When you hear the words “mental wellness,” you might be tempted to think this defines a state of consistent happiness. But it’s more than that. The human body, brain, and lifestyle must perform a complicated dance that makes room for many emotions. The key to mental wellness is—instead of staying consistently happy—passing through these many life events and emotions with a sense of equilibrium.
Read on to find out what mental wellness looks like, and how to improve mental wellness in your own life.
What is Mental Wellness?
The World Health Organization provides a mental wellness definition: “A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Notice how this definition says nothing about happiness. It’s also not defined as the absence of mental illness.
Rather, mental wellness means you are able to adequately cope with the stresses life throws at you, whether that be as simple as a work project or as complicated as a breakup.
It’s the balance between your emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental self.
How Can I Improve My Mental Wellness?
Not sure if you pass the mental wellness check? Experiencing one or more of these symptoms on an on-going basis may be an early warning sign of a greater problem:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Pulling away from people and usual activities
- Having low or no energy
- Feeling numb or like nothing matters
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
- Feeling unusually on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
- Yelling or fighting with family and friends
- Experiencing severe mood swings
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Inability to perform daily tasks
If you or a loved one experience one or more of these symptoms, it may be time to shift your focus to improving your mental wellness. Improving mental wellness can look different for every individual, but there are some guidelines to follow if you want to work on improving mental wellness. These include:
- Allowing yourself to seek professional help if you need it
- Staying in contact with friends, family, and your community
- Finding ways to keep a positive outlook
- Incorporating physical exercise into your routine
- Volunteering or helping others
- Developing coping skills that are right for you
How to Boost Your Mental Health?
The key to boosting mental health is about focusing on different areas of your life, one at a time. For example, one week can be spent performing activities like yoga, mindfulness, and meditation—these can help you live “in the moment.” This means letting go of past and future worries and focusing only on what’s going on in the here and now.
The next week can be spent looking at resting and relaxation. Though keeping busy is wonderful, make sure you’re taking breaks and not being too hard on yourself. Lack of rest, both physically and mentally, can lead to burnout and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Another week can be spent focusing on time with loved ones. This is a wonderful way to boost mental health. A day with your best friend or family can help you better cope with trauma, increase your self esteem, and enhance your mood.
5 Activities That Improve Mental Health
There are concrete activities you can do to work on your mental wellness and balance your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional self. Here are five to get you started:
- Feed your brain. When life gets hectic, it’s tempting to override your own needs for work, your social life, or other prerogatives. But your dietary health is important. Find out what foods make you feel best and stick to them.
- Get your blood pumping. Exercise triggers endorphins—the ‘feel good’ chemical—to flood through your brain, as well as reduce cortisol—the chemical that causes stress. Try to get in at least 15 minutes of exercise a day.
- Plan your sleeping schedule and stick to it. Most adults need 7–9 hours of sleep. If you have trouble resting, it may help to create morning and nighttime routines around sleep, such as stretching, journaling, showering, reading, or any activity that helps you wind down at night and wake up in the morning.
- Do something you excel at. Are you an amazing painter? Focused musician? Speedy runner? Get that adrenaline rush that comes out of doing something well and knowing it. Don’t know what you’re good at yet? Even better. Explore all kinds of hobbies and passions until you find something that clicks.
- Ask for help when you need help. No matter what you’re going through, big or small, you’re not alone. Don’t feel like you have to be strong and push through your issues; make sure you have a strong support network, or healthcare professional, to talk it out.
Mental Wellness for Overall Wellness
While there is no cure-all or magic formula to mental health and mental wellness, there are many different tools and strategies at your disposal. Not all of them will work for you, but trying multiple techniques will help you find your own secret formula for success.
As the old adage goes: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Mental Health.gov. What is Mental Health? https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health
NHS. 5 steps to mental wellbeing. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/improve-mental-wellbeing/
Mental Health.org. How to look after your mental health. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-mental-health
NCBI. Toward a new definition of mental health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471980/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20World%20Health,her%20community%E2%80%9D%20(1).