You hear a lot about it, especially since May is Mental Health Awareness month.
However, what really is mental health, and why is it important?
Like physical health, mental health is an equally significant aspect of our wellbeing. We go to our doctor yearly for check-ups, yet the majority of people do not pay quite as much attention to their mental wellness.
Your mental health, just like your physical health, can benefit from loving awareness and care.
We each experience life in a unique way. From the culture we live in to our birth order, we are shaped by a wide array of influences that impact our view of the world. Sometimes these views are healthy, but oftentimes they are not. We might believe false narratives about who we are, what we can accomplish, and what we “should” do or who we “should” be. The result? We often neglect who we are, and our mental health suffers. These untrue beliefs about ourselves inevitably lead to daily decisions that shape our lives. Often these beliefs and behaviors occur beyond our awareness.
In pursuit of mental wellness, therapists work with their clients to deeply dive into their destructive thought patterns and behaviors.
Therapists also encourage clients to fully experience their emotional landscape in a true and safe way. Lastly, therapists propose that clients engage in practices in between sessions. These practices enhance the client’s sense of self, empowering clients to begin to live a life that is true to who they are.
Intentional and authentic living is the result of this important work.
While it is admittedly challenging to break free of our historical thoughts and behaviors, we can adopt and solidify new ways of thinking and behaving. Over time, our conscious decisions weave themselves effortlessly into our daily lives. These small changes eventually allow our minds and hearts to open to who we are, what we need, and allow us to be our truest self in the world.
You are likely wondering “How do I know what I need?” or “What are the changes I need to make?”. In response to these questions, this blog post invites you to simply consider integrating routine practices that nourish your mind, body and soul.
It is important to remember that while nourishing, some practices may not be initially enjoyable (or maybe they will never be enjoyable!), but they are actions that have the capacity to bring forth greater balance, peace, and wholeness.
For Mental Health Awareness Month, start a mental wellness routine with these foundations:
One action you might consider to revitalize your mental health is practicing mindfulness. If you are raising an eyebrow or rolling your eyes, stay with me a minute longer and hear me out. No, you do not need to be a monk nor yogi to engage in meaningful meditation. You do not need a yoga mat nor a meditation pillow (although if you have either, that is great!). Mindfulness is merely our ability to notice the current moment for what it is and reside in that space non-judgmentally.
Walking our dog, swimming in a lake, or sharing a meal with a friend all invite an opportunity for mindful awareness. We are invited to notice the surrounding physical landscape, feel the cool, smooth water on our skin, or really taste the flavors that ebb and flow as we dine with friends. You might be wondering “How will mindfulness help?”
Meditating, or mindfully being in the world, allows our nervous systems a reprieve from the constant chatter, chaos, and demands of life.
We are able to truly inhabit our being and cultivate fertile ground for wisdom. Through mindfulness, we might even allow space for new, creative thoughts and ideas to arise. Setting aside time to meditate daily (in the same location and for the same amount of time) is ideal. Start with 10 minutes, and use your phone or other timer to keep track of time so you can fully enjoy the gift of merely being.
Another wellness practice to consider is movement. Purposeful movement can take many forms and you do not have to be limited by other people’s ideas or practices. Restorative yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chai, stretching, and walking are all wonderful modes of releasing negativity and strengthening our bodies. More intense movements, such as swimming, running, playing basketball, or engaging in vinyasa yoga are all excellent routes that free the body of lingering anxiety.
Physical movement clears our minds, gets our blood flowing, and often allows us to socialize with others (which also promotes our mental health!).
Writing, or journaling, does not require beautiful prose nor impressive writing abilities. When we write in an exploratory or releasing way, we often come across patterns we were not aware of until our fingers hit the keyboard or our pens touch the page. Keeping a daily journal to “dump” our thoughts, feelings, and even dreams often leads to greater clarity and acceptance.
This is likely why practices such as The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron have been successfully leading readers (and writers) to new levels of opportunity and authenticity. Through The Artist’s Way, people have discovered their passions as well as fulfilling hobbies. Overall, people have journaled their way to greater wholeness. While a great guide, purchasing The Artist’s Way is not necessary nor required to reap the benefits of journaling.
Set aside 30 minutes every morning (or whenever you know you will write without interruption), and see what comes up. Notice subtle shifts in how you feel, how you perceive the world, and how your life unfolds since beginning your journaling journey.
Mental Health is Health
Our mental state is insanely powerful, seeping into our very cells and transforming the way we physically feel and experience the world.
Individuals may even develop autoimmune diseases in response to trauma and deteriorating mental health. When discussing chronic pain, mental health is paramount to reducing symptoms. The state of our emotions can influence our pain response and quality of life (Teater & Teater, 2017).
Overall, our bodily experience is dependent in large part on how we compassionately care for our mental and emotional self. This Mental Health Awareness Month, dedicate whatever time is necessary to create a wellness routine that leads to renewal, self-discovery, and greater peace.
Teater, M. & Teater, D. (2017). Treating chronic pain: Pill-free approaches to move people from hurt to hope. PESI Publishing & Media.
Begin Your Mental Wellness Journey today with Renewed Wellness Counseling
If you’re on this blog and considering therapy to improve your mental wellness, you’re in the right spot. The first step in beginning your counseling journey is always the decision to begin. As specialized therapists in North Carolina, our team offers many services. To support you, we offer addiction counseling, trauma counseling, therapy for anxiety and stress, and life transitions counseling. We also offer specialized chronic illness counseling. When you’re ready, the team at Renewed Wellness Counseling would be honored to meet you and support you in the path that’s right for you. Whenever it feels right for you, reach out via our contact form!