Have you ever heard the phrase Cogito, ergo sum used? It is Latin for “I think, therefore I am.’ This phrase has taken on a new and more explicit meaning in our day. How you think and what you think about are significant factors in determining your overall health. Therefore, a balanced and healthy mental outlook is not only important it’s vital!
Traditionally, the concept of mental health has always been viewed in terms of an individual being free from some emotional problem or illness. However, recently mental health has been more correctly viewed as the way in which human beings think, feel, and behave in relation to the joys and troubles of life. Attitudes and values have also been included in this concept. It is recognized that they play an important part in determining one’s outlook on life and how that individual will respond to the events that are taking place in his environment.
If you are interested in learning some basic, proven tips for establishing and maintaining a healthy mental outlook, then this article is just for you. The following are some tried and proven approaches that can be effective in helping individuals to enhance their mental outlook. They also can lessen the impact of the day-to-day pressures. While they are basic approaches and while we may hear or read about them rather frequently, they are not often utilized. Hopefully you not only will accept these approaches intellectually but will use them practically in your life right away.
Simply put, talk, listen, and meaningfully share with someone. Meaningful communication between individuals is a very vital part of our socio-cultural exchange. Many individuals fail to utilize this aspect of our culture to its fullest extent. For a variety of reasons, we hesitate to engage in the mutual sharing of feelings and thoughts. This type of communication does not always have to take place on an intimate level; there can be close friends to whom you go for support, acceptance, caring, or whatever the need may be.
When we communicate we also listen, and by listening we learn to empathize with others. Listening provides an opportunity to reach out and help others, and it will also help us to be more accepting of help from others. Through this process of talking and listening, one becomes more sensitive toward others. Not only are you sharing feelings, but it is a way by which you learn to resolve conflict.
There is so much written about the need to avoid stress in our lives. This is virtually impossible for anyone who is actively involved in the process of living and interacting in the environment. However, one can work toward reducing the number of stressors that we must encounter daily.
It can be helpful to identify the positive stressors (for example, the challenges and excitements) as well as the negative ones (such as threats and problems). Also, the probable duration of the stress needs to be identified. Is it short-lived or long-term? This will give clues on how to handle the stressors. It needs to be understood that in many instances individuals can reduce the number of stressors experienced on a daily basis; however, one needs to recognize the stressors and then take positive steps toward eliminating them.
Increase Physical Activity
Exercising is not limited only to our bodies; it includes our minds, too. A part of the exercise routine should include exercising our mental capacities. This can take the form of formal stimulation (such as being enrolled in formal classes or taking adult education courses) or informal stimulation (such as being involved in reading or in discussion groups).
Maintain Adequate Nutrition
Much has been written about the importance of adequate nutritional intake. What must be recognized is that daily intake from the basic food groups is not all that is necessary. The methods of food preparation (such as boiling, frying, and broiling) and the types of food additives, and the frequency with which they are used (such as sugars and preservatives) must be considered as we attempt to eat properly.
Obtain Adequate Rest
The importance of rest in the form of sleep is largely underestimated. It is assumed that adults do not need as much rest as they once did; therefore, adequate sleep is not given the priority that it should have.
Physiologically the body goes through its process of cleansing during the hours of sleep. The skin cleans itself through perspiration and shedding. The body organs are revitalized through the rest cycle. Experiments have been carried out that demonstrate the effects of sleep deprivation. Some of these effects may be in the form of changes in behavior. Confusion, disorientation, and excessive irritability can be observed in individuals deprived of sleep.
The physical and mental aspects of our lives are so closely interwoven that what affects one part of our lives has a direct effect on the other. That is why it is so important to give special attention to our physical and mental health. Today’s lifestyle is designed to go against this concept. As a rule, we work too hard, eat too much, and exercise too little, predisposing ourselves to many problems both physical and mental. Therefore, it takes a special effort on our part to plan to include those things in our lives that will contribute to a healthy, happier mental outlook.
Originally published in Message Magazine’s November/December 1986 Edition by Ann Beckett