I am sure you have heard it said, in one way or another, that segments of society and groups of people living in it, are just plain unhealthy. For many, going through the maze of life’s ambiguities has been found to be at times unpredictable and confusing. People who are unable to adapt to the pressures and stressors of life become fixated on living life in ways that no longer work for them.
Note however, that even those deemed mentally healthy are faced with the ups and downs of life. During those low periods, it is not unusual to experience anxiety, depression or some other malady. However, with the mentally healthy person, the maladies do not last as long nor are they as deep seated.
In getting through the low times relatively unscathed, you need to be as mentally healthy as possible. During this blog and others to come, I will share with you some of the ways you can strengthen your mental health. Let’s begin by coming up with a definition of mental health.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of well being in which every individual realizes his or her potential , can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to contribute to his or her community.
Let’s break down what each of these components mean in everyday life. In doing so, it is hoped that you, the reader, will be able to deal with life in ways that do not define who you are or how you feel. By understanding these components, you will have a greater chance of implementing them and moving you toward optimal health.
REALIZE YOUR POTENTIAL
What we are talking about here is living up to your potential, not someone else’s expectations of you. Certainly you need to know what your potential is and that potential is different for different people. That puts the responsibility squarely on your shoulders. Realizing your individual potential is a process not a specific end goal that is fully achieved.
Remember your body is on loan. It is a vessel that gets you around in order to actualize the optimal life that you can achieve. Treating your body with respect and humility will go a long way to optimizing your physical health which in turn influences your mental health as well. Researching books or going online will give you more than enough information on eating right.
Exercising at least 30 minutes a day with a program that is approved by your physician is equally important in maintain a healthy life style. Exercising with a friend will work wonders with your all around heath.
SUCCESSFULY COPE WITH THE NORMAL STRESSSORS IN LIFE
Stress is all around us. We are bombarded almost constantly by demands and expectations placed upon us both internally and externally. Stress is part of life. It’s how we deal with it that matters. When stress is not dealt with appropriately, it builds up on the mind and body. The mind may deny its impact but the body does not. A large portion of visits to one’s physician is either directly or indirectly related to stress. The following are some of the ways you can deal with normal stress in your life.
1. Surround yourself with mature, grounded people. Negative people have a negative affect on the mind and body of others. Recognize and avoid such people.
2.Have positive things to look forward to . This can mean joining a gym, joining a yoga or tai chi class or meditating, practicing relaxation techniques or deep breathing exercises.
3. Drinking plenty of water and bringing a container with you regularly. Slowly take a drink periodically when in a potentially stressful situation.
4. Slow down the process. When you’re feeling stressed, there is a tendency to rush, which only accentuates the stress level. This increases the likelihood of making a mistake which proportionally increases your stress level. Slowing down makes you think more clearly and less apt to make mistakes.
5. Take the time to deeply think about the formulation of a personal mission or purpose for yourself while you are in this earth. We all go through tough times but having a mission in your life gives you a reason to weather the storm no matter what. Your personal mission would provide you a life goal to focus on while you go through your life.
WORK PRODUCTIVELY AND FRUITFULLY
When thinking about work, do not limit yourself to paid employment. The focus needs to be doing something that is productive and fruitful. This can be through volunteering in some capacity, doing work around the house, providing care to your children or grandchildren. It matters little what you’re doing. What matters is that it is productive and fruitful. Whatever you’re doing needs to result in producing something that makes positive change, makes a difference and brings you in small ways to a higher level of functioning that makes you feel good.
This does not mean sitting around the house watching television reruns, cable news shows or soap operas all day or playing video games hours at a time. Getting out from behind the TV or computer screen and get involved in life, It is an important component to maintaining mental health.
CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR COMMUNITY
We are not islands unto ourselves. We live within relationships, both personal and communal. Isolation doesn’t work best for our physical or mental health. Getting out of ourselves and appropriately relating to others benefits us as well as the people we interface with. The goal whether in a one on one relationship or volunteering in the community, is always to improve life and make this world a better place when you leave it than when you first came.
This means you will have to reach out to others. Set up a meeting time with friends or people you have lost touch with. Don’t use the excuse that you don’t have enough time. Make the time. It’s a necessity, not a luxury.
Alone? Than join a social network, church group, political action group or volunteer at a community wide philanthropic endeavor. Lift the weight of procrastination by doing something beyond the usual.
We will continue with future blogs to explore additional ways of achieving mental health and overcoming the barriers to its achievement..
As always, any questions, suggestions or feedback can be directed to me, Ray Shocki PhD, LCSW, LMFT at email@example.com