Mental ‘wellness’ promotes overall health
By Dennis Archambault
When people think of mental health, they generally think of someone who is psychologically and/or psychiatrically ill, and they think of it as separate from physical health and well-being. Community health practitioners are increasing integrating the care of physical and mental health conditions, realizing that one often affects the other.
The discussion of mental health is beginning to focus more on the benefit of mental wellness as a positive indicator of general health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites studies that increasingly link mental wellness to improved physical health (just as the opposite can erode physical health or trigger critical incidents like heart attacks). It enhances social interaction and lowers blood pressure, reduces risk of heart disease, and helps promote a healthier weight. In fact, a positive state of mind encourages you to make better food selections.
Benefits of mental wellness include:
- Reduction in anxiety.
- Improved moods.
- Clearer thinking.
- A greater sense of calm or inner peace.
- Increased self-esteem.
- Reduced risk of depression.
- Improved social and personal relationships
Primary care practitioners counsel their patients to adopt positive lifestyle changes to improve their health indicators, such as improved diet and exercise. Those providers who are schooled in the benefits of integrated health promote mental wellness. One of the most common recommendations is “get regular exercise.” There are variations on this for degrees of aerobic benefit, but the key idea is being active, especially with work that often involves being hunched over a keyboard for extended periods of time. Other common recommendations include:
- Eat a proper diet. A diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in processed sugars or fats can make you feel better physically and mentally. Consider working with a qualified nutritionist to help you create a diet plan customized according to your needs.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. Although drinking and smoking may make you feel better in the short term, they can have a negative effect on both your physical and mental health, especially in excess.
- Get enough sleep. A good night’s sleep is around seven to nine hours for adults. You can also take a 30-minute nap during the day to feel more alert.
- Try relaxation techniques. Meditation, deep breathing, and focusing your thoughts can all help when you are feeling stressed.
- Develop good mental practices. Focus on positive emotions and events rather than negative ones.
- Limit exposure to negative news; especially be aware of the cumulative effect of negative information that we can’t control. “Information anxiety” is real and can be debilitating. Being an informed citizen is a good indicator of mental wellness, but it easily can be harmful.
- Seek help from others. Talking with friends or family members can help you feel less stressed. Getting others to help with difficult situations can also reduce the burden you feel.
- Expressions of faith and religious practices. Spiritual beliefs for many are transformative. They may promote health and healing. Studies have shown that people who are spiritual and/or have active religious practices are healthier in a holistic sense.
Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health. January is Mental Health Wellness Month.