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In our life, we are constantly regulating our emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational and social health. These eight dimensions regulate our functioning, and anyone can experience deficiencies in their health when they are not balanced and managed well. The impact of this affects our ability to achieve optimal success and achieve our overall life goals.
As a psychotherapist specializing in mental health and substance abuse treatment for many years in various settings, I’ve had a lot of personal experience counseling clients through the downsides, side effects and negative outcomes that are related to their lifestyles and traditional psychotropic or “big pharma” medications. I’ve learned that most westernized mental health treatments do not come without the cost of various other unpleasantries. Too often, modern mental health treatments and our modern society teach us that we need brief and immediate solutions to our health. However, this idea lacks to address the core issues and natural transformations that support and sustain positive mental health and wellness states.
Mental health healing and optimal health begins with the natural ways that you take care of yourself and manage your daily life within the eight dimensions of wellness. Natural integrative lifestyle solutions create sustained behaviors that enable you to better manage your health and avoid many health pitfalls and conditions.
The following recommendations are natural ways that you can develop and maintain a positive state of wellness.
1. Plant-based eating
The last few decades of revelation from the food and agriculture industries have brought about a focus on the long-term benefits of plant-based eating. Plant-based eating means eating natural, unrefined and unprocessed foods. This includes foods that come from plants and seeds, whole grains, nuts, beans and legumes. For our mental health, plant-based eating affects the complex ecosystem of bacteria and micro-organisms in our gastrointestinal tract. Through communication with the hormones and nerves in the brain, the gastrointestinal tract or “gut” affects our stress levels and emotional wellbeing and conveys this to our brains.
By creating a healthy internal “gut” environment, your body communicates that healthy state of being to your brain and vice versa. When our gastrointestinal health isn’t optimal, this translates to the strength and state of our mental health. If your “gut” is unhappy, your mental health won’t be too far off either. Eating plants and vegetables takes less energy from your internal systems to digest, process and filter out. This affects your mood and energy levels.
2. Light, moderate and high-intensity exercise in moderation
Physical activity not only makes you physically feel good, but it also improves your mental health functioning. Regular exercise improves your mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, negative moods and improving your self-esteem and cognitive functioning. When you exercise, you are increasing blood circulation in your brain and influencing the brain’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to communicate to several regions in the brain. This positive “feel good” communication controls various emotions and your memory functioning.
When you exercise for 30 minutes or more, at least three times per week, you can expect the following mental health benefits: improved sleep, stress relief, better endurance, improvement in mood, increased energy and stamina, an increase in mental alertness and weight loss. How does that sound for a mental health boost?
3. Setting boundaries
Boundaries are the limits that we establish for ourselves — whether psychological, emotional or physical — that protect our health and wellbeing. Boundaries establish our identity and support our self-care. When our boundaries need improvement or are non-existent, experiencing deficits in the way we feel and function can be expected.
Related: Eight Strategies to Improve Workplace Wellness
4. Practicing gratitude and using positive psychology
Gratitude is a conscious inner expression, idea and emotion where we recognize positive outcomes, despite any other factors, and feel grateful. Gratitude is a self-directed practice that uses positivity to express inwardly and outwardly. By practicing and manifesting a conscious state of gratitude, we naturally boost our happiness. When we practice gratitude, we are also using positive psychology skills to shift our inner attention away from negative emotions, thoughts and cognitive pitfalls that lead to mental health problems.
5. Practicing mindfulness
Mindfulness is a mind-body practice that induces the state of being present by arousing awareness of what is going on, inside you and around you. This conscious technique promotes acceptance and understanding of our feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, no matter what they might be. By focusing and developing skills that help you understand and accept your inner self, you foster a state of mental peace that promotes focus towards what is truly happening in real time. The art of mindfulness is a holistic practice that has been used for many, many centuries.
Related: 5 Steps to Creating a Workplace Focused on Mental Wellness
6. Be socially active
Social isolation is an unhealthy and unwanted form of being alone. When you experience this, you can suffer from loneliness, depression, severe anxiety and low self-esteem. Mental health and physical health are interconnected, so social isolation can also lead to physical symptoms such as sleeplessness, compromised immune functions, cardiovascular health and cognitive functioning. Loneliness and deficiencies in social relationships lead to a higher risk for coronary heart disease, stroke and dementia in mature adults.
To combat these health concerns, avoid persistent social isolation by finding ways to stay socially active. By maintaining involvement in positive and pleasant social activities and social interactions, you can stabilize and improve your mood and avoid many health risks. For those who are social distancing and not able to physically be amongst others, using technology such as video calls, phone calls, emails, texts and social media can help keep you connected and feeling less alone.
7. Managing stress
Stress is a surge of hormonal brain chemicals throughout the body we experience after situational pressures and demands. Coping with stress is a frequent part of life and more intense at times of perceived threat or danger. Persistent long-term stress can be harmful and lead to depression, anxiety, sleep issues, substance abuse problems and physical symptoms such as physical pain, muscle tension, high blood pressure, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, a weakened immune system, difficulty conceiving, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
You can better cope with stress by prioritizing, organizing and delegating tasks, as well as seeking support.
8. Ask for help when you need it
Our mental health affects every aspect of our health and functioning. When you’re struggling with your wellbeing, reaching out to a mental health professional can help you cope better through tough times. With many mental health helplines and crisis hotlines available today, help could only be one call away. After the technological boom, telehealth technology makes it easy for anyone to access a therapist remotely from the comfort of their home, vehicle or private office. The requirements for accessing telehealth services include having an email address and a smartphone, tablet or computer with a camera.
The natural methods of mental health management are only a few of the many ways you can naturally manage your mental health. With consistency, you can expect to experience optimal wellness and be one step closer to living a happy and healthy life.