At No Fallen Heroes we dedicate ourselves to preventing veteran suicide. This quest includes supporting new and effective psychedelic medicines, early intervention for veterans in need, and maintaining good mental health as a baseline for protection against suicidal thoughts. As the experts in the field say, good mental health is not just the absence of mental illness, depression, anxiety and the rest. It is a positive aspect of your life that not only protects against mental health problems but helps make life worth living.
Connect with Other People to Maintain Positive Mental Health
Good and strong relationships are important to a person’s well being and social isolation is known to be a major factor in depression and suicidal thinking. Strong relationships help maintain a sense of self-worth and belonging, provide opportunities for sharing positive experiences, and give you emotional support in times of need.
Ways to build stronger relationships include taking time every day to be with friends and family such as setting a fixed mealtime when everyone gathers. For friends that you do not see very often it is healthy to make a point of setting a time when the two of you can get together. In general, turning off the TV and putting away the smart phone to talk face to face, play a game, or just take a walk together is healthy. And, making a point of visiting friends and family who need support can be health for both of you. Volunteer work is good as it gets you out with more people and the good side of social media like Facebook is that you can make a point of keeping in touch with distant friends.
Physical Activity Helps Build Positive Thoughts
There is good evidence that regular physical activity raises self-esteem, helps in setting and achieving goals, and actually creates chemical changes in the brain that result is a positive mood. When in the military regular exercise is typically part of life. This part of life can slide when the veteran returns to civilian life. Ways to reestablish a physical fitness routine include looking for free activities like going for a walk or jog every day, playing sports with friends, and consulting your doctor about a fitness routine if you have a disability as a result of your military service. The key to transitioning from a couch potato life to one of physical activity is to start with something like a walk in the park and not immediately assume that you need to be a marathon runner to make this work.
Learn and Do Something New
Whether it is a skill that could lead to a new job or simply a hobby that adds a bit of joy to life, learn something new. Research shows that learning new things boosts self-confidence, increases self-esteem, gives a sense of purpose that may be missing after a vet leaves the service, and helps one connect to others. Many busy people think that they simply to not have the time for new things but those are commonly the same people who need to add a bit of variety to their lives for the sake of their mental health. Simple ways to start out include cooking something new for a meal, mentoring someone at work, or adding a simple do it yourself project with no specific time constraints. Taking a class at a local college not only adds knowledge and skills but often results in making new friends.
Giving to Others Improves Your Own Mental Health
Acts of kindness and giving often provide as much benefit to the giver as to the receiver. Doing something kind creates a sense of reward and continued positive feelings. The sense of purpose and self-worth that commonly go hand in hand with military service can disappear in civilian life. Making an effort to do good and kind things such as by volunteering with a charitable group in your community can restore that sense of purpose and be a huge plus for positive mental health. Simple things like remembering to say thank you, asking friends how they are doing and listening to what they say, and making a point of spending time with friends who need support are all excellent ways to build your own positive mental health as well as help others.
Practice Being Mindful of the Present Moment
An all-too-common problem for veterans is to have part of your mind forever trapped in the past. Vets with PTSD experience painful flashbacks to traumatic events that really have no part in their current life but tend to take over anyway. The practice of being mindful of today and now with techniques such as meditation and prayer, making sure to socialize frequently, and getting enough physical exercise is a big step in maintaining positive mental health and keeping away the demons of past trauma.