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What is mental health and wellbeing?


Written by
Georgina Jeronymides-Norie

We take a closer look at what it means to have good mental health and wellbeing, and how we can create and nurture this within ourselves. 

8 people sitting in a line facing the ocean with their arms around each other's shoulders

The discussion around mental health and wellbeing has become increasingly popular, and with good reason – they describe the quality of our mental state. As a result, it’s likely that you have seen or heard phrases like ‘self-care’ and ‘resilience’ used in the media. These are not passing trends. They are part of an important conversation around how you care for yourself so that you feel able to enjoy life, even with its daily stresses. Here, we look at what mental health and wellbeing is, and steps you can take to ensure you're caring for yours.

When we talk about mental health and wellbeing, we are referring to emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. These all affect how we how we think, feel and behave, and contribute to what is described as our 'mental wellbeing'. 

Most of us have experienced times of happiness and calm, where we feel strong and able to face challenges that come our way. Most of us have also felt stress and worry, which may have put our coping mechanisms to the test. The difference between good and poor mental wellbeing is whether we have been able to cope with challenging situations and emotions in a way that does not compromise our health too. Resilience refers to our ability to deal with a tough time, feel better, and then move on. This is a key component of mental health and wellbeing. It means being able to take life’s knocks, learn from experiences and retain a desire to get the most out of life.

There are five evidence-based steps you can take to improve mental wellbeing, which you may like to try:

  1. Connect with others – take time to nurture positive relationships. This may be with your family, friends or others around you.
  2. Get active – whether it’s taking a walk, going to the gym, playing a group sport or dancing, find a physical activity you enjoy doing and integrate it into your schedule. 
  3. Learn something new – this can give you a sense of achievement and confidence. You may be fulfilling this with your studies but if there’s something else you’ve always wanted to learn, why not give it a try? 
  4. Be kind to others – even the smallest act counts, such as a smile or asking how someone’s day is going. Volunteering for a good cause could also be rewarding and offers the chance to connect with others. 
  5. Practise mindfulness – be more aware of the present moment. It’s easy to get stuck in thoughts about the past or the future but often not very useful. Try being in the here and now to feel more grounded.

We all experience a range of moods and emotions – happiness, sadness, anger and excitement to name just a few. This is ok and natural, and acts of self-care can help you to navigate and work through your thoughts and emotions. If negative feelings persist and you feel low for a longer period of time, it could be worth seeking professional support such as a therapist/counsellor, medical practitioner or local support group.

Generally, when we are in a state of good mental health and wellbeing, we feel more positive about ourselves than negative, and overall we feel optimistic about life. Some indicators of good mental wellbeing are:

  • Feeling a sense of self-worth. 
  • Having meaningful relationships with others.
  • Coping with the stresses of daily life.
  • Being able to adapt and manage in times of change and uncertainty.
  • Living and working productively. 
  • The ability to express how you feel and ask for support when you need it. 
  • Having an understanding of what makes you feel good.
  • Engaging with the world around you. 

There are lots of ways to look after your mental wellbeing and different things work for different people. Share your advice and be part of our conversation inspiring others to look after themselves as they balance the demands of everyday life.
Don’t forget that if you feel like you need someone to talk to and are a University of London student, you can contact TalkCampus, the app-based peer support network for students. Go to the 'Wellbeing' tab in your Student Portal for more information. 

Further reading: