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Mental Wellness 

Mental wellness is so important for living a fulfilling and meaningful life. Our mental health impacts virtually every aspect of our existence, from how we think and feel to how we handle stress and relate to others. 

Making mental wellness a priority can help us thrive and feel our best. Today, we'll explore what mental wellness is, why it matters, and provide actionable tips to start improving it. 

What is Mental Wellness? 

Mental wellness refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and make decisions in our daily lives. 

The World Health Organization defines mental health as "a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community"[1]

Some key aspects of mental wellness include: 

  • Emotional well-being - Having satisfying relationships, expressing emotions in a healthy way, and coping effectively with life's challenges. 
  • Psychological well-being - Feeling generally satisfied with life, having a sense of meaning or purpose, and being able to grow and develop as a person. 
  • Social well-being - Having a sense of connection, belonging, and support from others. Being able to establish fulfilling relationships. 

Mental wellness exists on a spectrum. We all have times when we feel more or less mentally well. 

The goal isn't to feel happy and relaxed every moment of life. Instead, it's about fostering resilience to better handle inevitable ups and downs. 

Why is Mental Wellness Important? 

There are many reasons why making mental wellness a priority is so important: 

  • It affects physical health. Mental and physical health are closely linked. Poor mental health is associated with chronic physical conditions and reduced life expectancy[2]
  • It impacts work and academics. Mental health issues are frequent causes of missed work and school. Good mental wellness, on the other hand, helps us focus and be more productive[3].
  • It influences relationships. Mental health problems can strain relationships. Boosting mental wellness helps us communicate better and foster healthy bonds. 
  • It's needed to handle life's curveballs. Life brings many challenges. Good mental wellness gives us the coping skills and resilience to roll with the punches. 
  • It contributes to overall well-being. Feeling mentally well is a major part of finding joy and being able to thrive. Poor mental health often leads to overall dissatisfaction with life[4]

The bottom line is that making mental wellness a priority benefits nearly every domain of life. Caring for our mental health is just as important as our physical health in living a full and happy life. 

A stressful female student under pressure due to academics.

Signs of Poor Mental Wellness to Look Out For 

How can you tell if your mental health needs a boost? Here are some common warning signs of poor mental wellness to look out for: 

  • Feeling sad, anxious, irritable, or hopeless frequently 
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy 
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions 
  • Low energy and constant fatigue 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Appetite changes and unexplained weight fluctuations 
  • Physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, or back pain 
  • Avoiding social situations and isolating yourself 
  • Feeling overly stressed or overwhelmed 
  • Turning to alcohol, drugs, food, or other unhealthy coping mechanisms 
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or suicide 

If you notice several of these signs, it may indicate poor mental health and the need for lifestyle changes or professional help. Don't ignore the signs - take steps to improve your mental wellness. 

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions characterized by excessive worry, fear, and anxiety.

10 Ways to Start Improving Your Mental Wellness 

The good news is there are many simple, positive steps we can take to boost our mental health. Here are 10 evidence-based ways to start improving your mental wellness today: 

Get Regular Exercise 

Regular physical activity is a powerful depression and anxiety fighter[5]. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins and reduces stress hormones.

Aim for 30 minutes of activity per day, or break it into short 10-minute bursts. Find exercises you enjoy - even light walking can help! 

Eat a Nutritious Diet 

What we eat directly impacts how we feel. Limit processed foods and emphasize whole foods like fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Stay hydrated and avoid skipping meals. A nutritious diet fuels both body and mind[6]

Get Enough Quality Sleep 

Sleep issues take a toll on mental health. Adults should aim for 7-9 hours per night[7]. Optimize your sleep by sticking to consistent bedtime routines, limiting screen use before bed, and making your bedroom dark and cool. 

Manage Stress Levels 

Unmanaged stress can become overwhelming. Try stress management techniques like mindfulness practices, deep breathing, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation. Setting aside time for hobbies you enjoy also helps relieve stress. 

