Our “Journey to a Healthier You” series kicked off this past January with a look at the differences between health and wellness. Over the last few months, we’ve looked at many of the eight dimensions of wellness, which are covered in more detail on our Journey to a Healthier You page. This month, we examine mental wellness.
Mental wellness includes how you perceive yourself and your presence in the community around you and is determined by your thoughts, behaviors, reactions and emotions.
Thoughts, behaviors, reactions and emotions can be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.
Consider all the thoughts, behaviors, reactions and emotions you exhibit or experience throughout the day. Are they leading you down a healthful or unhealthful mental wellness path?
The way you think
Positive | Negative
Life is great | Life is terrible
The way you act
Helpful | Harmful
Exercising | Overeating
The way your body reacts
Slower | Faster
Even-paced heart rate | Sweating
The way you feel
Pleasant | Unpleasant
Joy | Anger
Similar to emotional wellness, having a positive sense of mental wellness allows people to realize their full potential, cope with life’s ups and downs and make meaningful contributions to the communities they are a part of. But it’s also more than that. Mental wellness affects every area of your life: physical health; work; relationships with family, friends and coworkers; interactions with others; decision making; productivity; sleep; appetite and overall wellness.
Mental Wellness Inventory & Check-Up
Determine your sense of mental wellness by regularly reflecting on your current state. This reflection can come in the form of journaling, meditation, prayer or simply unplugging and taking some quiet time for yourself.
During this reflection, take stock of your mental wellness and ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you easily irritated?
- Are you increasingly forgetful?
- Are you often disappointed in yourself?
- Do you dwell on past events or constantly worry about future events?
- Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?
- Do you have constant stomachaches or headaches?
- Have you lost interest in intimacy or sex?
- Do you frequently use alcohol or drugs to help you relax?
- Do you often feel as if you don’t have enough energy to finish the day?
- Is it difficult for you to find satisfaction in life’s simple pleasures?
Manage and preserve your mental wellness through self-care. Self-care is any activity done only for you (and no one else!) that makes you feel good. Self-care can range from reading a book or magazine, seeing a movie, going shopping, playing a sport or working on your golf game. While these examples are all rather general and focus on enjoyable activities, other self-care strategies have a specific purpose of managing stress and may take on a more clinical approach. Examples include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization and meditation.
Through regular reflection and practicing self-care, you may find that you’re able to maintain a healthy level of mental wellness. But if what you’re doing is not enough and you need some extra help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Future articles in the “Journey to a Healthier You” series will explore self-care and stress management strategies and provide techniques to help monitor your own and your loved ones’ mental wellness.
[Emily Smith is the Health Promotion Division’s Senior Benefit & Wellness Specialist.]