Six Habits to Improve Mental Wellness

It began with a ton-of-bricks feeling in my chest and shortness of breath. I became dizzy and started sweating. It felt like a heart attack. I suddenly realized that I was going to die right there in the middle of European History. But I was 16 and an athlete. How could this be? Well, as you may have guessed, I didn’t have a heart attack and what I actually experienced was the first of many panic attacks.

As they came with more frequency, I became paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t sleep at night. I would lose my appetite and then gorge when I was hungry. This downward spiral led to clinical depression.  I missed so many days of school that I nearly was not allowed to graduate. After high school, I had trouble attending community college and holding down a job.

Over the years to follow, my mind physically manifested the symptoms of everything from cancer to carbon monoxide poisoning to shellfish allergies. Medication only helped so much and sometimes made me feel worse. In therapy I began retracing my steps and discovered that my mental un-wellness wasn’t as sudden as it felt. I also began recognizing the roadblocks that were in my life. Some were hereditary and life obstacles, but others were my own doing.

In all, I discovered six significant controllable factors that contributed to my mental state. With the help of family and friends, I gradually began peeling back the layers of these bad habits. It became a daily battle to overcome the roadblocks, but well worth every effort. I no longer take medication and maintain my mental wellness with the positive habits I’ve developed over the past ten years.

Now, your situation may be different than mine, but it’s easy for anyone to fall into  patterns of mental un-wellness. We all have those bad habits that may make us feel better for a moment, only to feel awful the next. Kicking some of these bad habits will not only improve the body, but will also improve the mind. Of course, it’s tough to simply stop a bad habit or addiction, so let’s focus on six positive habits that you can slowly introduce to your life. The overall transformation will be gradual, but you should start seeing positive results fairly quickly.  Here they are:

  1. Nutrition- Introducing food that is whole, living and colorful to your diet is the simplest way to improve your overall health. The known and unknown nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables feed every cell of our body, including those that regulate your neurotransmitters like serotonin.
  2. Fitness- It’s almost always been commonly believed that physical activity affects mental wellness. Today we have substantial proof. A quick round of jumping jacks will get the blood flowing, release tension and can be done right in your office.
  3. Mental Stillness- A few moments of meditation or even just a bit of peace and quiet can assist anyone in becoming consciously relaxed during hectic times and even help treat depression.  Try focusing on your favorite scripture, place, person or memory for just 5 minutes a day.
  4. Mental Exercises- These help the mind function better and longer as people grow older. It’s typical for people living with a mental illness to experience forgetfulness and dull thinking. Training your brain to feel happy will help you stay happy.  Play a memory game with your kids, do a sudoku puzzle on the bus or try balancing your checkbook with a pencil and paper.
  5. Therapy- Whether it’s talking with friends about problems or seeing a professional, some type of therapy is always helpful when dealing with mental issues. It doesn’t have to be a gushy journey of self-discovery. Start by writing down a list of things that frustrate you in your current situation and then ask yourself why each one negatively affects you.
  6. Kindness- Perhaps the best method for increased mental wellness is to simply display acts of kindness. It’s proven to improve your mental state and is a basic requirement of being a good human.

In the next several articles, we’ll focus on each of these habits in depth. I encourage you to keep an open mind/heart and try not to give up or get frustrated. Beginning good habits can be as tough as ending bad habits. Pick one or two that are the easiest for you and stick them out for a specific time period. This can be as simple as cutting out one fast food meal per week or pausing a moment to hold the door for a fellow human being. Implementing these six methods of mental wellness is an ongoing process for me, but has led to a significant overall improvement to my quality of life.

I wish you a long and quality life.

Photo credit: brian hefele

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  1. I really liked this article–it reminded me of a time that I myself was going thru therapy and was taught about mindfullness–it truely does help!

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