Spend Time in Nature 

Studies show that spending time outdoors, especially surrounded by nature, reduces stress hormones[8]. Aim to get outside for 30-60 minutes daily. Go for a walk, have lunch in a park, do some gardening, or spend time with pets outdoors. 

Foster Social Connections 

We're social beings - we thrive on positive connections. Make time for loved ones, join groups related to your interests, and open up to those you trust about what you're going through. Social support is key for mental wellness. 

Limit Alcohol and Drug Use 

While alcohol or drugs may seem relaxing, overuse often worsens anxiety and depression. Follow recommended limits, such as no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men[9]. Avoid mixing substances and limit marijuana use. 

Try Relaxation Techniques 

Relaxation practices like meditation, deep breathing, massage, yoga, and mindfulness help activate the body's relaxation response, quiet worried thoughts and reduce tension. Even 5-10 minutes daily can make a difference.

Get Professional Help if Needed 

If you're struggling with more severe depression or anxiety, seek professional mental health services. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors provide support, diagnosis, and treatment options like psychotherapy and medication. Don't be afraid to get help. 

Be Kind to Yourself 

Boost your mental wellness by being gentler with yourself, both in your self-talk and daily habits. Acknowledge your efforts, get adequate rest, make time for fun, and do things that make you feel uplifted. You deserve self-care. 

Making even small positive changes to your daily routine can improve your mental wellness over time. Be patient with yourself and reach out for help when needed - you don't have to do it alone. We all deserve to feel our best. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Mental Wellness

How is mental health different from mental illness? 

Mental health refers to our overall emotional, psychological, and social well-being on a spectrum from positive to negative. Mental illness refers specifically to diagnosable conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Someone can have poor mental health without a diagnosable illness. 

What lifestyles tend to promote better mental wellness? 

Lifestyles that incorporate sufficient sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress management, social connection, purposeful activities, and avoiding substance overuse tend to promote the best mental health outcomes. Setting aside time for relaxation and fun is also beneficial. 

Should I see a therapist if I'm feeling mentally unwell? 

Seeing a mental health professional can be very helpful if you're struggling with more severe or persistent depression or anxiety symptoms. Therapists provide tools to improve mental wellness like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness practices, and medication options. Don't be afraid to get support. 

What are signs I may need help from a mental health professional? 

Consult a therapist or doctor if you notice major changes in sleep, appetite, energy levels, ability to function, or substance use. Additionally, thoughts of self-harm, excessive worrying, feelings of hopelessness, and withdrawal from others signal it's time to get professional support.

How can I support a loved one struggling with mental health? 

You can support a loved one by listening without judgment, encouraging positive coping strategies, helping reduce life stresses, going on walks together, and attending medical or therapy appointments. Don't try to "fix" their issues, just provide unconditional love and support. 

What are some early signs of mental illness I should look out for? 

Some early red flags include withdrawal from normal activities, dramatic mood swings, noticing unusual behaviors or beliefs, significant changes in sleep or energy, and excessive worrying or fear. Look for patterns over time vs. temporary mood changes. Addressing issues early improves outcomes. 

Can children and teens experience mental illness? 

Yes, mental illness can occur early in life. Anxiety, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, depression, eating disorders, and behavioral issues are some examples. It's important to watch for signs in kids like trouble in school, outbursts, loss of interest in fun, headaches, and avoidance of friends. Seek support. 

What role does nutrition play in mental wellness? 

Diet significantly impacts mental health. Focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods to provide brain-supporting compounds like omega-3s, B vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Limit processed foods, sugars, chemical additives, and trans fats which promote inflammation. Stay well hydrated. 

Are mental and physical health linked? 

Absolutely. Mental and physical health are closely interconnected. Poor physical health often worsens mental health issues, while poor mental health increases the risk of chronic physical illness. Taking care of both is essential. Things like exercise, nutrition, and sleep promote both mental and physical wellness.

Depression is a serious and common mental health condition characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities.

