Just as physical fitness helps our bodies stay strong, mental fitness helps us achieve and sustain a state of good mental health. When we’re mentally healthy, we enjoy our life and environment and the people in it. We can be creative, learn, try new things, and take risks. We are better able to cope with difficult times and the challenges we face in our lives.
Nurturing our mental health can also help us combat physical illness. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (2003), mental health conditions may negatively affect our physical health. For example, anxiety and stress are often associated with severe headaches, stomach ulcers, and hypertension. Furthermore, mental health conditions may weaken the immune system, which greatly increases the likelihood of developing chronic physical illnesses.
So why is all this important now, at the beginning of the year?
We’ve probably been reflecting on the past and making some plans to do things differently in the New Year. This is the time of resolutions to get fit, eat better, quit smoking, etc. Well, what about resolutions for our mental health? Why not use this time of renewal to kick start ourselves on a new path or to shed some old baggage? Whether we’re getting over a break-up (or making a decision to break-up), feeling unhappy or stressed at work, grieving a loss or just plain feeling down, there are several things we can do to get over that hump of inertia and take steps toward better mental health.
- Lean on friends and family members. They can help by listening and providing support - even just talking to someone can help relieve stress, feel less isolated and get a new perspective.
- Avoid shutting off from the world. Being alone usually results in feeling worse about ourselves or our situation.
- Indulge in hobbies and interests. It may be hard, but any form of distraction is helpful in reducing ruminations and negative thinking. Studies also show attending cultural events is beneficial to mental health.
- Get active. Exercise may be the last thing we feel like doing when we’re down, but it releases endorphins that make us feel better and relieves stress.
- Eat healthy. We may be tempted to indulge in sweets or “comfort food” but these only provide short term relief and then leave us feeling guilty and tired later on. On the other hand, a healthy diet helps protect mental health.
These are just a few of the things we can do to take care of our mental health.
If you’re looking for someone to talk to about a specific issue or challenge you’re facing, give me a call or contact me via my website!