Mental Wellness is a Valuable Asset that Improves Our Experience of Being Alive
Imagine being stranded on Mars with your prospects of survival looking poor. How would you cope? The hero in the movie, 'The Martian' (2015), which is based on a book of the same name by Andy Weir, faces exactly this predicament. This is a situation where most of us would just fall into a state of despair and hopelessness, but our hero (Mark Watney) doesn't. He shows incredible resilience, and is able to calmly face and overcome each challenge along the way. He does this while maintaining a positive outlook and a sense of humor until he beats all of the odds to make his way back home. Mark Watney is a great example of mental wellness
“Happiness does not come automatically. It is not a gift that good fortune bestows upon us and a reversal of fortune takes back. It depends on us alone. One does not become happy overnight, but with patient labor, day after day.”
Matthieu Ricard - Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill
You've heard the saying, 'health is wealth', well this goes as much for mental health as it does physical health. Unfortunately, too many of us wait until we notice a deterioration in our mental state (e.g. anxiety or depression) before we give it our attention. This is the same as waiting for your car to break down before you perform maintenance tasks such as changing the oil or adding air to your tires. Our ability to get the most out of and enjoy life is dependent on our mental wellness, and if we are not actively cultivating this, we are unlikely to be performing as well as we could be.
What Do We Mean By Mental Wellness?
Put simply, mental wellness means that your mind is operating in such as way that you are able to get the most out of life. It would include a sense of well-being, the resilience to cope with the ups and downs of life, being able to enjoy ourselves, and the ability to navigate emotional states. Mental wellness also includes important life skills such as getting along with other people, performing well in our job, being able to handle stress, and having the mental resources to handle our responsibilities.
It is usually going to be up to us to determine where we stand in regards to mental wellness; although there may be tests (e.g. a resilience test or coping skills test) that can be done to help us get a better idea of where we stand in relation to other people. Most of us though are going to have plenty of room for improvement. Considering how important mental wellness is going to be for our present and future, it makes sense that we make developing it a priority in our life.
The Link Between Physical and Mental Wellness
It is convenient to talk about physical and mental wellness as if they were two different things, but in reality, the two are dependent on each other. If we not looking after ourselves physically (e.g. eating junk food), this will have an impact on our mental state and a common sign of a deterioration in our mental health is that we stop looking after our physical health. Therefore, it is important that we pay attention to both of these aspects of our being. Luckily, there are many activities that will benefit us both mentally and physically at the same time (e.g. exercise).
“The longer and farther I ran, the more I realized that what I was often chasing was a state of mind-a place where worries that seemed monumental melted away, where the beauty and timelessness of the universe, of the present moment, came into sharp focus.”
Scott Jurek - Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness
Difference Between Mental Health and Mental Wellness
Over the last few decades, the term ‘mental health’ has started to be associated with the absence of a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression. This means that when many people hear these words, they assume it is just about taking action to avoid a deterioration in mental health (even though the actual definition when used by health professionals is more positive). The term ‘mental wellness’ has become increasingly popular in recent years because it emphasizes a positive state where we are getting the most out of our mind.
Mental Wellness as Well-Being
If you ask most people what they want out of life, the usual reply will be, ‘I just want to be happy’. The problem is that the word ‘happy’ is a bit vague. Are people referring to a particular emotional state or is it more that we would just like things to go our way in life more? Then there is the question of whether or not people mean when they say this that they would like to be happy all of the time. Our emotions are always changing, so if by ‘happy’ we mean an emotional state, then this is a non-starter. In fact, we would likely discover that that the emotional state of being ‘happy’ would lose its value if we experienced it all the time. A similar argument could be used against the idea of getting our way all the time –reality just isn’t like that.
“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
Viktor Frankel - Man’s Search For Meaning
Unlike happiness, well-being is something that can become a more permanent fixture in our life. This is because well-being isn’t an emotion, but a way of responding to reality. It is an ease with life that arises through our increasing ability to accept and engage with life. It means being comfortable in our skin, and comfortable around other people. It is feeling completely at home in the world. This well-being is a key component of mental wellness, and it is something that grows as we do the work needed to develop mental wellness.
10 Key Components of Mental Wellness
• Getting sufficient sleep. A lack of this makes it harder for your body to deal with stress and emotions, and it increases the likelihood of developing mental and physical health problems.
• Having people in your life that you can talk to about any problems you may be facing.
• Engaging in regular physical exercise (at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week). https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/
• Having effective coping strategies for dealing with stress (e.g. relaxation techniques or journaling).
• Developing self-compassion. This gives us the resilience to deal with whatever we are facing in life.
• Having good friends who you spend time with.
• Being willing to leave your comfort zone.
• Having a good sense of humor. This can help us face even the most difficult situations.
• Good time management skills.
• Eating a healthy diet – remember that food isn’t just needed for our physical health.
Morning Rituals to Promote Mental Wellness
The morning can be ideal for engaging in activities that will promote mental wellness. The other benefit of doing such work at this time is it puts us in a great position to get the most out of our day. Some examples of routines that help develop mental wellness would include:
• Meditation (this could include movement meditation such as yoga or Tai Chi)
• Eat a healthy breakfast
• Listen to some uplifting music
• Write a gratitude list (one way of doing this is the Japanese approach called Naikan Therapy).
• Spend some time in nature.
• Avoiding any electronic media until after breakfast.
Join a Program Dedicated to Your Mental Wellness
If you are serious about developing mental wellness, you may want to consider joining our program at 180 Sanctuary. Our community will provide you with the space and resources you need to better understand yourself and your needs. Our program includes mental wellness workshops, one-to-one therapy and coaching, mindfulness and relaxation training, trauma recovery, and much, much more.
Contact us now to find out more.