Where Can I Find Helpful Mental Health Resources? 

There are many different sources of help and resources available for people with mental health issues, depending on the individual's needs and circumstances. 

Some options include: 

  • Primary care providers: a person's primary care provider, such as a family doctor or general practitioner, can provide general information about mental health conditions and refer individuals to specialists as needed.
  • Mental health professionals: These include psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed therapists who can provide a diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing support for mental health issues. They can be found in hospitals, clinics, community health centers, and private practice.
  • Support groups: Support groups provide a safe and supportive environment where individuals can connect with others who are going through similar experiences. They can be found in hospitals, clinics, community centers, and online.
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): Many employers offer EAP programs that provide confidential counseling and support services for employees and their families.
  • Hotlines: There are various helplines and hotlines that provide confidential and anonymous support, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • @ The NAMI Helpline can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., ET.

Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), text “Helpline” to 62640, or email at helpline@nami.org 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and The Samaritans@ 988 or 877-870-4673 Call or text 24/7, 

  • Online resources: There are many online resources available that provide information and support for mental health issues, including websites and apps that provide self-help tools and information.
  • Community-based organizations: Local organizations such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and community centers may offer support groups, counseling, and other services.

 

It's important to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength and not weakness. It's important to find the right fit for you and don't hesitate to try different resources if one does not work for you. 

What Are The Best Online Mental Health Resources?

Here are a few reputable online resources for mental health:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)- provides education, support, and advocacy for individuals and families affected by mental illness.https://nami.org/Home 
  • Mental Health America- a national organization that provides information and resources on mental health and wellness. https://mhanational.org/
  • Psychology Today- a directory of therapists and counselors, as well as articles and information on mental health topics. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us 
  • American Psychological Association (APA)- the largest professional organization of psychologists in the United States, with resources on mental health and well-being. https://www.apa.org/
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)- a government agency that conducts and supports research on mental health and provides information and resources on mental health disorders. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/
  • Crisis Text Line- a confidential and free text message service for individuals in crisis. https://www.crisistextline.org/

 

Please note that these resources provide general information and support and it's important to consult a professional if you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition and seeking treatment. 

In Conclusion 

Our mental wellness impacts every aspect of life. Fostering resilience, emotional health, strong social connections, purposeful activities, and positive habits are all keys to overall well-being. Don't hesitate to reach out for professional support if you need it. With some effort, we can all find balance and boost our mental health. What steps will you take today toward feeling mentally well?

References 

[1] World Health Organization. (2018). Mental health: strengthening our response. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response 

[2] Prince, M., Patel, V., Saxena, S., Maj, M., Maselko, J., Phillips, M. R., & Rahman, A. (2007). No health without mental health. The Lancet, 370(9590), 859-877. 
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(07)61238-0/fulltext 

[3] Dong, Maxia et al. “Adverse childhood experiences and self-reported liver disease: new insights into the causal pathway.” Archives of internal medicine vol. 163,16 (2003): 1949-56. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.16.1949 

[4] Strine, T. W., Chapman, D. P., Kobau, R., Balluz, L., & Mokdad, A. H. (2004). Depression, anxiety, and physical impairments and quality of life in the US noninstitutionalized population. Psychiatric services, 55(12), 1408-1413. 
https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.55.12.1408 

[5] Carek, P. J., Laibstain, S. E., & Carek, S. M. (2011). Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 41(1), 15-28.
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2190/PM.41.1.c 

[6] Opie, Rachelle S et al. “The impact of whole-of-diet interventions on depression and anxiety: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials.” Public health nutrition vol. 18,11 (2015): 2074-93. doi:10.1017/S1368980014002614 

[7] Ratcliff, C. G., & Osepchook, C. C. (2021). Sleep duration and mental health outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 61, 101556. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1087079221001511 

[8] Twohig-Bennett, C., & Jones, A. (2018). The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes. Environmental Research, 166, 628-637. 
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118303323 

[9] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2022). Drinking Levels Defined.
https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking

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