Seven Elements of Good Mental Health: 4. Show some SSAS – The Prospering Soul

Life shouldn’t just be about avoiding poor health, but also enjoying good health. Our psychological health is no different.

Before we take a look at poor mental health, let’s look at some of the ways that people can enjoy good mental health and wellbeing. This next series of posts will discuss seven elements that are Biblically and scientifically recognised as important to people living richer and more fulfilling lives.

These aren’t the only ways that a person can find fulfilment, nor are they sure-fire ways of preventing all mental health problems either. They’re not seven steps to enlightenment or happiness either.   But applying these principles can improve psychosocial wellbeing, and encourage good mental health.

4. Show some SSAS

SSAS stands for Supple, Strong and Skilful. This applies physically and mentally.

Physical fitness is good for us. This isn’t the main point of the blog, but I have never seen a study that shows exercise to be a bad thing. Ultimately, it’s not how fat you are that’s important for your longevity, it’s how fit you are [1, 2]. And the way to get fit is to exercise.

Physical exercise is not just good for the body but good for the brain as well. While the exact pathways are still being determined, there’s good evidence that moderate regular physical activity improves the balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators in the body and in the brain. In the brain, this improves the overall function of our brain cells and their ability to form new pathways, which in turn, has been shown to improve mood disorders like anxiety and depression [3].

But being SSAS isn’t just about what being physically fit and active can do for your mood, but it also relates to being psychologically flexible and using psychological skills to leverage your strengths rather than just fighting with your weaknesses. One of the keys here is acceptance. Remembering your values that we spoke about in key 1 as your guide, exploit the things that you’re good at, using them to gain some self-confidence and momentum. Accept the things that can’t be changed in your life. Then when you have some momentum, learn some new skills to increase your resilience and strengthen your weaknesses.

I say this because sometimes we spend so much time focussing on all the bad things in our lives that we forget about the good things that we already have or can already do. It would be like an athlete spending all their time in the gym, getting really fit and strong, but never getting onto the field or court. It’s important that we courageously challenge ourselves to turn our weak points into strong points, but it’s more important to do what we can to help others around us.

References

[1]        Barry VW, Baruth M, Beets MW, Durstine JL, Liu J, Blair SN. Fitness vs. fatness on all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis. Progress in cardiovascular diseases 2014 Jan-Feb;56(4):382-90.
[2]        Lavie CJ, McAuley PA, Church TS, Milani RV, Blair SN. Obesity and cardiovascular diseases: implications regarding fitness, fatness, and severity in the obesity paradox. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2014 Apr 15;63(14):1345-54.
[3]        Moylan S, Eyre HA, Maes M, Baune BT, Jacka FN, Berk M. Exercising the worry away: how inflammation, oxidative and nitrogen stress mediates the beneficial effect of physical activity on anxiety disorder symptoms and behaviours. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews 2013 May;37(4):573-84.

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