7 rules for positive mental health

Here’s 7 rules for positive mental health. Because as a busy mum, an ndis carer, and anyone involved in tricky parenting, it’s important to follow mental health first aid. As in any first aid, you need to look after yourself first. Otherwise, you won’t be well enough to look after others. So, being proactive about maintaining positive mental health is a priority.

These 7 rules for positive mental health draw on the work in positive psychology by Martin Seligman, and mental health work from SAHMRI’s Be Well Program. They also feature at different points in the 21 day Balance e-course.

Rule 1. Do one thing a day that fills your positive emotion bucket

When did you last laugh? Or when did you last smile together with another person? When did you last play?

Catherine Price talks about Playful Deviance and the power of fun in her book and TED talk. She breaks ‘fun’ down into three factors – playfulness, flow and connection – and argues that fun is what makes us feel alive.

Peak fun occurs with people. There’s connection with others and sharing the experience that brings fun alive.

Fun is a health intervention – it relieves stress and increases happiness. It can increase creativity, productivity and resilience. And it’s key to positive emotions.

Rule 2. Practice being in the moment

Have a quiet cup of tea and be mindful.

A cup of tea provides at least 5 minutes of calm, quiet and meditative breathing.

Be in the moment, feeling relaxed and at peace, with a tea mediation. Take the time to breathe in and out slowly, releasing negative emotions and tension with each out breath. Savour the taste and feel of the drink, observing with all your senses. Don’t rush or hurry but take the opportunity to relax.

Follow Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditative words to:

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves –



without rushing toward the future.

Live the actual moment.

Only this moment is life.

Being in the moment, practicing non-judgmental awareness, cultivating calm by acknowledging thoughts and emotions but not giving them airspace. This can help you engage with life in the moment and appreciate what you have.

Rule 3. Connect, deeply for positive mental health

Cal Newport talks about connection in his book Digital Minimalism. He advocates for using your phone and socials as handy vehicles for setting up social interactions, but not using the phone for social connection – do that face to face. It’s a way to use technology as a way to meet our goals, rather than have technology dictate our lives and time.

Connecting deeply with friends means making eye contact, smiling, being present during conversations. Give each other space to talk and actively listen. When people feel heard, they share much more deeply, are vulnerable with their emotions, build trust more and feel connected. Don’t rush conversation but allow the other person to take it where they want – nod, give affirming noises, repeat what they’ve said as a prompt, but just listen.

Connection to others is an important part of proactively building social supports and positive mental health.

Rule 4. Find your meaning, your why, your purpose

Meaning in life is essential for wellbeing. With a simple 5 minute exercise today you can capture and name your personal sources of meaning and purpose. The greater your sense of meaning, the more satisfied you are with life.

Throughout today, take three photos of things that bring a sense of meaning to you.

It might be a photo that represents your job, hobbies, family, loved ones, neighbourhood, morning routine, or friends. What ever brings meaning to you.

Rule 5. Get a good night’s sleep

I absolutely hate waking up in the morning and walking out into a messy living space with unclean dishes and unfolded washing. It makes me feel preemptively exhausted about all the work I have to do before I’ve even done it. It makes me feel stressed, hurried, and time pressured in the morning rather than relaxed. Preemptive tiredness, or anticipatory fatigue as it’s called in the literature, is a predictor of actual mental and physical fatigue. Getting a good night’s sleep gives you the energy you need the next day, keeps you healthy, improves your memory, and heals your body.

A five step evening routine:

Step 1. 60 mins before bed – digital well-being

Digital well-being rituals. If you struggle with sleep, consider enforcing digital well-being as step one. Remove yourself from devices before bedtime and set phones to ‘do not disturb’ and greyscale ‘bedtime’ mode.

Step 2. 30 mins before bed – relaxing

Winding down rituals to prepare for bed. These might include having a cup of tea, a hot shower, spending 30 mins reading or crafting before going to bed.

Step 3. 10 minutes before bed – connection

Connection rituals. These might include having a debrief with your partner or children just before bed. Sharing the day’s highs and lows, a challenge you’re currently working on and what you’re grateful for is a great way to connect with family at the end of the day.

Step 4. 5 minutes before bed – reset

Tidy up rituals to reset the house. I have an alarm on my phone that goes off 5 minutes before my bedtime. It’s a reminder to reset the house. This might involve tidying the living room, clearing and wiping surfaces like the kitchen bench and dining table, and returning items back where they belong (like back to the kids’ bedrooms because their stuff always migrates). This way when you wake up in the morning, the house is tidy and ready for you. So calming!

Step 5. Just before bed – brain dump planning

Planning for the next day rituals. You know that moment when you lie in bed and suddenly remember things you need to do and tasks for tomorrow? Put a notebook and pen by your bedside to capture these thoughts as you go to sleep. The brain often thinks on problems while we sleep. If there’s a challenge for the next day, allow your mind to think about it as you sleep. Keep the notebook there in case you need to jot a creative insight down. It’s reported that Thomas Edison slept with a metal ball  in each hand so that when he fell asleep the balls would clang to the floor and wake him. Then he could capture the creative thought his brain had in sleep, which we normally do not remember.

Rule 6. Manage your digital life to avoid burnout

There are many experts flagging the dangers of digital burnout. We’re connected 24-7 for work, making it difficult to switch off and ignore emails. We experience constant notifications and this keeps triggering our stress responses. And we’re exposed to so much information – megabytes more than what we would have in the past. Digital burnout might look like physical pain (neck pain, back pain, eye strain) or mental exhaustion and depression.

To improve our digital wellbeing, we need the 4×4 approach.

We need to build our four biological buffers that protect us from stress. These include:

  • getting enough sleep
  • having time outside and in nature
  • rest and
  • cold showers (11 mins per week according to the research!).

We also need to manage the ways we work with technology to promote digital wellbeing. This includes having:

  • short brain breaks every hour where you don’t engage with a screen. This increases our attention and productivity.
  • clear hours of work and switching off when that time is up. No work emails after 5pm, for example.
  • notifications turned off or removed so we don’t have constant stress spikes. You can allow important VIP numbers through, but turn off the rest.
  • our phone away at night time as part of helpful evening routines.

Rule 7. Your body is a temple

Find time for good nutrition and physical activity each day. Use the insider hints and tips to reach your goals.

Conclusion: 7 rules for positive mental health

balance - 21 days to positive mental health
  1. Do one thing a day that fills your positive emotion bucket
  2. Practice being in the moment
  3. Connect, deeply
  4. Find your meaning, your why, your purpose.
  5. Get a good night’s sleep
  6. Manage your digital life to avoid burnout
  7. Your body is a temple

If you found these rules for positive mental health helpful, consider signing up for the 21 Day Balance email course. It’s 21 days of supportive emails and reminders to keep you on track for a calm, balanced and positive life.

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