What is Mental Health? Why is it important?

Mental health is an important part of human health. It has gained significant attention over the past few decades, and for good reason. We should all understand the basics of mental health because it plays a crucial role in our overall well-being.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.1 Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

Why is Mental Health Important?

We should never underestimate the importance of having a healthy mind. It is essential for various aspects of our lives:

  • Emotional well-being

Positive mental health allows people to experience a wide range of emotions, including sadness, happiness, and anger, without being controlled or overwhelmed by them. Emotional well-being also helps us build resilience so that we are better able to cope with difficult situations.

  • Relationships

Successfully maintaining healthy relationships is much less likely to occur if you are struggling with an untreated mental illness. If we are healthy both mentally and physically, we are better able to handle conflicts constructively, empathize with others, and communicate effectively.

  • Decision-making

Effective decision-making is an important part of life. With a healthy mind, we can think clearly and make decisions based on relevant information, in our professional, academic, and personal lives.

  • Physical Health

Studies have shown that there is a strong link between mental and physical health. Individuals who are healthy mentally are less likely to develop chronic diseases compared to their counterparts who are struggling with untreated mental illness, and vice-versa.

This statement comes from the Mental Health Foundation in the UK:

“Physical health problems significantly increase our risk of developing mental health problems and vice versa. Nearly one in three people with a long-term physical health condition also has a mental health problem, most often depression or anxiety.”

  • Quality of Life

Untreated mental issues can lead to problems that undermine our quality of life, including unemployment, homelessness, inappropriate imprisonment, unnecessary disability, substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicide.

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Ways to boost mental health

  • Learn how to manage Stress

We all experience stress now and again; it is part of life. Learning how to manage stress effectively is vital. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing help reduce the harmful effects of stress and boost mental health.

  • Get Adequate Sleep

Getting enough good quality sleep is crucial not only for your mental but also your physical health. Aim for between 7 and 9 hours each night and establish a regular sleep routine.

Remember that it is not only how long you sleep for that counts, but also the quality of your sleep.

  • Exercise Regularly

We all know that regular physical exercise is good for physical health. Did you know that it is also fantastic for mental well-being? Exercise has been shown to reduce the harmful effects of stress as well as boost mood.

The Better Health Channel in Australia says the following about exercise:

“People who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional well-being, and lower rates of mental illness. Exercise is important for people with mental illness – it not only boosts our mood, concentration, and alertness but improves our cardiovascular and overall physical health.”

“Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous, structured or take a long time to have benefits.”

  • Healthy eating

A healthy and balanced diet can play an important role in achieving or maintaining good mental and physical health. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats.

Seek help

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental condition or illness, get professional help immediately. Did you know that most of them are treatable?

Regarding the stigma related to mental problems, the Mayo Clinic offers the following advice:

“You may be reluctant to admit you need treatment. Don’t let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what’s wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.”

“Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma doesn’t just come from others. You may mistakenly believe that your condition is a sign of personal weakness or that you should be able to control it without help. Seeking counseling, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others who have mental illness can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.”