Minding Mental Health

National Mental Health Awareness Month, 2014

The….patient should be made to understand that he or she must take charge of his own life. Don’t take your body to the doctor as if he were a repair shop. ~ Quentin Regenstein, Psychiatrist, Harvard Medical Center

This month’s mental health awareness campaign calls attention to the importance of mental health to our health and well being. Decades of research clearly show that the state of our minds affects our bodies as much (if not more) than our bodies affect the state of our minds.

What is mental health? It is more than an absence of mental illness. Good mental health is made up of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that lead to a positive self-image, self-acceptance, and healthy relationships to people. When we feel good about ourselves there are no inhibitions to working, loving and playing freely and fully. We make decisions that protect our welfare, keep learning and growing, deal with whatever stresses come our way, and are able to fulfill our goals and dreams.

In contrast, poor mental health can make day-to-day life quite difficult on us. A negative self-image, unresolved emotional problems, and unsatisfying relationships lowers our self esteem, keeps us stuck in the past, and can lead to disorders of mental health that weaken the mind and body. 

Treat Mental Health like We Treat Other Forms of Health

We eat better and exercise more to get physically healthier, right? Let’s give our mental health what it needs to thrive as well. For good mental health, we need to build up our self-image and esteem rather than spend time obsessively thinking about everything that is wrong with our lives and us. This is especially true in stressful, downward turns of life.

Take, for example, my good friend Mary who divorced last year. As many of us know, firsthand, relationship breakups are hard on mental health and self-esteem. Loneliness, depression, disillusionment, apathy, decreased motivation, and self-doubt often accompany relationship breakups. My friend could have spent way too much time bemoaning the fate of her marriage and sinking into powerlessness and self-pity. Instead, Mary took steps to shore up her mental health during this uncertain time. She got more involved in new spiritual activities and began to travel abroad more by herself. She intuitively understood that challenging herself to keep growing was what she needed to protect her good feelings about herself and mental health. Trust me, Mary processed the breakup and her feelings about it. She just didn’t let this time of serious self-reflection stop her from experiencing, learning and moving forward with her life. Mary’s constructive approach to this difficult time in her life reaffirmed to me the wisdom that new learning experiences that grow and move us forward in life are a sure way to protect our mental health during stressful times.

We’ve made great advances in our understanding of mental health and its impact on our lives. Nonetheless, there is still a cultural sentiment that mental health differs from other forms of health. This idea is untrue. We treat mental health conditions like we treat any other disease and also its prevention. We need to build an open dialogue that encourages support and respect for those struggling with mental illness” . We also need to become more aware of our mental health and what we can do to protect it. There are many excellent internet publications and blogs like Psychology in Everyday Life that promote mental health awareness and its education. These include American Psychological Association Help CenterPsychologyToday.comHealthyPlace.comSoundminds.org and Psychcentral.com.

To learn more about the ideas on sound mental health in today’s post, see my article called a Seven Step Prescription for Self Love and  Compensatory Self Improvement: The Hardy Way to Forging Possibility.

I hope you liked today’s article. Let me know by selecting the Like icon that immediately follows. You can also Tweet or Google +1 today’s post, to let your friends know about it. Warm regards Deborah.

Note: Featured Image by Mental Health America.


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