January is designated as Mental Wellness Month by the International Association of Insurance Professionals (IAIP
), an educational organization for insurance professionals. Mental wellness is sometimes used as an umbrella term to describe preventive processes and strategies.
The IAIP focuses on mental wellness rather than mental health because its members believe that there is more to mental wellness than just the absence of a mental illness, in the same way that physical wellness is more than the absence of a physical disease.
There is more to mental wellness than just mental health, which the World Health Organization (WHO) defines as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
The wellness movement teaches people to take care of their health before they develop an illness by eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. The same approach is valuable for mental wellness. Increasingly, mental health professionals are recommending that people get a periodic “mental health checkup” in the same way that they get annual physical checkups.
Threats to Mental Wellness
Many aspects of day-to-day life can have a negative impact on mental wellness and may even trigger an episode of mental illness in people who have physical or psychological risk factors. Like any other illness, those that affect mental health can happen in people of any age, race, gender or socioeconomic status. There are many different mental disorders, and they occur to different degrees ranging from mild to severe. The important thing to remember is that treatment is available and recovery is possible.
Emotional and cognitive well-being can be put at risk by many factors including relationships, financial issues, work, school, excessive stress, or even substance abuse. Physical limitations and chronic illness can also make a person susceptible. When someone feels overwhelmed, it is usually because they need better coping skills or behaviors, which can be easily learned.
Elements of Mental Wellness
There are four dimensions of mental wellness:
- Bodily functions
Positive thoughts and a positive attitude help you have a better perspective on circumstances or events in your life. You are more likely to achieve goals if you believe in yourself. Everyone has moments of uncertainty and self-doubt, but when those feelings start to dominate your life, it may be a sign of mental illness. Physical symptoms of stress, such as difficulty breathing, rapid pulse, muscle tension and changes in appetite, affect the chemistry of your body and brain.
They may also be signs of a change in the state of your mental health. Changes in behavior, such as isolating yourself from others, overeating or not eating enough, lashing out at others (verbally or physically),or breaking into tears, can also be signs of deteriorating mental wellness. The same thing applies to unstable emotions and mood swings. Mental wellness is often influenced by biology and brain structure and function. These factors do not have to define a person’s existence, however.
Tips for Improving Mental Wellness
It is possible to learn and practice skills that improve mental wellness, turning them into habits. These skills include self-appreciation (recognizing strengths and weaknesses), resilience (coping with and recovering from negative events), and affiliation (developing and maintaining friendships and an extended support network). The term “negotiation” is often used to describe another critical element, referring to an attitude that it is okay not to have all the answers, because no one ever does.
This attitude emphasizes the approach that what is important is to accept one’s lack of knowledge and focus on life-long learning about yourself and the world. Curiosity, mental and physical exercise, and leisure activities can also help maintain or achieve mental wellness.
Other common tips include keeping a positive attitude, being thankful for what is good in your life instead of dwelling on the negative issues or events, laughing at your mistakes, and seeing crises as opportunities. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep are also essential for the health of your mind, as well as your body. Self-awareness and activities such as yoga and meditation can also reduce stress and improve mental health.
Sovereign Health Group
Sovereign Health Group offers evidence-based treatment programs for mental health disorders, combining experiential and expressive therapeutic activities. Our Mental Health programs include individual and group psychotherapy, yoga, meditation, equine therapy, art therapy, music therapy, and nutritional counseling.
We treat each patient individually and holistically, including treating all co-occurring conditions, to provide the best care and reduce the risk of relapse. To find out more about Sovereign Health’s programs, click here or call our Admissions team at 866-264-9778.
Mental Health Testimonial – Michael B from Sovereign Health Group on Vimeo.
Blog post by: Marissa Maldonado