We are blessed to live in a time where there is an ever-growing awareness about mental health issues and resources available to meet those needs. Your physical health is important and has a significant impact on your wellbeing. Mental wellness is just as much if not more important, and you should take steps to maintain and improve your mental health.
Mental wellness is possible, but just like being physically healthy, it requires consistent work. Taking even small steps to work on mental wellness can change the direction of your life. This article will help you explore what mental wellness is, why it matters for your relationships, and the ways you can improve it for a more fulfilling life.
What Is Mental Wellness?
Mental health problems affect people at all stages of life, and they can have short-term and long-term effects. These problems disrupt a person’s behavioral patterns as well as their emotions, with these effects being felt in that individual’s life as well as impacting the people in their life. Emotional disruptions can make a person moody, withdrawn, distracted, disorganized, and a danger to others and themselves, in some cases.
To understand mental wellness, it’s important to remember that it’s not merely the absence of mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. Mental wellness is about having positive behaviors and attitudes as part of your daily existence.
Because your mental health affects your thoughts, feelings, and behavior, as well as whether and how you overcome obstacles, deal with stress, forge relationships and possess the resilience to recover from setbacks, it affects every area of life. Mental wellness is about having the tools in hand to become the best you and the person God intended you to become.
With good mental health, you can be productive and accomplish your goals. Poor mental health isn’t always apparent, and you can endure the effects of poor mental health for a while before you or your loved ones figure out what’s going on. A few things to look out for that could signal poor mental health include:
- Fatigue, or a noticeable reduction in energy levels
- Changes in your appetite and eating habits, whether through over or undereating
- Changes in sleep patterns – sleeping too much or too little, having difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Being unable to perform daily tasks with ease and your typical level of skill
- Being more socially withdrawn than usual
- Severe mood swings
- Feeling persistent despair
- Thoughts of self-harm or causing harm to others
- Indulging in and using tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or other substances more than usual
- Experiencing unexplained mental fog, anger, confusion, guilt, anxiety, or worry
- Struggles with concentration or memory
- Being angry, irritable
- Feelings of helplessness, manifesting in picking fights and arguments with family and friends
- Auditory hallucinations, or hearing voices with no discernable source
The desire for mental health can be thwarted from various quarters. Issues with mental health can arise due to environmental factors, as well as our biology and the life experiences we have.
Negative life experiences, such as child abuse, can increase the risk of developing mental health challenges such as personality disorders, depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Other medical complications that may result from abuse include stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. Physical or mental trauma and abuse as an adult can also undermine mental wellness.
Your biology, which includes your genetic inheritance, can affect your mental wellness, as conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia can run in families and may be passed down to other family members.
Your environment also affects mental wellness. A positive social environment, where you have a strong support structure, access to resources, and aesthetically pleasing environs can buffer you against mental health challenges.
Additionally, your lifestyle has an impact on mental wellness and physical well-being. As such, poor diet, substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, smoking, physical inactivity, and alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on mental wellness. Though these challenges may be significant, they can be overcome.
Why it Matters
It’s been hinted at already, but there are many reasons why mental wellness matters for your overall wellbeing and quality of life. If you are mentally healthy, that will also have an impact on your feelings of contentment, and ability to handle tough situations and adapt to new things.
Additionally, mental wellness will also bring a zest for life and the ability to have fun and enjoy life, a sense of meaning and purpose, the ability to build meaningful and healthier relationships, along with greater self-esteem and self-confidence. A mentally healthy person is more fun to be around, and that’s great for the people in your life.
Good mental well-being will help you create a healthy life/work balance which is also great for your relationships. You’ll have more capacity to be present for your loved ones, be better able to cope with negative emotions such as anger, and be able to communicate your needs to others before emotional outbursts occur.
When you can process and deal with your own emotions well, you’ll be better placed to handle the emotions of others well. Not only does mental wellness provide you with the capacity to care for others, but it also allows you to enjoy your relationships with them even more.
Mental wellness is thus important not only for your enjoyment, but it spills over into how you relate to others. If you can understand and deal with your anger, for instance, that can help you walk alongside your spouse, kids, and friends when they are dealing with anger and need help to process it. You can deal with conflict better and work toward resolution if you’re in a good space.
