Wellness

How to Get and Stay Mentally Healthy

May 16, 2012

How to Get and Stay Mentally Healthy

As you can see by this blog’s title, our topic is about getting and staying healthy from a mental-health perspective. Quite often, we hear about how to stay physically healthy – good nutrition, decent sleep, some exercise – those types of things really do help us all work toward or maintain good physical health. What’s really interesting to me is that some of the very same things that help us stay physically fit can help us stay mentally fit. Good nutrition, decent sleep, and some reasonable exercise can help each of us think and feel better physically and emotionally.

According to Helpguide.com, improving mental health is not just about the absence of a mental-health problem, such as anxiety or depression. In fact, the online article, “Improving Emotional Health”, suggests that mental and emotional health are really more about the “presence of positive characteristics” like feeling good about life; the ability to have good, supportive relationships; and being adaptable to new situations. In my office, we frequently use the word “resilient” to describe a patient who has, in spite of obstacles, managed to overcome and move forward with life. In order to improve our mental health, we may actually need to look at how to improve our resiliency – the ability to bounce back after a difficult situation.

What can we do to increase our resiliency or to get and stay mentally fit? Lex Douvasa, a researcher with the Mental Health Center of Denver, suggests 10 do-able things that you might want to take into consideration:

  1. Staying physically fit.
  2. Staying socially active.
  3. Getting a hobby.
  4. Being good to yourself and setting healthy boundaries with others.
  5. Playing!
  6. Maintaining a healthy diet
  7. Setting reasonable, achievable goals.
  8. Balancing social activities with some time to yourself.
  9. Learning from mistakes rather than dwelling on them.
  10. Asking for help – seek support from family, friends, or professionals.

I also asked some of my colleagues here at the Clinic what they would recommend to individuals wanting to get and stay mentally healthy. Cheryl Willis, APRN, recommends people get away from their work and leave their desk at lunch time. She also recommends having a little time each day technology free – actually turning off cell phones and computers – to make the most out of time with family and friends.

I think Cheryl and Mr. Douvasa have some excellent suggestions. One cautionary note, however: change takes time. As a therapist, I know that many of us want change to occur yesterday. Our culture has a bit of a “drive-through-window” mentality when it comes to just about everything. But staying mentally healthy is not something that we can get in a hurry or on the run. We may have to slow down, breathe, talk, listen, share, and feel our feelings. In a nutshell, getting and staying mentally healthy takes time. I invite you to choose one or two options from the above list and incorporate them into your week as best you can. See how it goes, and return to this list to add another option in a few weeks.

Getting and staying mentally healthy and fit takes time. The message that I would like to leave you with this week is, “You are worth the effort.”

And you are.

Take care.

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