a new year, a fresh approach to mental wellness month

a new year, a fresh approach to mental wellness month

It’s January, the time of new beginnings and resolutions, many of them focused on health and wellness. It’s fitting that this month has been designated Mental Wellness Month by the International Association of Insurance Professionals (IAIP).

According to the IAIP website, “There is more to mental wellness than just mental health, which the World Health Organization (WHO) defines as ‘a state of well-being in which an individual realizes with his or her own abilities he or she can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.’”

“The wellness movement teaches people to take care of their health before they develop an illness by eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. The same approach is valuable for mental wellness. Increasingly, mental health professionals are recommending that people get a periodic ‘mental health checkup’ in the same way that they get annual physical checkups,” the website continues.

This is solid advice, and what better time than January to make your own mental wellness resolutions.  Scientists are realizing that many of the things we ought to do for our general physical health – like eating well, exercising and getting enough rest – have profound effects on our mental wellness, too. With a little focus on doing right by ourselves, we can have a measurable impact on the quality of our lives.

Proven Ways to Improve Your Own Mental Wellness this Month

1. Eat more fruits and veggies.

The evidence is mounting that eating nourishing foods like fresh fruits and vegetables can help prevent or manage depression, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease and even schizophrenia, according to the UK’s Mental Health Foundation.

2. Exercise a little more every day.

Science is also proving the link between exercise and mental wellness. “Regardless of age or fitness level (yup, this includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathoners), studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits,” writes Sophia Breene in The Huffington Post. Exercise can help reduce stress, boost endorphins, improve self-confidence, and has even been shown to lessen symptoms of clinical depression.

3. Meditate.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, practicing mindfulness mediation, even for a short time each day, helps ease anxiety, pain and depression.

4. Spend time in nature.

Most of us know we feel better after a nice walk on a sunny day. Now science is showing us that a long walk can physically alter your brain in a positive way.

5. Try keeping a journal.

“One of the ways to deal with any overwhelming emotion is to find a healthy outlet in which to express yourself, which makes a journal a helpful tool in managing your mental health,” notes the University of Rochester’s Medical Center website. Some of the benefits include stress reduction, better anxiety management, and a greater awareness of our triggers and negative thought patterns.

The key to good health, both physical and mental, starts with awareness. We can help ourselves be healthier with just a few simple changes to our daily routines. Your health, and your happiness, is worth the investment.

In good health,

Rebecca Helterbrand

Rebecca Helterbrand is a senior vice president at Clarity Child Guidance Center. She passionately advocates to end the stigma of mental illness, increase access to care, and provide a promising future for our children.

If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 9-1-1. If you need help locating mental health resources in your area, visit the Bexar County Community Resource website, call your local health department or the National Alliance Mental Illness's helpline at 800-950- NAMI (6264).