Mental Health and Wellness
Last updated: April 2020
Mental health and wellness are intricately linked, in the sense that it’s important to take care of one’s mental state to feel empowered and well.
The Dimensions of Wellness for Physical and Mental Well-Being
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are eight dimensions of wellness to improve your physical and mental well-being.
Emotional wellness is the effective coping with emotions, even when they’re difficult, and managing life stressors appropriately and efficiently. It also means having a healthy self-esteem and self-worth, despite your external circumstances. To improve your emotional health, it’s vital to identify and honor your feelings, express yourself when you are struggling, and learn to engage in positive, self-care activities on a routine basis.
Your physical environment may impact your overall well-being. That is why it’s important to focus on creating pleasant and positive environments. Consider how you can do this in your bedroom or work office. What can you add to make it more pleasant or homely? On a larger scale, consider how you can improve our environment. Maybe it’s getting in the habit of recycling, purchasing items with minimal packaging, or engaging in more volunteer work.
Financial wellness refers to satisfaction and acceptance of your current economic situation. Consider how you can improve your financial situation by maintaining a budget, building an emergency fund, avoiding or reducing personal debt, and cutting back on extraneous purchases.
When you were a child you learned new things every day, both in school and in your natural environment. It’s important to regularly cultivate our hunger for knowledge by engaging in ourselves in intellectual stimulation. This can include anything from learning a skill (like taking up a language or instrument) to signing up for workshops or seminars at work.
Most of us have to work to financially support ourselves. It’s important to find a role that integrates your talents and keeps you stimulated and challenged. Occupational wellness also refers to striking a balance between work and life and managing stress while on the job.
The physical dimension refers to taking care of your physical body. This means eating a nutritious, well-rounded diet, exercising regularly, adhering to an appropriate sleep schedule, and taking care of medical issues or ailments. By honoring your physical health, you are honoring your body and self-worth, which can boost your self-esteem and improve your overall life satisfaction.
If love is truly what makes the world go round, it’s no wonder that your relationships and support system are crucial to your well-being. The social dimension entails having a stable support system and feeling a sense of belongingness and connection with others. You can achieve this by reaching out to new people, practicing healthy communication skills, setting appropriate boundaries, and staying connected with the people you love.
Your spiritual wellness is the connection with spirituality, religion, or your overall meaning and purpose of life. This can be achieved by attending formal religious services, meditating, or even spending more time in nature. A spiritual connection can help you feel more grounded and grateful for your unique life experiences.
If we neglect taking care of our emotions, thoughts or internal states, we may risk a variety of consequences like:
- Physical health issues
- Relationship impairments
- Occupational or academic issues
- Financial distress
- Legal distress
- Exacerbation of other mental health symptoms
It’s important to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Having this insight will help you identify the action you need to take to restore and rejuvenate your mental well-being.
Ways to Achieve Overall Wellness: Self-Care Activities
Integrating positive self-care activities into your normal routine can improve your mental well-being and overall life satisfaction. While there is not a one-size-fits-all self-care plan that suits everybody, it’s helpful to know some of the proven strategies that promote strong mental health.
Exercise: Physical activity has numerous health benefits, and you don’t have to run an entire marathon to reap those rewards (although you certainly can). You can take a walk around the block, sign up for a yoga class, or join the neighborhood gym.
Journaling: Journaling is an excellent way to “let loose” with your thoughts and fears in an unfiltered and unstructured way. Don’t put too many expectations on yourself. Just allow yourself to write.
Positive affirmations: When we feel insecure, it’s easy to find flaws and faults within ourselves. Unfortunately, that negative thinking often stunts our well-being. Consider practicing positive affirmations, such as “I’m good enough” or “These feelings will pass” when you experience difficult times.
Laugh: It may sound simple, but sometimes laughter really is the best medicine. Read a funny joke. Turn on your favorite sitcom. Allow yourself to get lost in silly animal videos on Youtube. It’s good for your health!
Relax: We carry stress in our bodies and when we don’t release it, we can feel anxious and depressed. Practice relaxation strategies on a routine basis. This can include:
- Getting routine massages
- Taking long baths (and get the fancy bubble bath)
- Wearing comfortable clothing
- Stretching and doing yoga
- Practicing deep breathing
Hobbies: When was the last time you got “lost” in something? Studies show that getting lost or achieving flow can improve our well-being and sense of fulfillment in life. Make time for your hobbies and passions. If you don’t know what they are, you owe yourself the gift of doing some soul-searching and try some activities out. Who knows what you’ll end up enjoying!
Reach out for help: Part of taking care of yourself means knowing when it’s time to reach out for support. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or trusted mental health professional, it’s important to talk about how you’re feeling, especially if things feel really scary or hopeless. Help is always available - as long as you’re willing to ask!
*Please note that the authors and editors of this article are not medical professionals. You should consult with your doctor if you have a mental or medical health concern.
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