National Mental Health Month: Maintaining a Healthy Well-being
Welcome back! Last time we discussed what mental health is and went over some statistics. Just to recap, mental health (according to the Oxford Dictionary) is defined as “a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.” MentalHealth.gov adds that it “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.” For more detail on mental health, some of its contributing factors, symptoms and prevalence in the US, read our last blog.
With all this talk of well-being this and that, you might be wondering what exactly a healthy well-being is and why it’s important to maintain it. There are many definitions of well-being however the CDC defines it as “the presence of positive emotions and moods (e.g., contentment, happiness), the absence of negative emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety), satisfaction with life, fulfillment and positive functioning.” Maintenance is important because well-being is associated with numerous lifetime benefits such as decreased risk of disease, illness, and injury; better immune functioning; speedier recovery; and increased longevity. People with higher levels of well-being tend to excel at work, in their relationships, and in interactions with others / their community. For a more detailed overview of well-being, check out the CDC’s Well-Being Concepts section on their Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) page.
When dealing with out mental health, it’s important that we try to maintain an overall healthy well-being regardless of whether we have a psychiatric diagnosis or not. Just like going to our primary care physician for our routine checkups or going to the emergency room for a broken leg, being observant of our mental health status and being proactive is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Even more so, mental health, has often been noted to share a link with all other aspects of our well-being including the:
Specifically, when it comes to our mental health, we can begin to achieve a healthy wellbeing by working on the following psychological aspects:
1. Autonomy – the quality or state of being self-governing also known as being able to make your own decisions.
2. Self-Acceptance - the act or state of accepting oneself and recognizing one's own abilities and limitations also known as one’s happiness/satisfaction with self and acknowledgement of uniqueness and/or self-worth.
3. Mastery – the possession or display of great skill or technique. In regard to mental health, this would mean appropriately managing everyday situations, obstacles and challenges.
4. Connectedness - having social, professional, or intimate relationships that are positive.
5. Purposefulness – feeling like your life has meaning and that you were put here for a reason.
6. Personal Growth and Development – becoming an all-around better person and consistently working on one’s self.
If we can encompass these aspects of a positive psychological well-being, the other facets of an overall healthy well-being will start to follow suit. For more information on psychological well-being, check out this peer-reviewed journal article by psychologists, Ryff and Keyes.
How exactly does one begin to encompass these positive psychological traits in order to kickstart and maintain a healthy wellbeing? First, it’s important to figure out exactly where you are in regard to your well-being. The Psychological Wellbeing (PWB) Scale was developed by psychologist Carol D. Ryff and has been tested to ensure validity and statistical soundness. The scale measures the 6 aspects of well-being and happiness mentioned above. You can find more information about assessment, its instructions and a link to take the questionnaire here. The scale includes a 42-item questionnaire as well as a shortened 18-item questionnaire.
The second step is to begin implementing new strategies, skills and behaviors that will increase your well-being or help preserve it. They include:
Being gentle and kind with yourself
Finding a hobby or perfecting a new skill
Finding time for creativity
Meditating / Relaxing
Getting a good night’s rest
Staying connected with others
Avoiding drugs and alcohol
Broadening your perspective
Check out this Positive Steps to Wellbeing tip sheet from therapistaid.com for more detail. If you’re looking for even more resources on how to maintain a healthy well-being, there are some amazing tip sheets, worksheets, and interactive tools provided for free in the Positive Psychology section on the therapist aid website; you can find them here. In addition to therapist aid, Mental Health America (MHA) has tons of self-help tools to “living mentally healthy” which can be found on their website here, like their Ten Tools To Help Live Your Life Well.
The third and fourth steps are to reach out, if you’re struggling and to support others in anyway you can. In our next blog, we’ll be going over exactly how to complete these last steps so stay tuned!
Remember, it’s up to us a community to spread awareness, provide important information and take care of one another. Freedom Support Services is open and accepting new clients for those of you who are interested or know someone who made need a little extra help. We offer individual, couple’s, and group counseling both in person at our Christiansburg location or via Telehealth. To schedule an intake appointment, call (540) 744-6162 for a free consultation, instant message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.