Mental health and tips to mental wellness
Prince Harry mentions it. Oprah talks about it. Just what is mental health and why is it so important today?
What is mental health?
Mental health is a broad term that includes the well-being of our emotional, psychological and social health. It affects us every day from how we think to how we feel to how we act.
Emotional health starts with being aware of our own emotions, both positive and negative. Acknowledging our emotions and achieving a balance of them fosters resilience and confidence in our ability to manage any situation, including the day-to-day stresses of life.
Psychological health relates to the mind or the brain and how well our minds process and understand information and experiences. In contrast to emotional health that relates to how we manage and process our emotions, feelings and matters of the heart.
Social health involves the strength of our connections and interactions with others.
As you might now be able to tell, there is a mind, body and heart connection.
Studies have shown mental health and physical health are linked. For example, people who experience great amounts of stress might sometimes develop physical health problems.
According to the CDC, depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems.
Oftentimes we take care of our physical health frequently by going to the gym, or practicing yoga but have we neglected our mental health? A holistic approach would be to consider the state of our mind, heart and body, acknowledging the mind-heart-body connection.
TIPS TO MENTAL WELLNESS
Connect with nature
Nature heals, soothes, and restores our mental well-being. Studies have shown that people who are more connected with nature are usually happier in life and more likely to report feeling their lives are worthwhile. Being in nature reduces anger, fear, stress, and anxiety and has been linked to many benefits such as improved sleep, self-esteem and concentration.
Take a scroll in a city park or a morning hike in the nature trails. Connect to nature by slowing down and enjoying the beauty of the trees, smelling the flowers and listening to the birds sing.
Exercise benefits not just your physical body but your mental health as well. Exercise releases chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin that enhance your mood and energy.
New research is revealing that exercise has profound effects on the brain and could reduce depression, anxiety, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and even treat PTSD. Other than the obvious physical health benefits, there are many other benefits such as improved mental clarity, improved self-esteem, increased energy levels and enthusiasm for life and improved social health and relationships.
Exercise does not have to be strenuous or take a long time to have benefits. Try including it as a part of your lifestyle, such as cycling, taking longer walks, taking the stairs as a start. Or plan fun activities with friends, such as hiking, tennis, badminton or other team sports.
Meditation is a practice of slowing down and focusing your mind, perhaps directing your thoughts for a period of time. Which seems entirely counter-productive to our culture of constant hustle, datelines and getting things done. Being vs doing. However, numerous studies supported by science have shown that meditation has extensive benefits for our overall health.
Some of the benefits of meditation include reduced stress and anxiety, better focus and concentration, an increase in mental resilience, enhanced self-esteem and self-awareness. People who practice meditation and mindfulness also use it to help with restoring calm, managing emotions and at a deeper level, observing and connecting to themselves.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate and there are many types of meditation, from mindfulness meditation to guided visualisations to a popular technique called Transcendental Meditation. There are also apps such as Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer that help with establishing a regular practice. Take the time to explore and experiment to find what works best for you.
Writing or Journaling
Take 5 minutes a day to reflect or journal on your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Journaling lets you tune in to your emotions and helps you better understand them. New research shows that journaling has powerful health benefits such as strengthening your immune system and reducing the impact of stressors on your life.
By reflecting and journaling on stressful events, it helps you make sense of them. Writing down your feelings, helps you to express any anxieties and frustrations as well as release any stress you might have accumulated over time.
When you self-reflect, free yourself of any judgment. Simply observe your thoughts, feelings and emotions to bring an awareness of them to yourself. And start writing.
Music and singing
The power of music is well known and wide-ranging while it also has many benefits to our mental health. Music has the ability to boost our mood and motivation, reduce stress and promote relaxation. When we sing out loud to a favourite song, it creates a release and allows us to express ourselves in a completely different way. Studies have shown listening to classical music helps the mind to focus and increases the brain’s ability to process information. Unfamiliar melodies might also stimulate the brain.
With Youtube, Spotify or even just listening to the radio, incorporating music into your daily life is easy. Start playing that song that pumps you up for the day, break your day with a musical interlude, dance, sing and allow yourself to enjoy it.
Community and Connection
Community could mean so many things to different people but at its heart is the human need for connection. While it sometimes refers to groups of people with certain commonalities or interests, it is much more about building strong connections.
Being part of a community has many benefits such as fostering a sense of belonging, garnering support or having a support system when you need it as well as sharing interests, hobbies or even just a meal together.
Community can be found in many different places from starting locally with your neighbours near you to finding similar interest groups such as art, photography, cooking, walking tours, book clubs and many more. Doing volunteer work could also connect you to like-minded people and develop a shared purpose of helping people.
Therapy is a space that allows you to express your thoughts, feelings and emotions, something that you might not do often at home and almost never do at your workplace. It is a great way to check-in with yourself, understand what’s going on for yourself emotionally and even resolve issues that might be making you feel stuck.
Allow a professional to guide you in this judgment-free zone as more often than not, you’ll feel better after a session and you’ll gain insights and increase in self-awareness, a step to mental wellness.