Mental health has been a massive topic of conversation as of late. People everywhere seem to be talking about the impact the ongoing pandemic has had on their mental health. But what is mental health? How is it defined? What can we do about it? How do we know if we are mentally healthy?
Loosely defined, mental health is an individual’s ability to cope with mental-emotional stressors or life. The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and can make a contribution to his or her community.”
Often, conversations about mental health are in conjunction with discussions about mental illness. Some people define mental health as a lack of mental illness or distress. It isn’t easy to discuss one without the other.
What does a healthy mind look like? Can we exercise our minds the same way we can our bodies? Is being mentally healthy the same as being mentally intelligent? If mental health is more than the absence of illness, what else is it?
Perhaps we can think of mental health like a garden. A garden can take all sorts of shapes. A garden can have flowers, vegetables, herbs, and a variety of grasses. It can also have poisonous weeds, harmful bugs, or be lacking sunshine. It can also be simple Kentucky Bluegrass and nothing more.
But often, gardens are a combination of different shapes. So while one garden area might be blossoming beautifully, another site might be dying from a lack of much-needed sunshine.
Our mental health is similar. We could describe mental illness as a garden with poisonous weeds and harmful bugs. We could describe a mind with a lack of mental illness as the simple Kentucky bluegrass garden. We could describe a healthy mind as a flourishing garden with flowers, vegetables, herbs, and various grasses.
But our minds are more complicated than gardens, aren’t they? Our minds are not stagnant in a single state, whether it’s mentally ill, free of mental illness, or mentally healthy. Instead, life challenges the mind, and the mind shifts in response.
The reason mental health is so important is because of those ordinary stresses of life. A healthy mind is more equipped to deal with stress and challenges, just like a healthy body can handle more physical stress. A less healthy mind may have a more difficult time recovering from a stressful situation. For folks with mental illness, even low-stress situations can have a profound impact.
So, how does one create mental health for themselves?
The answer to this question is highly complex. The answer is different for each person. Moreover, the solution can change depending on the person’s environment; a person living in Arizona may need other ways to cultivate their mental health than if they were living in Stockholm.
However, experts have found strategies to help everyone, no matter what shape the garden in their minds.
1. Staying Positive. Staying positive doesn’t mean that you’re always feeling positive. Staying positive means you’ve found a healthy balance between positive and negative emotions. It’s important to feel negative emotions so that we can work through them. However, it’s also essential to keep those negative emotions from taking over and staying positive one way you can do that.
2. Practicing gratitude. It helps to be thankful! Practicing gratitude can change the way you see your life! It’s powerful. Next time you have a tough day, try listing all the parts of your day for which you are grateful. The day may not look so tough after you do so.
3. Taking Care of Your Physical Health. Exercise isn’t just good for your body; it’s highly beneficial for your mental health as well. Exercise can reduce feelings of stress and depression and improve your mood. Healthy eating and getting enough sleep are also integral to the state of your mental health. Improving your physical health will also improve your mental health.
For more strategies to exercise mental health, click here. (https://medlineplus.gov/howtoimprovementalhealth.html)
At The Balancing Center, we dedicate part of our care to your mental health. Chiropractic care is not just for your spine; it’s for your whole body and mind. Be sure to ask Dr. Ken or Dr. Dan how their care can help you with your mental health journey.