Mental health is usually spoken about when things go wrong. The focus is on the issues and struggles people face, yet we ALL have mental health just like we all have physical health.
- There is a far better understanding when it comes to our physical health. We know that exercising and eating the right things are good for us and proactively improves our general wellbeing. The approach to mental health is much more reactive – it’s about responding to issues as and when they arise. And this really isn’t the best answer. Prevention is always better than cure, right?My background is performance sport and I came at it with a simple philosophy. In order to get the most out of me as an athlete, I had to get the most out of me as a person. I invested a lot of time into my own personal growth and development, prioritising my physical and mental wellbeing. And it worked. I was World Number 1 for my entire career, and year on year I outdid myself. World records, world titles, world firsts. I pushed the boundaries of my potential and redefined what I thought I was capable of.Sport is often seen as a display of physical prowess, where athletes compete against one another to see who is the fastest, strongest or most skilful. Ultimately though, the thing that differentiates those who win from those who don’t is their mindset. Talent alone is never enough, and to be a world leader we need to learn how to turn stressful situations into comfort zones and deliver results when it really matters. And to do this we need to make sure our minds and our bodies are both operating at peak performance. So what did getting my mindset right look like?Self-awareness, for me, is the cornerstone of success. Understanding my emotions and how they impacted my thoughts and behaviours allowed me to figure out what was working and what was not. This awareness allowed me to take it to the next level and start managing my emotions, actively taking steps to choose the response I wanted in given situations.Another essential pillar is building our self-confidence and esteem. When we believe in our abilities and value our self-worth we become unstoppable. Our esteem and confidence levels have a profound influence on the decisions we make and the actions we take on a daily basis. It fuels motivation, drives persistence and enables us to adapt to change better - and it takes a lot of work to keep on top of. Our confidence levels fluctuate constantly, so it’s something we need to actively work on to ensure it stays high. And finally, a good mindset is about our happiness levels.Happiness is often seen as an end goal – work hard then you’ll be successful, and once you’re successful then you’ll be happy. Happiness is not a by-product of success, but a fundamental part of it. When we are happy we are much more likely to perform better, and when we deliver better results we become more successful. Happiness isn’t about short bursts of elation when we achieve something good, but the long-term contentment we get from cultivating a positive mindset.There are lots of steps we can take to become more mentally healthy, and here are my top three:1. Check in with yourself I’ve already mentioned how important self-awareness is, so it should come as no surprise that it would feature somewhere in my top three. How we feel changes on a daily basis so checking in with yourself regularly and giving yourself a few moments to reflect on how you feel really helps. Ask yourself how you are, examine why you feel that way, and explore whether there is anything you can do to maintain or improve it. I like keeping a journal. Getting my thoughts down on paper helps me clarify them, stops me from blowing things out of proportion and enables me to see patterns. If I notice particular emotions or behaviours being triggered over a period of time then I can start figuring out why and doing something about it.2. Choose Your Response We always have a choice, even when we’re faced with adversity. It’s not what happens to us, but how we choose to respond to that situation. For me, practicing gratitude is very helpful. Shifting my mindset away from the negative and choosing to focus my attention on all the good things that happen to me was revolutionary. And by good, we’re not just talking about the HUGE wins. It’s about appreciating all the positive stuff, no matter how small. This shifts our perspective and allows us to redefine what we consider success to be. In my journal I write down the things that I am grateful for, even when my day hasn’t gone to plan. Drawing out small blessings, tiny wins and progress makes a HUGE impact.3. Remember that you are never alone Nobody achieves success on their own. The connections we have in our life are our most valuable asset, supporting us when things go well and when things don’t. Your network is there to help, offering encouragement and guidance so start building strong connections around you. They can help you manage your emotions, act as a sounding board to bounce ideas off and hold you accountable for actions you decide to take. I can’t begin to explain how many people have helped me (and still do!) through the adversities I’ve faced in my life, giving me a fresh perspective and allowing me to tackle challenges better.
Danielle Brown MBE is a double Paralympic gold medallist, five time World Champion and the first disabled athlete to represent England (and win gold) at the Commonwealth Games. She is also a Professional Keynote Speaker, Training Provider and Coach.Her organisation inspires and empowers people to unlock their potential, overcome adversity and achieve big goals. She has developed an online programme for schools that centres around improving mental wellbeing and academic performance.