How To Improve Your Mental Wellness
The great news about mental wellness is that we can all pursue it and reap some benefits. With some lifestyle changes, you can begin to shift things in your favor as you move toward mental wellness and the benefits it brings into your life and the lives of the people connected to you. Some of the steps you can implement include:
- Eating a brain-healthy diet that excludes foods that take a toll on your brain, drain your energy, weaken your immune system, or disrupt good sleep. Foods you should avoid include alcohol, sugary snacks, caffeinated and caffeine beverages, refined carbohydrates such as white flour or rice, fried foods, and trans fats.
In place of these, eat foods such as avocados, leafy greens such as kale and spinach, fresh fruit, and foods rich in omega-3 such as salmon, nuts, and legumes. These foods will change how you feel by giving you more energy and improving your sleep and mood.
- Connecting socially with others. We need positive social connections with others because that’s just the type of creature the Lord made us to be. Prioritize such connections, especially face to face, as this will meet your emotional needs and help you to thrive.
- Staying active through exercise. Your body needs exercise, and it also does wonders for mental health too. Exercise releases endorphins, and these are powerful chemicals that boost your mood and provide added energy. Regular exercise or activity can help you by relieving stress, helping you improve your memory, and getting better sleep.
“Exercise” doesn’t have to be about pounding weights at the gym till your arms fall off and everything else aches. Taking a walk around your block, going for a swim, riding a bike, going dancing, throwing a frisbee around – these and many other activities that get you moving can do you a world of good.
- Getting good sleep. The quality of sleep you get affects your mood, energy levels, mental sharpness, ability to cope with and handle stress, and ability to problem-solve and think creatively. Over the long-term, poor sleep will have many negative effects on your mental and physical wellbeing.
Help yourself by sticking to a regular sleep-wake schedule, start winding down an hour or so before bedtime so that you give your mind time to calm down and prepare for sleep. That might mean putting work away, turning your electronic devices off, and where possible preparing your room for sleep by making it dark and quiet.
- Finding purpose and meaning in life. Human beings were created with a purpose in mind, and to have a purpose. Our lives are a complex web of relationships – with the Lord, ourselves, human and non-human others in creation. Our work, for instance, has significance if we do it with an invigorated imagination and a mindset of pleasing the Lord.
The apostle Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, NIV). Whether it’s taking care of kids, teaching, making a cup of coffee, changing the oil in a car, preaching a sermon, darning socks, taking the garbage out, running the checkout or deli counter at a grocery store, or directing a movie – whatever it is you do, it can possess meaning and significance.
Books such as Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor are excellent resources that can help you begin to connect your work to God’s work and recognize its eternal significance. Our ultimate significance and purpose are only found in God through Jesus Christ, and through that, every other facet of our lives, such as our work, relationships, volunteering, and caregiving are given deeper meaning and purpose.
On a biological level, finding meaning and purpose in life can relieve stress, strengthen your immune system, alleviate pain, and keep you motivated to pursue your overall health and wellbeing. It can also support brain health by generating new cells and creating new neural pathways in the brain.
Cultivating Mental Wellness Through Counseling
Your life’s journey has brought you to the place you now find yourself, with certain challenges and opportunities before you. You may be looking to cope with a specific mental health challenge such as how to handle your emotions better, or you intend to find purpose and peace in your life.
Whatever your situation, it’s wise to pay attention to the emotional signals your body and mind are sending you. Issues with mental health don’t simply disappear with time, and so the solution isn’t to ignore them or try to distract yourself from them by self-medicating with food, alcohol, drugs, or other risky and self-destructive behaviors.
Apart from the self-help techniques outlined above, you can begin cultivating your mental wellness by tackling the underlying reasons behind the challenges you face. Through individual or group counseling, you can be heard and feel heard, while learning how to build resilience and face issues head-on.
One of the main benefits of counseling is that your counselor will create a non-judgmental space for you to express your concerns and for you to feel heard. Interacting with someone that’s a good listener will help you process your emotions.
They don’t come at you with preconceived notions of who you are and how you should be, and they will not judge, interrupt, or criticize you, even as they pay close attention to you and listen to understand the depths behind your words.
Though your road to mental wellness may be a long and arduous one, by getting support and help from your community and a qualified mental health professional such as a counselor, you can start to take control of your mental wellness today.
If you have concerns about your mental wellness or you are feeling the effects of poor mental health on yourself and the relationships around you, don’t hesitate to make your appointment with a counselor today to begin addressing these issues and gain peace of mind and wholeness.
“Watering the Plants”, Courtesy of Markus Spiske, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Splash”, Courtesy of Alex Perez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watering Can”, Courtesy of David Ballew, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Serenity”, Courtesy of Anastasia Taioglou, Unsplash.com, CC0 License