Rarely do we think about Mental Health Fitness as such, but rather when the topic of Mental Health is addressed, we tend to think about mental illness and when we think or talk about Fitness, our tendency is to highlight Physical Fitness. It is quite common to talk about Mental Health Awareness once our mental health has been lost or its total well-being is diminished due to the onset of a mental illness. Mental illness does not discriminate. It is an equal opportunity issue. It affects young and old, male and female, and individuals of every race, ethnic background, education level, and income level.
A mental illness is a mental health condition that gets in the way of thinking, feeling, relating to others, and day-to-day function. This article will discuss how to keep our Mental Health Fitness through common day practices that entail an integrated approach of mind, heart, body, and spirit to develop our full well-being potential. According to the definition provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” WHO added, “Mental health is 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.” In order to accomplish our full potential in well-being, it is important to focus on four areas of mental health fitness to bring growth into our lives: mind, heart, body and spirit. These four areas or parts are fully connected to each other in such a way that when one part is not aligned to the others, the disruption or effect is felt on the others three areas. 1. MIND. Taking care of our minds include being present or aware to the gift we have received about being alive. It means to be present to our presence as human beings with our attention in our healthy and unhealthy thoughts and beliefs and choosing the best nurturing option for ourselves. In other words, as we fill our mind with the right ingredients that support our mental activity, and we become MIND-FULL of the cognitive processes within ourselves, we develop a more balanced mental stability. There are many ingredients that nurture our mind such as deep breathing, reading, listening to music, creative arts, relaxing, entertainment, aromatherapy, exercise, and so on, but at this point only three will be considered: gratitude, forgiveness, and self-validation. A whole extensive article can be written on each of these three items, nonetheless, they will only be briefly mentioned to bring awareness into how each of these ingredients can produce a great life.
Gratitude. Developing an attitude of gratitude and not merely actions of good manners, creates a different perception about life events. To attain this attitude, it is important that no judgment be imposed on any of the happening life events, but just to be grateful for the situation being experienced. When your mind is full of gratitude greater enjoyment and content about life is achieved. Once an attitude of gratitude dwells in our minds, mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety are abruptly minimized and/or eradicated.
Forgiveness. Many unhealthy thoughts and beliefs occur when forgiveness is not granted to the hurting party or oneself. Forgiveness is a huge strategy not only in the healing process of our thoughts and beliefs, but also in our heart. It opens our mind to new worlds in matters of opportunities, challenges, relationships, and goals to name a few. The greatest reason to forgive others is to acquire peacefulness of mind within ourselves.
Self-validation. Quite often, our expectation to reach our well-being is placed on getting validation from other people and rarely on ourselves. Recognizing our accomplishments and filling our mind with thoughts and beliefs that highlight our strengths instead of our weaknesses will increase not only our self-value, but also our self-concept, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
2. HEART. Being aware of the movement of our heart regarding our emotions, feelings, and sensations is crucial to our mental health fitness. Emotions are either positive or negative and are part of our daily life experiences. It is our response to those emotions in keeping them or releasing them in healthy or unhealthy ways what determines our well-being or lack of it. When we feel happy, peaceful, content, joyful and so on, we experience those emotions and don’t want them to leave us. On the other hand, when we are feeling anxious, depressed, frustrated, tensed, stressed out and so on, most of the time, we tend to welcome them into our lives even though we don’t want them there. Heart Fitness or Emotional Fitness is when we are able to manage our emotions, feelings, and sensations by producing and keeping more of the positive and less of the negative emotions. Once we become aware of unwanted feelings, emotions, and sensations in our heart, we can reject them by inviting them to dissolve and leave so that we can welcome those emotions that we want to keep. It is similar to physical fitness in which we produce more of what we want and get rid of unwanted areas. 3. BODY. Body fitness on this article does not necessarily refer to be physically fit, but to be aware of the somatic effects that emotions and thoughts are causing in our body. Many physical illnesses are rooted in psychosomatic disorders. The body is the instrument that keeps record of issues affecting the mind, the heart, and the spirit and expresses its content/discontent and/or satisfaction/unsatisfaction on it. For instance, strong positive emotions provide us with a lot of energy whereas severe arguments produce headaches, stomach aches, high blood pressure, or any other somatic sensation. When we locate the affected area by the triggered emotion and allow complete awareness of its sensation in the body, it can be invited to open and relax to experience a new and transformed sensation of the event. 4. SPIRIT. Fitness in matters of the Spirit is related to being in connection with ourselves and everything that surround us. The more connected we are to a Higher Power, ourselves, others, and nature, the more fulfilled we become. This connection is acquired through being present through meditation, reflection, and communication. We tend to connect in either positive or negative terms, and we are always connecting. The choice is ours. This diagram depicts the interaction. The biggest barrier to mental health care is a lack of mental health awareness. Mental health awareness is essential in creating fitness in our mind, heart, body, and spirit as well as understanding symptoms of different mental illnesses and actually finding preventive measures and/or treatment to make our life happier and healthier. https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/mental-health https://www.portstluciehospitalinc.com/what-is-mental-health-awareness-and-why-does-it-matter/ https:/www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240031029 (Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030)