Though it’s common to focus on achieving optimal physical health, maintaining good mental health is just as important to your overall well-being. Mental health is the foundation of a healthy life, because it shapes how you experience everything, from daily tasks to relationships to physical health. In fact, studies show there may be links between mental health and heart disease.
In this post, we’ll examine what creates mental well-being, how to identify the state of your mental health, tips to improve your everyday mindset and what positive effects you’ll enjoy as a result of better mental health.
What is Good Mental Health?
To be in a state of good mental health means that you’re in the right frame of mind to be successful in every aspect of your life. It doesn’t mean that everything is perfect or no conflicts are present; it’s quite the opposite, really.
Having good mental health means that when issues arise, you can deal with them in a constructive way. Recognizing problems and actively working to overcome them – instead of succumbing to stress – is an important element of improving your mental health.
How to Assess Your Mental Well–Being
When you’re sick, your first instinct is most likely to take your temperature and check if you have a fever. That’s great for assessing physical ailments, but how do you screen for mental health?
The best thing you can do is look for common symptoms that would indicate your mental health needs attention. These symptoms may include:
- Mood swings
- Appetite changes (loss of or increase of)
- Lack of interest or concern in daily activities
- Difficulty with concentration
- Social withdrawal
- Disconnection from personal community
- Uncharacteristic behaviors
- Sadness (without a triggering traumatic event)
- Thoughts of suicide or harming others
- Substance abuse
If you experience one or more of these symptoms for an extended amount of time, seek the help of a medical professional. In the same way that it is acceptable and necessary to receive treatment for a physical injury, there is no shame in seeking help for mental health concerns.
Ways to Improve your Mental Health
The good news is that once you, your primary care provider, or a psychologist has identified your mental health condition, there are many things you can do to improve your mental health:
- Make a mental health plan. The first course of action is to map out actions that will lead to a healthy mindset. A therapist can assist you with the best ways to go about combating your specific condition and once you have a plan, putting it into practice may feel less overwhelming.
- Increase physical activity. Exercise for mental health can be a game changer when it comes to your recovery. Being active is a proven natural mood elevator that can have positive ripple effects in many aspects of your life. Weight loss, muscle strengthening and increased energy can all result from regular exercise. Just be sure to choose an activity that you enjoy doing, so you’re more motivated to stick with it.
- Modify your diet. One element that can contribute to poor mental health is the lack of nutrition your body gets by depriving it of healthy foods. Instead of opting for processed or junk foods, focus on more natural choices. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts an all contribute to a better lifestyle that promotes positive mental health.
- Start a gratitude journal. Even if you’re not the type of person who keeps a diary, writing down just a few things each day that went well in your life can make a world of difference. You can record something as small as the delicious taste of a piece of fruit you ate, to something as large as a major milestone, like achieving a certain number of days of sobriety. You may surprise yourself at how many good things truly happen to you over time.
- Meditate. Regardless of your spiritual or religious beliefs, meditation can be an effective, joyful way to minimize stress and improve your mental health. Whether you choose to follow an in-person guide at a class or workshop, or download an app on your phone, there are many resources that can train you to relax and breathe in this mindful way.
- Find community. Though your instinct may be to retreat from people as you struggle with a mental illness, it’s important not to isolate yourself. Set goals for interacting with family or friends at least a few times a week or participate in a more formal gathering (like a book club or team sport) to enjoy the benefits of social interaction.
- Help others. One of the best ways to get out of your own headspace is to focus on others. Volunteering can be a powerful way to better your self-worth and truly make a difference in your community. Choose an activity or organization that aligns with your passions and offer your time. The satisfaction you’ll feel is immeasurable.
How Improving Your Mental Health Can Make Your Life Better
When your mental health improves, positive changes may start to occur in every aspect of your life.
- Family and friends. When you feel better, your behavior reflects that change. Positive behaviors will draw your loved ones closer to you and strengthen your ties with them.
- Physical well-being. Once you return to a healthy mindset, your immune system will be stronger, and you’ll be less susceptible to physical ailments.
- Work. With better focus and clear thinking, your performance at work will undoubtedly get better. If you excel at your responsibilities, there are more opportunities for growth in your chosen field, and more possibilities for financial reward and promotion.
When to Seek Professional Help
If you need help identifying a mental health issue, or would like support navigating an existing concern, Western Washington Medical Group’s providers are here for you. Our compassionate primary care team provides consultations, evaluations, and treatment for a variety of mental health issues, and can refer out to our Psychology team or other specialties as needed.
To get started, request an appointment today with one of our primary care providers. We’re here for you.