Mental well-being seems to improve not only when people make efforts to improve their mental health, but also when they simply believe that they can change it.
We all know that it is a difficult and time consuming process. Sometimes even painful, especially when you are forced to do things and activities just to not be inactive. Conquering mental well-being, or, more simply, learning to feel good, is a long way and requires constant effort.
On the positive side, even this effort is significant. This is because the steps we take to improve our “inside” alone can help us achieve it, even the simple belief that we can improve our mental well-being.
The above is found in a study published in the Emerald Insight. The researchers asked 3,015 Danish adults to complete a survey of mental health questions. The questions were, among others:
- Do you think that you can do anything to stay mentally healthy?
- Have you done anything in the last two weeks to boost your mental health?
- Are you having a mental health problem now?
What research on mental health has shown
Evaluating the responses, the researchers found that mental well-being was higher among those who had done things to improve their mental health compared to the other participants.
An even more interesting finding was that, regardless of whether respondents took steps to improve their mental well-being or not, those who believed they could do something to maintain their mental health tended to have better mental well-being than those who did not have this belief.
Explanation of the findings
Although this study did not address the reasons for this relationship between beliefs and better mental health, it could be explained by a psychological concept known as a ‘wellbeing locus of control’. Based on this concept, people who have an ‘inner well-being control center’ believe that their own attitudes and behaviors control their well-being. On the other hand, people with an ‘external well-being control center’ believe that their mental well-being is largely controlled by factors or circumstances beyond their control, such as other people or luck.
It is possible that having an internal well-being control center can subconsciously affect perspectives, lifestyles or coping mechanisms, and in turn mental health.
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 well-being. And this finding alone has huge potential for prevention, as a high level of mental well-being is associated with a 69-90% lower risk of developing a common mental disorder.
Universal mental health promotion is now considered the new frontier within preventive strategies. New approaches aim to strengthen positive aspects of mental health in the general population, i.e. among patient and non-patient groups alike.
Our mental health affects the way we think, how we feel, how we behave in our daily lives. It also affects our ability to manage a stressful situation, deal with a problem and overcome it, maintain and build human relationships, and recover from difficulties and failures. Good mental health means to make the most of your potential, to express your feelings and needs, to develop strategies for resolving the difficulties that arise by taking on a role in your family, work and community. So, remember, if you want to feel better, you have to believe it!