• Susan Ward

What is Mental Wellness?

It’s fairly easy to guess the general meaning of mental wellness. But how do we achieve it? How does mental wellness help us live a better life?

Landscape view through a window
A window onto peacefulness, mental wellness

The term “mental wellness” was introduced in 2001 by Dr. Jane Myers. Her research and writing focused on connecting mental and physical and spiritual health. (What is Mental Wellness? Living with Health, Wellness, and Wholeness) We all know we should eat better, drink less, and get more sleep. And, studies show that individuals with a spiritual focus in life tend to be happier and more content. (Does Spirituality Make You Happy?) But the mental health part is something we may neglect. Or we may assume that unless we’re in therapy, nothing can be done to improve mental health and mental wellness. However, learning about mental wellness and finding opportunities to build and grow our mental wellness helps us lead a more balanced, more contented life.

Environmental Enrichment

Lawrence Choy, MD writes about environmental enrichment as one way to improve mental wellness. He says, “Engaging in activities that stimulate our senses, challenge our cognitive and motor abilities, and enhance our social interactions are indispensable for maintaining positive neural changes throughout our lifetime.” (The Science of Mental Wellness)

A mental wellness approach for each of us might be different depending on personality, life circumstances, and more. However, it might include a combination of the following: the ability to reduce stress, be curious, feel joy, and be grateful. It’s the person who finds opportunities for creativity and has a hobby. It’s having knowledge about emotions within oneself and others. It’s figuring out how to have a balanced life, even in a life filled with hurry and stress and anxiety.

Reducing Stress

One important aspect of developing a mental wellness practice is finding ways to reduce stress and calm oneself. Strategies might include yoga, deep breathing, guided imagery, self massage, or rhythmic movement like walking, dancing, or rowing. (Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief)

Another way to build mental wellness is through any form of art—creating art, admiring art, being surrounded by art. “Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing. The more we understand the relationship between creative expression and healing, the more we will discover the healing power of the arts.” (The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Pubic Health)

Emotional Resilience

When we find ways to calm ourselves, distract ourselves, cherish a moment of wonder, appreciate a piece of art, or draw a funny image, we’re building mental wellness and increasing our emotional resilience.

Art in all its forms is an excellent way to build mental wellness. Looking at art, creating art, appreciating art, all provide brain breaks, new learning, and a sense of accomplishment. Mini art escapes might be two minutes of doodling, 10 minutes of whittling, a half hour knitting, an hour writing a poem, a two-hour visit to a museum, or a day-long walking tour learning about the architecture of a town.

What’s your own new and improved mental wellness plan?

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