Our mental health is fragile and vulnerable, just like our bodies. Preventive mental health care is required for overall wellness.
We know and appreciate that our bodies require proactive work and intentional habits in order to maintain good physical health. If we want our bodies to perform well we need to take action to maintain health. So why don’t we talk more about the healthy habits needed to maintain our mental health?
As individuals in a system designed to tell us otherwise, It is already a mighty task to seek out preventive medicine for our bodies. Our healthcare system works against it, with the incentives pointed towards sick care, and unnecessary drugs and procedures. It is even harder to seek out preventive mental healthcare. Frankly, it is almost never even discussed in this context.
The body and the mind are inextricably linked. The scientific approach to western medicine over the past 100 years has forced us to compartmentalize physical and mental wellness. Ironically, our mental health is governed by our bodies; our neurotransmitters, our hormones, our gut, our metabolic functioning, and many other core physical systems that are critical to how we exist socially in the world and in relationship to ourselves.
We go for a run or eat a healthy, nourishing meal, in order to stay on top of our physical health and wellbeing. What if we apply the same logic of prevention and wisdom to maintaining (and improving) our mental health as well? What would it mean to carve out time in your daily life to proactively and preventively address mental fitness?
There are endless options, most of them best done when personalized to your unique needs and unique body, just as no one diet or exercise routine fits all. But we do all agree on a few core concepts like whole foods, water, sleep, and movement. When it comes to preventive mental healthcare, here are a few universally relevant ways to stay fit.
- Change the types of inputs your mind receives.
If you are chronically feeding your mind with the 24-hour news cycle, or watching disturbing television, or endlessly scrolling, you are doing the equivalent to your brain of eating a Big Mac every afternoon. Get clear on what media inputs are allowed in your life and engineer out the bad stuff.
- Find regular and consistent quiet time to integrate and process your thoughts.
We live in a world that is always on. We need to be strong enough to step away for periods of time for our bodies, minds, and spirits to keep up with the pace.
- Get an accountability partner.
The power of training for athletic endeavors in teams is well-documented and respected. It works because accountability works. Find people or places in your life where you can regularly check in on how you are feeling, processing, and showing up to yourself and your life.
Our bodies are ever-changing and so are our minds. Always on a journey back towards balance and healing. Preventive care is taking the long view. It is the tiny, incremental steps day after day that matter. Our mental health cannot snap into a renewed state overnight, just like we cannot lose 10 pounds the week before our high school reunion. By changing our approach to how we view our mental health, we can unlock access to a lifetime of mental fitness.