Introduction: Mental Health & Wellness

Mental health is essential to overall health and wellness; yet, it is something that is often taken for granted.

In order for us to achieve total wellness, we need to maintain both our physical and mental health. When we have good mental health and wellness we can manage our emotions and behaviours. We are able to handle life’s stressors, build strong relationships, and lead productive and fulfilling lives. There are many things we can do to boost our mood, build resilience, and get more enjoyment out of life.Our mental health should be a priority for us all!

Mental health/wellness is about more than the absence of mental illness. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, mental health is “the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face.” Our mental health/wellness allows us to realize our potential, cope with stress effectively, bounce back from life challenges and be active, productive members of our communities. How each of us defines our mental health/wellness can be very different and quite individualized. It is important to keep in mind, that good mental health/wellness is not about avoiding problems or having the perfect life. Rather, it is about living well and feeling capable despite life’s challenges. Our mental health and our capacity to maintain our mental wellness is based on many factors. Lifestyles that incorporate a holistic approach that focus on our physical, spiritual, emotional, social and intellectual health, place us in the best position to live a healthy, mentally well, life.

According to the World Health Organization, “There is no health, without mental health”. When it comes to overall wellness, mental and physical health are so interrelated that is difficult to talk about one without considering the other. For instance, poor mental health can lead to physical aches and pains and a feeling of general unwellness. Likewise, poor physical health can have a negative impact on our mental health. When we are feeling physically unwell we may worry and feel anxious about our physical symptoms which in turn can compromise our mental health. As well, a diagnosis of a chronic disease such as diabetes or cancer puts us at an increased risk for depression. Changes to our lifestyle and routines as a result of such chronic diseases, can impact our sense of self-worth because we are unable to do the things that we once did and also cause us to feel isolated and alone. Taking care of our physical health is an important first step towards improving our mental wellbeing. When we pay attention to our physical health by regularly exercising, eating well, and seeking support and advice when needed, our mental and emotional well-being improves.

Finding ways to enhance our mental health/wellness is important to improve our overall health. By protecting our mental health through finding ways to cope with stress and bounce back when times are tough, we can become better equipped to handle difficult times thereby minimize negative effects on our mental and physical health. There are many things we can do to protect and improve our mental health. Try some of the examples below:

  • Build a healthy self-esteem by following your goals and interests. Set small achievable goals so that you can experience the feeling of success;
  • Build supportive relationships and networks at work, home and in your community. Social support is very important for mental health. Positive relationships can lend emotional support and a helping hand when you need one;
  • Build resiliency or ways of coping with difficult situations. Use strategies that have worked for you in the past and try new ones too. For example, if going for a walk when you are stressed helps you to relax, try implementing a regular exercise routine to take a more proactive approach to stress management;
  • Get involved in things that matter to you and give you a feeling of purpose and satisfaction. This could mean dedicating your spare time to volunteer in your community or spending more time with your family, or friends;
  • Get physically active by going for a walk, attending a dance class, or playing sports;
  • Tune into your spiritual, emotional and social health. Devote your time to the people and things that are important to you. Remember who you are when all else falls away and do the things that nurture you This can include connecting with others, listening to or playing music, engaging in a hobby or spending time alone to journal or read a good book; and,
  • Practice mindfulness. Too often we allow the stressors in our lives to take over and we forget to enjoy ourselves. Spending quality time with family or friends, pets or time in nature can give us an opportunity to relax and enjoy the moment.