What is mental health and wellness? Are they the same thing? or different? Most people lump them both together. But for me, there are subtle differences that make a huge difference in how we think about them. I will attempt to show these differences as I’m more concerned with the mental wellness aspect as it relates to our overall wellness.
What is Mental Health?
According to Wikipedia: Mental health is the level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. It is the state of someone who is “functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment” As an average Joe, I zone in on the “absence of mental illness”. Our discussion concerns the average man on the street. So, will take mental illness out of the equation as it pertains to this blog. I think that a lot of people will agree with me. Once I think about mental health, I immediately associate it with mental illness. And images of lunatics and mental institutions come to mind.
I think that the definition clearly sums up what is mental health. It is the absence of mental illness and the level of psychological well-being. I’m not a doctor but I know that there are a number of factors that contribute to mental illness. They could be genetic, biological, psychological etc. Mental illnesses need treatment by professionals for the most part. What we are interested in here is how we can help ourselves to build our mental wellness.
What is Mental Wellness?
According to the World Health Organization, mental wellness is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” See the difference? It seems to me that this relates to the average person’s ability (without mental illness) to get through life. I know that this is a highly simplified take on the matter. To put it another way, we need professionals to deal with our mental health issues. But we can take action on our own to improve our own mental wellness levels. And thus our overall wellness and happiness in life.
Ways to Build Mental Wellness
As one of the 5 pillars supporting our overall wellness (Physical, Mental, Spiritual, Emotional, Financial). We will concentrate on how to improve our mental wellness. They are all interrelated and sometimes the boundaries between them are very blurred. However, we need to use a holistic approach in building and maintaining our overall wellness.
Physically we must eat properly, have a healthy diet and avoid mind altering substances. We must exercise regularly and make sure we are getting enough quality sleep. Spiritually we should have a meditation or mindfulness practice to quiet our mind. Be positive and practice gratitude and try to avoid negativity. This all works in how we deal with people at work, socially and at home in our experiencing of life on a daily basis.
Our Mental and Emotional wellness is where the lines get really blurred. They are both inter connected. How we feel or react to life is a great part of this. Our perceptions of events or people lead to judgments in our mind. How we feel about these judgments then cause emotions to well up inside us. Emotions are very powerful and can trigger our mental state. We must learn to not suppress our emotions but to engage with them and understand that they are temporary. Things change and life goes on. It can all get very confusing and the work towards emotional and mental wellness is very difficult. Little by little we can work on it. Again, meditation or mindfulness practice can be extremely useful here. We help build our mental wellness by working on all the other factors at the same time. There is no way to ignore anyone without the others suffering as well. Overall our wellness will suffer unless we tackle it holistically.
Here is another term that I discovered. There are 6 mental faculties. These are imagination, intuition, will, perception, memory and reason. These are what we develop as we improve our mental wellness. We can each work on them in our own ways. One way is by learning constantly. If we are always curious we will be forever learning and this is what increases our faculties. By keeping our minds active and not getting comfortable is how we move on in life.
I have found that the more I learn and know, the greater my imagination and intuition. In fact all my mental faculties develop from more learning. My perception, memory and reason are enhanced and even my will. If you find that you have gotten comfortable, or that you are stagnant and life is passing you by. It’s easy to get started. Read!. There are so many sources of information available now, especially on the internet. Find something that you are interested in and educate yourself. You will be amazed at where your imagination will take you!. Anything is possible!
So, to sum up. Mental health and illness are different from mental wellness. When dealing with overall wellness for the average Joe, we are concerned more with mental wellness. And how it relates with and to the other pillars of wellness. Everything is connected and so we have to deal with our wellness holistically rather than individually.
Our aim in building our mental wellness is to do so by maintaining and building our mental faculties. These 6 mental faculties are our imagination, intuition, will, perception, memory and reason. The more you learn and know, the stronger your faculties become. Like any mechanism, your brain does better when it is being used rather than when it is idle. It is easier now than ever before to learn new skills or educate yourself. It is called the internet and can be used to better yourself. Think about it!