Caring for Your Mental Well-being
All of us, at one point or another, have experienced poor mental health or mental well-being. Having poor mental well-being doesn’t mean we have a mental illness. Likewise, a person with a diagnosis of mental illness can still experience a true sense of mental well-being. So what does it mean to have poor mental health? Mental health refers to our state of mental and emotional well-being and can be affected by our surroundings, relationships, work or school stressors, and other circumstances. Mental illness, on the other hand, is a diagnosed physical condition that affects our thoughts and behaviors and meet a standard set of criteria. Mental illness can be caused by physical factors like genes, brain chemistry, or traumatic events which also affect us physically.
Caring for our mental well-being has an impact on our overall health. The more positive our mental health the more physically healthy we can become. Mental and physical health are not only intertwined but the same behaviors can have a positive impact on both. Exercise, for example, not only improves our physical health it also improves our mental well-being. It helps improve our mood, self-esteem, and even our cognitive functions. Exercising helps to improve our sleep and decreases stress. Eating well not only gives us physical strength but it gives us mental strength as well. Eating a well-balanced diet increases physical well-being and also improves our decision-making skills, decreases fatigue, and improves our reaction times. Using stress-relieving methods like yoga, meditation, and relaxation improves both our physical and mental health.
The key is looking at ourselves as whole people and developing a sense of comfort with ourselves in all aspects. Knowing ourselves helps us to know when we have reached the limits of what we can handle or cope with on our own. We all reach our limits at times. During those times getting help from others improves both our mental and physical health. There should be no shame in knowing our limits and asking for help. Being able to lean on others and having a sense of community is important for our mental and physical well-being. Community is critical for us to thrive. As human beings, we are happier when we have a sense of belonging and connection to others. During the pandemic, many of us lost our connections to others and in our isolation experienced mental health issues that we had never experienced before. It has been important for us to reconnect with our communities or for some it has been necessary to find a new community of supporters.
Building a community can be daunting. It often takes a willingness to reach out and take a risk to connect with people who have the same interests. It may mean taking some time to reflect on your needs and what is important to you. Examining your interests and your values and beliefs can also be part of “finding your people”. Knowing your strengths and what you bring to the community is also important. We all have strengths we bring to every relationship and it is important to know and have confidence in what those are. This goes a long way toward increasing our sense of belonging. Belonging and connecting with others is vital for our mental well-being.
May is mental health awareness month. What a good time to examine our own mental well-being and be aware of our limitations. It is a good reminder for us to take the time to focus on strengthening our internal and external supports to improve our sense of well-being and connectedness.
Joan Hartman, CEO, The Center for Human Services
Look Around, Look Within
Many factors come into play when it comes to our mental health. Take a look at the fact sheets below, courtesy of Mental Health America ™, then take some time to look around and make note of your surroundings, and look within to see how they might be affecting you.
Safe and Stable Housing
Housing is more than just protection from the outdoor elements. Safe and stable housing is a basic need, and it can be difficult or impossible to care for your mental health if that need is not met.
Healthy Home Environments
Optimizing your space to improve your mental health is something that anyone can benefit from. For those living with mental health conditions, it is one tool of many that can be used to improve and support your mental well-being.
Neighborhoods and Towns
Did you know that your zip code plays a role in your health? It might surprise you to learn that up to 60% of your health is determined by where you live. Your neighborhood, along with your town and larger geographical region, impacts your sense of community and belonging, and determines how easily you can access the things and services you need, including for your mental health.
The Outdoors and Nature
Spending time in nature is linked to many positive mental health outcomes – improved focus, lower stress, better mood, and reduced risk of developing a mental health condition. Most studies on nature and well-being look at green spaces like parks and forests, but researchers are also beginning to look at blue spaces – places with ocean and river views. However, you don’t need a picture-perfect outdoor experience to get the benefit of nature.
31 ways to make the world around you work for your mental health
Mental Health America ™ created a daily calendar full of different ways you can work on your mental health. Although it covers 31 days, you can modify it to fit other months of the year.