Healthy living

Mental health and wellbeing

  • Good mental health is a sense of wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem.
  • A mental illness is a health problem that significantly affects how a person thinks, behaves and interacts with others.

Being mentally healthy enables us to fully enjoy and appreciate other people, day-to-day life and our environment. 

When we are mentally healthy we can:

  • form positive relationships
  • use our abilities to reach our potential
  • deal with life’s challenges.

Good mental health and wellbeing mean different things to different people and every person has to find their own way to a life that is meaningful and satisfying for them. 

Things that can contribute to positive mental health and wellbeing include:

  • spending quality time with close friends and family
  • working in a job or finding an activity that is meaningful, which can provide a sense of purpose
  • learning a new skill such as painting, singing, knitting, or a foreign language which can provide a sense of pride and achievement
  • finding a hobby (such as gardening, playing sport, cooking, or arts and craft)
  • giving to others by volunteering, being there for friend in need, or caring for animals
  • having someone to talk to who can provide support and reassurance
  • eating healthily and exercising regularly
  • spending time with people who share similar interests
  • experiencing new things such as trying different foods, travelling, or meeting new people.

See more articles about mental health

Ways to improve your mental health and wellbeing

Relax and do things you enjoy

Having something to look forward to promotes positive mental health and wellbeing.  Everyone is different, so find out what works for you. 

Relaxing activities may include:

  • listening to music
  • watching TV
  • playing video games
  • practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or tai-chi 
  • mindfulness techniques are helpful to manage anxiety and negative or intrusive thoughts 
  • gardening 
  • catching up for drinks with a friend
  • play with pets
  • going shopping.
Get moving

Exercise is a great way to improve your negative mood. Do whatever you enjoy doing that gets you active, for example:

  • ride a bike
  • go for a walk (or run)
  • go for a swim at the beach or a pool
  • play a sport you like
  • kick a football with friends
  • try yoga
  • take up a martial art
  • join a team (rugby, footy, netball etc).
Eat healthy
  • Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, as it will make you feel calmer
  • Eating regular meals will give you energy and will regulate your blood sugar levels
  • Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables will make you feel healthier. Reducing your sugar intake is better for your health
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs as they can worsen the symptoms of mental health problems.
Get enough sleep
  • If you are tired, you are more likely to feel stressed and worried
  • Aaim for around 8 hours per night to avoid feeling tired
  • Get into a good bedtime routine: wind down by drinking a glass of milk or cup of herbal tea, read a book or listen to relaxing music before going to bed
  • Try going to sleep and getting up at the same time each day
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks after lunch time.
Stay connected with families and friends

Feeling connected to people is an important part of staying well. It can help you feel confident and valued, and it can support you during difficult times. A lack of contact with others makes people feel lonely and disconnected.

  • Eeven if you are not contributing to conversations, stay around people
  • Spend time on relationships you are interested in
  • Care and support other people
  • Talk to family and friends and discuss your experiences, worries and feelings
  • Visit your GP if you have any physical or mental health concerns.
Get involved

Join a local community group in something that interests you. This will also allow you to meet people who have similar interests, for example:

  • find a self–help group, as talking to people who have similar feelings can be a huge support
  • join a craft group
  • join a meditation or relaxation group
  • learn a new hobby through an adult education course
  • join a sporting team.
Problem solving

Learn to anticipate problems before they arise, as it will help reduce worry and stress.

You can do this by:

  • learning to understand your own thoughts and feelings
  • planning in advance what you might do in situations that cause you stress
  • identifying at least two people who can help you when you come across a problem in your life
  • planning for a crisis and tell people what you want to happen if you become unwell.
Set goals

it is important to introduce a regular routine and structure to your days.  Setting and achieving goals can help to organise your time, and can give you a sense of purpose in life

Goals can be related to:

  • work
  • study
  • exercise
  • eating healthy
  • joining in on social activities.

What is mental illness

A mental illness is a health problem that significantly affects how a person thinks, behaves and interacts with other people. It is diagnosed according to standardised criteria.

A mental health problem also affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves, but to a lesser extent than a mental illness.

Mental illnesses are of different types and degrees of severity.

Some of the major types are:

These illnesses may also be referred to as a mental disorder, mental impairment or psychiatric disability.

See more articles about the types of mental illness, treatment and support services.

What causes mental illness

Mental illness results from complex interactions between the mind, body and environment.

Factors which can contribute to mental illness are:

  • biological factors such as genetics, chemistry and hormones
  • use of alcohol, drugs and other substances cognitive patterns such as constant negative thoughts and low self-esteem
  • social factors such as isolation, financial problems, family breakdown or violence.

These factors can be minimised by a strong and supportive community environment.

More information

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit healthdirect (external site) or call 1800 022 222
  • Mental Health Emergency Response Line (MHERL)
    Metro: 1300 555 788
    Peel: 1800 676 822
  • RuralLink
    Rural and remote areas: 1800 552 002


Mental Health Commission

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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