What would you say if someone were to ask you what mental health is? Most of us know that mental health has to do with feelings and emotions. We know that maintaining good emotional wellness is essential. Some may even know that poor mental health can lead to adverse physical problems. Although these statements are factual, they barely scratch the surface of mental health. Continue reading to learn more.
What Is Mental Health?
Let’s start with a definition of mental health. It is a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. However, the meaning and purpose of mental health go beyond this broad description. It’s how someone handles their emotions, interacts with others, copes with overwhelming events, and makes decisions.
Why Does Mental Health Matter?
How you think, feel, and act impacts your quality of life. When you neglect your emotional well-being, it reduces your ability to do everything from building healthy relationships to navigating day-to-day obstacles. People with poor mental health can struggle with mood swings, fogginess, slowed productivity, increased stress, and ineffective decision-making. In severe instances, poor mental health can lead to reckless behavior, substance dependency, addiction, violence, social isolation, and declining physical health.
Mental Health Vs. Mental Illness
There’s a common misconception that mental health and mental illness are interchangeable, but that’s not the case. They are two different concepts that tie into a person’s emotional wellness. It’s possible for someone to struggle with mental health problems but not have a mental illness. There are factors in everyday life that impact someone’s mental health. However, with lifestyle changes and time, the person can improve their emotional well-being.
Mental illness is a medical diagnosis based on criteria like traumatic experiences, genes, and brain chemistry. While lifestyle changes can help ease symptoms of mental illness, most individuals require therapy and other medical treatments to overcome or manage the condition.
Types of Mental Illness
There are various types of mental illnesses. The most common are generalized anxiety disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
Mental health experts have invested years of research into defining each of these conditions and identifying, for instance, the differences in anxiety vs depression to develop the most effective treatment options for patients. Ultimately, patients are encouraged to visit mental health professionals for the proper diagnosis and next steps.
Signs Of Mental Illness
How can a person tell if their mental health problem could be a mental illness? While every person is different, some of the signs include:
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep problems
- Mood swings
- Social isolation
- Cognitive trouble (thinking, focus, clarity)
- Behavioral changes
- Substance dependency or addiction
Improving Mental Health
What steps can you take to improve your mental health? Although there are multiple approaches, some of the most commonly recommended lifestyle changes are listed below:
- Diet And Nutrition - What you eat directly impacts your brain function and emotional wellness. Consuming too many processed foods or meals with low nutritional density can result in fatigue, weight gain, poor brain function, and declining moods. Swapping out your diets for more nutrient-rich foods from fresh and organic sources can ultimately turn things around.
- Physical Fitness - Living a sedentary lifestyle can result in mental health issues. It causes changes in your weight, sleep patterns, mental focus, and overall mood. Exercising provides a solution. Physical activity gives you more energy, improves sleep, regulates weight, and improves your mood by releasing feel-good hormones into the body.
- Emotional Management - Stress, uncomfortable circumstances, and traumatic experiences are part of life. Learning how to cope with them is essential to your mental well-being. Such methods might include meditation, journaling, setting boundaries, indulging in feel-good activities, simplifying your life, and taking needed breaks.
Whether your mental health isn’t improving or you believe you have a mental illness, getting assistance is an essential step. Taking prescribed medications, and learning positive coping methods are often necessary to overcome ongoing mental distress or illnesses. Therapy is an incredibly useful tool for many people struggling with their mental health, and can be used alone or in combination with medications depending on your situation and preferences. There are lots of different types of therapies designed for different mental health conditions so do your research. From CBT and behaviour therapy to EMDR healing like this here, it’s certainly not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.