You run three times a week. Do resistance training twice a week. Floss regularly. And watch what you eat. You’re probably in pretty good health then, right?
Not necessarily. When’s the last time you checked in on your mental well-being? You could be in peak physical shape but if your mental health is out of balance, your overall health and well-being will suffer (if it hasn’t already).
Mental well-being is the balance of mental stimulation and mental relaxation. Although the mind craves stimulation, it also needs an equal amount of downtime. Balancing those two needs of your brain is the key to achieving good mental well-being.
Suffering from sensory overload?
We live in a society that glorifies multi-tasking. The person who is on their phone making a business deal while driving their kid to soccer practice is praised as being efficient, but the truth is those that multi-task are only half paying attention, and they usually end up doing a less-than-ideal job with everything they are trying to juggle.
Doing too many things at once — also known as sensory overload — creates stress in the brain, which compromises our brain tissue and mental well-being. But our brain is also capable of building new brain cells and neural connections through the use of other cognitive abilities that calm the mind and provide a counterpoint to sensory stimulation1.
Ways to improve your mental well-being
- Positive thinking: There is credible research that points to the health benefits of positivity, including an enhanced immune system, better coping skills, and an increased life span. Your thoughts are energy, and eliminating negativity from your thought process will work wonders for your overall mental well-being.To be more positive and productive, assume the best is going to happen, instead of the worst. To do this, identify any negative self-talk that runs through your head and make a conscious effort to look at it in a positive light. Try some specific techniques to overcoming negative thinking and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can train your brain to assume the best in any given situation.
- Creativity: The beauty of creativity is that anyone can practice it. Contrary to common misconceptions, there aren’t “creative people” who are just naturally born that way. Creative people are those who just practice creativity more often. Like anything else, the more you practice, the better you are at something. And psychologists have noted that people who exercise their sense of creativity are happier and feel more empowered.
- Relaxation: As our lives become busier and more things compete for our time, it becomes even more important to set aside time to relax. Without downtime, our minds become overwhelmed by stress and overstimulation and our mental well-being suffers.Anything that engages the five senses — sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch — counts as a method of relaxation. Whether that’s inhaling the scent of fresh flowers, reading your favorite book, listening to the sounds of nature while taking a walk, enjoying a nice meal, or petting your dog or cat, you will improve your mental well-being when you do something that brings you joy. Stumped on how to turn your mind off and relax? Check out these ideas for how to unwind.
- Meditation: Meditation is a time-tested method that calms the mind so you can gain a better sense of focus, concentration, and awareness. Many people are intimidated by meditation, but meditation is quite simple to start and requires very little equipment.You can meditate virtually anywhere — as long as you can sit quietly and focus on your breathing. By focusing on your breathing, your mind is pulled away from dwelling on the past or thinking about the future, and all you are left with is the present moment.And although meditation is one of the best things you can do for your mental well-being, there are also several benefits for your body, including increased concentration, increased quality of sleep, and decreased blood pressure.
Not sure where to start? Check out these free, guided meditations that will walk you through the process.
Stay tuned for the next installment of The Road to Wellness, in which we will focus on your emotional well-being. Want to catch up on previous Road to Wellness blogs? Read the whole Road to Wellness series.
Seaward, Dr. Brian Luke. WELCOA’s The Road to Wellness, 2013; 66.