The wellness economy is a 4.5 trillion dollar business that includes many nuances of health and wellbeing, and mental wellness is one of them. Mental health technology, innovations, and trends occupy 121 billion dollars of this trillion-dollar industry—according to reports. Now that more and more people are openly talking about mental health, it is no secret that good mental health leads to better overall health and well-being of an individual.
We now know that mental health experts suggest optimism, resilience, and challenge mindset—amongst other things—to tackle stress, burnout, and difficult situations, which results in better outcomes and healthier responses. While in-person counselling can help people attain better mental health and ensure a more enhanced and fulfilled life, by altering a few aspects of your lifestyle you can fortify your mental well-being.
In 2020, the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) reported highlighted areas of our lifestyle for achieving better mental health and wellbeing. These areas include the mind, body, and our environment—all of which are interconnected. So how can you work on these areas for better mental health? Well are four pathways to help you out:
1. Activity and Creativity
Physical activity has always been promoted as a means to achieve better mental and physical health. Apart from engaging the mind which can lead to a temporary distraction from all the stress and worry of life, physical activity can boost your mood through the production of serotonin and endorphins.
Not to mention, when we play team sports it creates a feeling of belongingness. Physical activity can also create a feeling of accomplishment, especially when we set targetted goals we can achieve.
But the body isn’t the only thing we need to make active. Our minds are always working, whether we are awake or asleep. It is important to also exercise our mind by doing creative activities, puzzles, and other things that make us curious and we would want to explore more of. Activities like cooking, reading, listening to music, or playing an instrument can stimulate the mind and increase creativity.
2. Growth and Nourishment
Growth and nourishment of the body and mind lead to a healthy and longer life. There are two ways to achieve this. The first is through diet, nutrition, and supplements. What we eat has a direct relationship with our body and mind. Good nutritious food not only keeps the body healthy and free from lifestyle diseases but also supplements the brain and creates energy for it to do the tasks it does even during periods of rest. What we eat affects our mood as well. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in healthy foods nourish and protect the brain from oxidative stress that leads to cell and tissue damage, causing brain ageing and neurodegenerative diseases amongst other things. For optimum health, we must consume foods that include both micro and macronutrients.
The second way to protect the brain is through self-help techniques, therapy, coaching and mentoring, cognitive enhancement and brain training. These are conscious efforts made by us to help strengthen the brain. The main aim of these methods is to build more resilience and change the way we think about ourselves, others and the environment we are in, to a healthier and more productive way.
3. Rest and Rejuvenation
Sleep is known to restore the body and the brain which makes us feel refreshed, energetic, and calm the next day to tackle all the tasks we have set for ourselves. It helps with our cognitive functions and reduces the risk of mental disorders, and stress. Other activities such as mind-body practices like yoga and tai chi, sensory products and experiences such as aromatherapy (smell), massages (touch), gong baths (sound), and circadian light bulbs (light) are also known to create a sense of relaxation with the aid of primary sensory modality.
Other popular methods of relaxation and rejuvenation that have gained popularity are meditation and mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware of what we are experiencing in the now. It diverts our mind from thinking of the past and worrying about the future. By setting intentions on what you want to achieve (eg. positive mood), you focus on those feelings in the present, create awareness about the shifts in your mood and focus, and be attentive to the present.
Both these practices can help in slowing ageing, increase concentration, decision making and awareness (higher cognitive processes), reorganisation of brain cells (neural plasticity) and increase in the grey matter of the brain which helps in muscle control, sensory perception, emotion, memory, decision-making, and self-control. They also increase levels of hormones and neurotransmitters such as serotonin (the feel-good hormone), cortisol (reduces stress hormone), DHEA (longevity hormone), GABA (calming effect), melatonin (sleep hormone) and endorphins (pain and happy hormone).
4. Connection and Meaning
A connection can be the one we share with others and our society as well as our connection to things spiritual and religious.
Religion and spirituality allow us to believe in things that are much more than our mere physical existence and biological urges that need to be quenched. It allows people to form beliefs, shift the mind into focusing on the positives, and allows people to form groups that can share these common thought processes. They help in bringing some structure and regularity through guidelines one should follow. It can also teach us acceptance of people and events as what they are, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, and altruism. These practices can create positive and creative thinking, reduce stress, feel more connected to others and increase resilience even when we are faced with negative circumstances.
The connection can also mean connecting to people such as family, friends, peers/colleagues, and community. Humans are known as social beings. We need each other for a sense of belongingness, security, and survival. Social interaction can reduce stress, expand thinking processes, reduce the risk of mental health disorders and dementia, and build trust and reciprocity of positive feelings like love and kindness and compassion. Even though COVID-19 changed the concept of being in physical proximity, people still managed to have the same interconnectedness through online mediums.
There may be many tools and technologies, highly trained mental health practitioners and techniques that ensure mental health wellbeing. But we can achieve many of these things ourselves by focusing on what we can do to lead a more meaningful and fulfilled life. From taking care of ourselves to being a part of a community, there are many ways to lead a healthy, long, and purposeful life.