Mental Wellness Month
Mental wellness is a broad term that goes beyond being mentally fit.
Mental wellness encompasses emotional, spiritual, physical and psychological wellness — a mind, body and soul connection. Almost everything people do on a daily basis contributes to their mental wellness. Diet, exercise, sleep, stress, relationships, environment, and habits all play a role in mental wellness – whether positively or negatively. The things that happen to people, as well as their response to those things, also factor into one’s mental wellness.
It is important to maintain mental wellness in order to work productively, cope with stress and change, be physically healthy, maintain relationships with family and friends, and avoid serious mental health and substance abuse conditions.
Here are some ways to improve mental wellness:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough restful sleep
- Be thankful
- Feel good about yourself
- Maintain healthy relationships
- Yoga, meditation, massage
- Help others
- Contribute to your community
- Be able to laugh at yourself
It reads like a list of New Year’s resolutions and, coincidentally, January is Mental Wellness Month. Silver Hill Hospital wants to take part in Wellness Month by bringing attention to the importance of wellness to the mental health community. Mental Wellness Month in January differs from Mental Health Month, which takes place in May and promotes education and support for people with mental illness.
January is a month to consider behaviors that can positively impact one’s mental wellness and a time to eliminate those behaviors that contribute to poor mental wellness. Below is a closer look at some factors that can have serious effects on one’s mental wellness, especially during a New England winter.
Speaking of resolutions …
As popular and deep-rooted in our society as resolutions are, many psychiatrists warn against making them – at least in the traditional sense. Resolutions may offer an incentive to start changing a behavior to achieve a desired outcome, but most are doomed to fail before February. The main reason is that many people make resolutions that are too broad and unrealistic. Also, breaking a resolution can lead to a feeling of failure and self-doubt that can impact other areas of one’s life, psychiatrists say.
Mark D’Agostino, M.D., MS, MSc., the Director of Outpatient Services at Silver Hill Hospital, offers the following advice for resolution makers:
“The New Year can be a wonderful time for reflection, and studies suggest that nearly 50% of American adults use this opportunity to set New Year’s resolutions. Even with the best of intentions, the vast majority of resolutions (up to 88%) are not achieved. To increase the likelihood of beating the odds and making your New Year’s resolutions a reality, this year you can set S.M.A.R.T. goals instead.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. For example, a resolution to ‘lose weight’ would not be a S.M.A.R.T. goal. By contrast, creating a goal to ‘Lose 15 pounds by July 1, 2020, through following a nutritionist-approved intermittent fasting regimen, exercising 3 days a week for greater than 30 minutes, and maintaining greater than 10,000 steps per day,’ is an example of a S.M.A.R.T goal.
Through being intentional and thoughtful in setting your goals, and finding ways of keeping yourself accountable, you can be on the way to a healthy and happy 2020!”
Let the sun shine. Please.
January is also a time when many people suffer depression-like symptoms from Seasonal Affective Disorder as the days are shorter, temperatures are colder, and the holiday season is over. Also known by its appropriate acronym SAD, symptoms may include low energy, irritability, drop in self-esteem, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, insomnia and mood swings.
The shortest day of the year, in terms of daylight, occurs any day from December 20-23 (usually the 21st) in the Northern Hemisphere. In Connecticut, for example, the sun is up for just over nine hours (rising at 7:15 a.m. and setting at 4:30 p.m.), leaving darkness for the other 14 hours and 45 minutes. For many people, morning and evening commutes are both made in darkness. The lack of sunlight can lower vitamin D and serotonin levels, as well as tinker with melatonin levels. It can also be just downright depressing.
Whether it is called SAD, winter depression, winter blues, or the blahs, the condition affects three million people each year, studies show. To combat these blues, experts suggest having an exercising routine, getting outside as much as possible when the sun is shining, keeping in touch with family and friends, and purchasing a light box or light bulbs that mimic sunlight.
If symptoms become severe and are accompanied by increased drug or alcohol use, feelings of hopelessness, or thoughts of suicide, please call or visit Silver Hill Hospital. We are a top depression treatment center and will help you with an evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment plan using evidence-based therapies. Click here for more information.
Know what help is available
Take advantage of employer-sponsored programs, that’s what they are there for. Many companies have a variety of free programs to help with their employees’ mental wellness. Some examples include free yoga classes, financial literacy training, flexible work schedules, social activities, and on-site fitness facility. Many also offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP); free counseling to address personal or work-related problems.
Some of the more out-of-the-ordinary wellness perks, offered by the big tech companies of the world, include sleeping pods, video game stations, free lunch, allowing pets to come to work, and free laundry service.
Most health insurance companies offer incentives to maintain wellness. UnitedHealthcare, for instance, offers its clients the opportunity to earn up to $200 in gift cards or premium deductions through its Simply Engaged program. Clients follow a series of wellness action steps to earn the credit. UnitedHealthcare also has a Real Appeal program whereby clients are supported for a full year in their weight-loss goals. Other insurance companies offer similar incentive programs.
Being aware of what an employer offers for wellness is the first step to taking advantage of these perks. Human resources departments will have pertinent information on wellness incentives.
Yoga is often the first thing that comes to mind when people hear the words “mental wellness.” There is a good reason for that as yoga is a practice that brings together mind, body, and spirit. Science backs up the following benefits of yoga: stress reduction, anxiety relief, heart health improvement, depression alleviation, chronic pain reduction, sleep quality improvement, greater flexibility, healthy eating habit promotion, and gain in strength.
For Amanda Deak, a yoga instructor at Silver Hill Hospital, the ancient practice of yoga is an opportunity to slow down, reconnect with one’s own mind, undo old habits, and build confidence.
“It’s calming the nervous system and working away from that fight or flight mentality and allowing it to be more settled. It’s a true element of awareness and mindfulness. I’ve had a fair amount of trauma in my own life and yoga has been super beneficial to me and given me a lot of appreciation for being in the moment and not reflecting on the past.
We get caught up in the idea of meditation being about forgetting all your thoughts and being empty-minded, and it’s not that. It’s finding more space between your thoughts and giving yourself time. It’s a constant reminder to slow down, be in the moment and not get so triggered by the past and anticipating something and getting worked up about what’s to come and play out scenarios. It’s having a more ‘let it go’ attitude.”
Yoga, she says emphatically, is not a competition. It’s not about getting the poses just right or holding them the longest, or comparing one’s form to that of the person next to them.
“It’s about acceptance. The way that your body moves and works is beautiful. We all have different anatomy and openness, so honor what that means to you and let go of comparisons or expectations. It’s a judgment-free space. It’s more about connecting to your breath, slowing down and then being true to yourself.
“I encourage my students to listen to their own bodies over my instruction. Some of my favorite moments are when one of my students decides to flow in their own way because that’s what they need.”
Amanda has been instructing yoga since 2013 and works with adolescents, adults, and staff at Silver Hill. Learn more about Amanda and her business, Sundara Yoga.
More suggestions for wellness
National Health Service, the government-funded medical health care service of the United Kingdom, compiled a comprehensive list of steps for improving mental wellness. The five main categories are: connect with other people, be physically active, learn new skills, give to others, and pay attention to the present moment. Each of the categories has a long list of dos and don’ts, such as volunteering, taking on new responsibilities, staying positive, and limiting screen time.
The full list of tips and suggestions may be found by clicking here.
A final note
For more information about the conditions Silver Hill Hospital treats, start by making an appointment or calling 1 (866) 542-4455 to learn more about our levels of care and treatment for mental and co-occurring disorders, as well as addiction.