Mental illness and mental health conditions are getting a lot of attention. Sometimes it seems that mental crisis is the only aspect of psychology and the study of mental health. But, there is a much more positive side to this subject that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should.
Mental wellness is all about living a life conducive to an ongoing process of mental optimization. Just as mental conditions often result from a variety of factors that play into a vicious downward cycle, mental wellness must be constructed through habitual practice.
This is not the same as developing a philosophy of adopting a way of thinking that allows you to cope positively with mental difficulty. Instead, it is a series of mental and physical processes that contribute to a healthier state of mind. A healthy state of mind then allows for greater clarity and powers of cognition that leads to self-reflection and further improvements.
The Benefits of Cultivating Mental Wellness
Just as physical health and fitness make you stronger and more resilient to sickness, there are benefits from investing in mental wellness. Of course, mental wellness requires its own exercises, nourishment, and necessary sacrifices –– but the rewards are well worth the investment.
In addition to better stability and clarity in thought processes, mental wellness will allow for better relations, deeper insights with your loved ones, greater functionality in professional and academic pursuits, and improved quality of life.
This is not to say that mental wellness is a protective bubble that will isolate the mind from all illnesses. After all, even the most hale and hearty among us can suddenly fall ill and require expert care and medication to make a full recovery. Mental wellness does not mean that the emotional aftermath of stress, depression, and traumas from years past will no longer exist.
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But, it does mean that when it does come, it will not leave the mind feeling as helpless and distraught as it otherwise would have been.
Characteristics of Mental Wellness
A good measure of mental wellness is how the individual responds to the positive and negative they find in themselves and the world around them. This point can’t be stressed enough because it touches on thought processes, emotional balance, and day-to-day behavior.
Mental wellness is made manifest in several important characteristics we have all seen exemplified at some time in our lives, either in ourselves or in another person. These traits are skillsets brought to awareness through mental wellness and they form important building blocks in the path to greater wellness.
- Sense of responsibility for one’s own happiness
- Understanding of personal strengths and weakness
- Clear of the limitations of personal perspective, understanding the possibility for error
- Commitment to greater mental wellness
- Resilience in the face of adversity
- Having personal interests and pursuing them actively
- Emotionally healthy relationships
- Determination and perseverance
- Initiative –– taking action rather than assuming things will get easier
Activities that Improve Mental Wellness
If you feel your level of mental wellness may be lacking, never fear. It is never too late to begin on the path to a functional, positive mind with resilience to stress and trauma of life. The following are some practical ways to boost mental wellness that won’t cost anything but your time and attention.
1. Staying Physically Active
The most important thing to understand about physical and mental wellness is how interconnected they are. Getting healthy, regular exercise improves mental health by increasing neurotransmitter activity, fighting the effects of stress, increasing resilience to stress, and preventing shrinkage in the hippocampus that prevents the onset of depression, dementia, and other mental disorders.1
Exercise is so vital to mental health that it is being considered part of an effective treatment for many different types of mental conditions including Parkinson’s disease.
2. Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation
The practices of mindfulness and meditation are conducive to great progress along the path to mental wellness. Meditative practices offer a whole new way of interfacing with the mind and can lead to greater powers of focus, concentration, and an effective way of dealing with stress. Meditation also leads to greater positivity, happiness, and emotional balance.
3. Building Stronger Social Relations
You may not be the most social butterfly in your community, but no one is an island. Taking the time to invest in the social relations you have is important to maintaining mental wellness. Solitude can be very stabilizing and beneficial, but too much loneliness can be unhealthy. Those belonging to healthy social networks provide each other with support. Discussing interests and offering solutions can help to relieve stress. Sometimes just talking about feelings and thoughts can help place them in perspective.
4. Getting Outside
Health professionals from various fields of medicine and social science have suggested that humans that have migrated from the great outdoors to indoor environments could lead to melancholy and other mental illnesses.
Everything in natural environments from the soft colors, beautiful asymmetrical figures, fresh air, and sunshine work to relax the mind and improve its functions. Getting outside is especially important for countering the stress response and regaining full composure. So take a walk through the park, seashore, or hills for better mental health.
There is something profoundly soothing and calming about giving back to the world and community that supports you. Volunteering your time and skills for the greater good is also a personally satisfying activity that can help enhance social skills and remind you that you are part of a larger picture.
Final Notes on Mental Wellness
It is easy to overlook mental wellness in the quest for good health, but eventually, it will be essential to consider how this important component of health affects your daily habits and regular practices.
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