New Zealand Ranks Low in Well-Being Index; How to Improve Mental Health, Fight Depression

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By Reissa Su | September 9, 2013 11:52 AM EST

According to the New Zealand Sovereign Wellbeing Index, most New Zealanders are depressed.  The results of the recent study revealed the need to improve the country's mental health and well-being.

Tracy Clelland, a lecturer at the University of Canterbury, said New Zealand ranked low in the well-being index compared to most countries in Europe.  She suggested increasing the number of local events where people can come together.  She said it would be better for neighbours to get to know each other or knock on their doors once in a while. 

A high Well-Being Index is equivalent to good mental health.  Since New Zealand has one of the poorest well-being statistics, Ms Clelland said that in order to maintain a high well-being, Kiwis need to support people to flourish and not leave them in anguish. 

She described flourishing as experiencing life is going well.  To have a good mental health meant to feel good about life.  Ms Clelland said flourishing is a characterization of good mental health.

Although an individual's well-being can be influenced by various factors, well-being can also be affected by how a person thinks. Personal values, behaviour and attitudes can change people's thinking.

New Zealand's low rating in terms of well-being only demonstrated the need to improve one's outlook in life.  Two-thirds of young Kiwis were found to be in a depressed mood.  Depression is known as a medical condition in which a person may experience emotions like sadness, hopelessness and discouragement. 

How to improve mental health and fight depression

If you know someone who is feeling a little down lately or you start feeling depressed, you can use these five steps to improve well-being based on scientific evidence:

1. Connect with people. It is important to establish contact with family, friends, neighbours, classmates or colleagues.  Spend some time to develop and nurture these relationships. 

2. Engage in activities. This doesn't mean going to the gym every day to work out.  You can take a walk around the neighbourhood or park. Play football or go biking with your friends.  Find something that you enjoy doing and make it a part of your life.

3. Learn something new. If you keep on learning, this will give you a sense of achievement and renewed self-confidence.  Take cooking lessons or learn how to play a musical instrument.  There are a lot of possibilities that you could take. 

4. Give to others.  Sometimes, the smallest things matter the most.  Say "thank you" when someone gives lends you a helping hand.  Smile at the janitor in your school. Volunteer at your local community centre. 

5. Be aware. Take notice of your surroundings and the people around you. Help a friend who is going through a rough time.  Being mindful can help you change how you feel about life's challenges.   

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