Five top tips

Keep it simple! What are the five most important things I can do to stay emotionally healthy? This is our ‘agony aunt’ list. They may look simple, but cracking these is harder than it looks. PS – there are more than five, but five as many fingers as I have and this is a good list to start with.

Friends

Old-skool English poet John Donne (that’ll be 1572-1631 to impress people) said, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” We all need people, even those of us who are introverts. Aim for a couple of close friends – and build these slowly over time, with love, sacrifice and laughter. Aim for a handful of ‘mates’ – who you see or talk to often. Allow as many others as you need to be at more of a distance – care for them, but don’t expect too much and don’t let them break your heart. And don’t feel that you have to get on with EVERYONE all the time – the Bible never says this (see Romans 12v18 if you don’t believe me!).

Fun

You’d be amazed at how seriously people can take the topic of emotional health. That’s the main reason why this booklet is written in a relaxed style. We need to “get Jamaican on our emotions”, and a large part of this is to stop trying so hard. If trying hard was going to work, it would have done so by now. So, take some time out from the planning, the prepping, the reviewing and the self-condemning – and have a bit of fun. It’s time for a few belly laughs. You choose – as long as it is legal ;-)

Faith

Faith is the umbrella of life, the foundation of what we believe. Religion has been used over the ages to war, judge and condemn and the Latin word religio can mean ‘bind’ and ‘restrain’. But it can also mean to ‘bind up’, to ‘bind together’ and to ‘unite’. If we can leave behind the things of man and find the things of God, we will find faith, hope, love and most of all Jesus. Faith is good for our emotional health – it helps us keep perspective, it helps us find hope, it heals – it gives meaning to the suffering.

Food

It’s hard to have good emotional health on a diet of chips and beer just as it’s hard to have good skin. To be sure, there are some who never have a pimple or stress despite an awful diet – but for us mere mortals there is a clear correlation. You know the basics – a balanced diet and all that – but now it is time to actually put it into practice. Look at www.5aday.nhs.uk for the science and some healthy meal ideas? Why not cook for some of those friends you want to make?

Football – and other sports

Not everyone loves Beckham, so it’s OK to replace football with ballet, swimming or good old walks in the countryside – they just don’t begin with ‘F’. Getting your pulse up makes you feel fitter, releases mood-enhancing endorphins and gives you something to talk about. Look at www.nhs.uk/livewell/fitness for some ideas, and www.sustrans.org.uk for the National Cycle Network.
Rob Waller, 01/09/2010