Prevention and Positive Mental Health Contributes to Overall Wellness
By Nancie A. Vito, MPH, CHES
Mental health is as important as physical health.
I like to think of mental health asa continuum. If we do not suffer from mental illness, for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are mentally healthy. The goal is to flourish and to increase a sense of overall well-being.
Mental health and physical health are clearly interwoven, and research shows there are clear mind-body connections.
Poor mental health is a major cause of number of days out from work, poor productivity and concentration, and increased illness. Stress and poor mental health can impair the body’s immune system and decrease the ability to heal. With repeated and chronic stressors, we’re more likely to develop illnesses and experience a longer healing time. In fact, a huge portion of physical illness results from stress or poor mental health.
In 2003, the World Health Organization predicted that the “burden of disease” from poor mental health was expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years, and has since declared it a global crisis.
That said, here are three actionable steps to help increase mental health and overall well-being:
1. Explore the root cause of your stress, particularly if you feel chronically stressed, so that you can take steps to address it. That way you not only cope and manage, but also take steps to prevent and reduce overall stress.
2. Implement healthy coping mechanisms to enhance your overall sense of well-being. This can include anything from creating healthy boundaries to practicing mindfulness, taking conscious breaks, practicing deep breathing, making time for the things you enjoy, taking YOU time, consuming nourishing food and drink, talking to a friend, and journaling.
3. Ask for help. If you feel that you could use some support, reach out! Talk with a friend. Join a group. Should you feel depressed (feeling down more often than not and/or having loss of interest in things you normally enjoy), contact a professional, as they are here to help and serve you. Licensed mental health professionals include medical doctors, psychotherapists, counselors, and more. Free online mental health screenings are available here.
We need to keep in mind that mental health is just as important as physical health. What steps will you take towards positive mental health?