The World Health Organization describes mental wellness “as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.
When we talk about mental wellness, we’re not just talking about the the absence of disease or a clinical diagnosis.
It encompasses so much more.
Are you living your life to the fullest, in alignment with what is most important to you and in such a way that it positively impacts others around you. That is mental wellness.
Here are some ways you can work towards mental wellness, even starting today.
1. Set Boundaries
Boundaries are the limits we put in place to make clear what is ‘our stuff’ and what is someone else’s. Having healthy boundaries is a crucial part of mental wellness because it allows us to set limits on what we will (or won’t) accept in terms of behaviour from others and how much time, resources, energy we are willing to devote to certain situations.
Boundaries protect us from taking on burdens that are not ours to carry and from developing resentment towards another person. Healthy boundaries allow us to be in relationship with others without becoming burnt out and exhausted.
Maybe you find yourself consistently doing things you know you don’t want to do to avoid conflict, to please others or to fit in. I’ve found this book Boundaries to be so helpful in figuring this out. (Note: There are some Christian references in this so if that isn’t a fit for you, skip the book)
2. Be In The Moment
How often have you found yourself being somewhere physically, but mentally your somewhere else, distracted by all the ‘stuff’ of life? You can hardly enjoy the experience you are having, even if it is one you have been longing for, because your thought life is carrying you away.
Research show that when we can remaining in the present moment we experience lower levels of perceived stress, anxiety and depression, improved mood, and a sense of improved well-being. Results of the study confirmed that those with greater present-moment awareness responded to stress more often with a greater perceived ability to handle things by relying on core values to navigate the stressful situation.
To experiment with this practice, notice every time you are intending to do one thing (read to your kids or have a conversation with your spouse) but are simultaneously doing something else (thinking of an argument you had with your mother or the list of things you need to do before the end of the day).
When you notice that your mind has pulled you away from the moment, gently let the though go, and with intention turn back to what you were doing. You may need to repeat this several times. This is called ‘the practice of being in the present moment’, and much like going to the gym, it takes repetition before it becomes a habit.
3. Eat Healthy
Eating healthy is a vital part of positive mental health. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains will slowly release energy into your bloodstream, creating a consistent level of energy that won’t leave you feeling tired or sluggish. Eating healthy will also provide a mental boost because you’ll feel good about your healthy food choices.
Sunshine is a great way to boost your mood. Put on some comfortable walking shoes and take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood, or a local park. Exposure to sunlight will help your brain release serotonin which will boost your mood, and help you feel more calm and focused.
5. Get Some Sleep
A good night’s sleep is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. When you’re well rested, you’re naturally energized. Regular sleep also boosts your immune system as well as your cognitive and mental health.
You have the power to improve your mood. By making some healthy additions to your daily routines, you can develop regular habits that will improve your overall mental well-being.
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