While mental wellness is extremely crucial, but it’s certainly not easy to achieve.
Daily stressors and impact us mentally, making it harder to handle emotions or regulate our mood. Amid everything we need to accomplish, mental wellness often takes a backseat.
January is Mental Wellness Month and the perfect time to re-prioritize our mental health.
In this guide, we’ll share our top 6 ways to build better mental wellness and kick off the new year on the right foot.
Mental health is about how we think, feel, and behave each day¹. However, our mental wellness also impacts our ability to handle obstacles, manage stress, form relationships, and recover from hardships.
We often think of mental health in terms of mental illness, but mental health is not just about mental illness. Even without psychological issues, we can struggle mentally. While mental wellness does not mean you’re free of all emotional problems, it’s about the ability to bounce back. Those who are mentally healthy exhibit:
Our physical health is very connected with our mental health, so the first way to increase mental well-being is by taking care of yourself. Historically, there’s a big disconnect between physical care and mental health, but the two are interconnected. Poor physical health can increase the likelihood of developing mental health problems². There are undoubtedly genetic aspects of physical health that we cannot control, but we can take care of ourselves by:
Social connection is essential for mental wellness. To feel your best and meet your emotional needs, you’ll need to foster healthy relationships with others. Research has found a wealth of evidence that feeling connected helps our physical health and overall mental health⁷. Lack of social connection, known as isolation, can have adverse health effects and increase depressive symptoms.
As social beings, we need to have strong relationships with others. It’s also essential that we foster different connections, as we need deep friendships and casual ones. When we feel social support, it helps build our resilience and confidence.
While digital solutions help us stay connected with others worldwide (especially during the pandemic), it’s essential to get out from behind the screen and incorporate in-person connections. Confide in those you trust, or join activities to build new friendships and expand your support network.
Not all relationships offer the same benefits for your mental health. Toxic relationships will take a toll on your health and induce stress⁸. Surround yourself with the right people. Turn to those who are supportive and good listeners. Those who listen allow you to express your feelings and thoughts without adding judgment. They don’t interrupt or criticize you, and you will often feel better, not worse, after speaking with them. Pay attention to how relationships impact you and nurture the positive ones.
Stress is a natural part of life, but excessive stress is very damaging to our minds and bodies. While we can minimize stress with planning and decision-making, we cannot eliminate it no matter what we do. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, long-term stress can harm your health⁹. Chronic stress disrupts the body’s normal functions, like sleep, immunity, digestion, and it can also have adverse mental health effects like sadness, irritability, and sadness. Over time, stress can lead to serious physical or mental health problems, including mental disorders like anxiety or depression.
Fortunately, the NIH also cites that there are ways to manage stress. Managing stress is the best way to reduce the adverse health effects and boost your resilience. Here are some ways to manage stress:
Acts of kindness don’t just help the recipients; they also help the giver. Giving to others is one powerful and positive way to help our mental health and society simultaneously. Research shows that helping others can reduce our stress, boost happiness, and improve our mental and emotional well-being¹². Kindness is also a way for us to connect with others, which helps our social wellness. We can gain an essential sense of purpose and self-worth through our acts of kindness.
There are many different ways to be kind to others. The smallest acts like saying thank you or opening the door for someone can go a long way. We can also give to our local communities through volunteering and donating to charities. You can give to others in ways that are authentic to you, but some examples include:
When we are stressed and overwhelmed, our minds can be very loud. Quiet your mind by bringing your attention back to the present moment. Bringing your mind back to the present can help you take a step back and form a more realistic outlook. It will also help you relax and calm yourself down. Some ways to quiet your mind include:
We all derive meaning from life in different ways, but it’s important to feel valued and purposeful. Purpose is what drives us and motivates us to get through the challenges. One study found that purpose in life offered a buffer for adverse events, and those with purpose experienced greater resilience and emotional regulation after adverse events¹⁵. Having a purpose is also crucial for the brain and can help us develop new cells and pathways while relieving pain and stress. Deriving meaning and purpose is something you must work toward every day. Some strategies to guide you include:
Building better mental wellness is an ongoing process, but along the journey, you will grow immensely. By focusing on the six strategies above, you can foster a life full of meaning while also becoming more resilient and happy.
There’s no better time to start giving your mental health the attention it needs than Mental Health Awareness Month!
(1) APA Dictionary of Psychology (n.d.) Mental Health. In APA Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved December 2020, from https://dictionary.apa.org/mental-health
(2) Mental Health Foundation (February 2016) Physical health and mental health
(3) Weir, K (December 2011) The exercise effect
(4) Sharma, A; Madaan, V; Petty, FD (2006) Exercise for mental health
(5) Firth, Joseph et al. (April 2019) The Effects of Dietary Improvement on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
(6) Harvard Health Publishing (July 2009) Sleep and mental health
(7) Martino, J; Pegg, J; Frates, EP (November - December 2015) The Connection Prescription: Using the Power of Social Interactions and the Deep Desire for Connectedness to Empower Health and Wellness
(8) Newman, ML; Roberts, NA (2013) Health and social relationships: The good, the bad, and the complicated
(9) National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.) 5 Things You Should Know About Stress
(10) Yim, J (July 2016) Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review
(11) Wong, YJ; Owen, J; Gabana, NT; Brown, JW; McInnis, S; Toth, P; Gilman, L (2018) Does gratitude writing improve the mental health of psychotherapy clients? Evidence from a randomized controlled trial
(12) Mental Health Foundation (n.d.) Doing good? Altruism and wellbeing in an age of austerity
(13) American Psychological Association (October 2019) Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress
(14) Woodyard, C (July - December 2011) Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life
(15) Ma, Xiao et al. (June 2017) The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults