be sure to follow up, and utilize our support system. When it comes to dealing with struggles, difficult life situations, or any mental health concern as well, it is important not to isolate ourselves, and to remember that we are not alone. We have a support system.  We can decrease isolation by utilizing our support in our life, and we can. This is how the three S’s (self esteem, self awareness, and support system) become interrelated. Knowing ourselves, and understanding ourselves can help us to maximize the support system that we have. We can increase our communication with our supports once we understand how we’re feeling.   We can create a support system for ourselves, which can improve our lives. We can create stronger connections with others when we stay true to who we really are and share how we “really” feel.  This makes for a true connection. This is how we create an effective support system for ourselves.

It becomes very important not only be aware of how we feel, but also, aware of how we feel around others. Strength and self-confidence can be the most important elements of a positive self esteem and the endurance to handle difficult life situations. It becomes easier to build our strength and confidence in ourselves with support from others, and spending time around others who believe in us, and our capabilities. Recognizing that we are not alone, and receiving help from others, can prevent us from becoming isolated. We must utilize the support system we have, and even recruit one, if we identify the need.

Being honest with loved ones, and surrounding ourselves with those we feel we can be honest with, can make a difference. This does not mean we have to sever ties with people that do not understand. It does not even mean that we have to decrease the amount of time we spend with those we cannot be honest with about our feelings and experiences. It does mean that communication becomes very important.

Understanding ourselves can allow us to know ourselves and know our needs, and further identify our needs to those that care about us. Communication is such a significant part of our relationships. Receiving support from loved ones within our everyday lives, can help us feel better. We can allow ourselves to receive support, by knowing what we need, and expressing it to others. We can set a goal to be aligned not only with each other, but to have our support systems align themselves with us. Receiving support builds strength.

Jennifer Shrier LCSW

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