What does it take to be mentally healthy? A New Perspective

Mental health awareness has been on the rise in recent years and many people are actively working on improving and balancing their mental health for a better quality of life.

I remember being a teenager with one goal in mind: To become rich and own luxurious materialistic possessions. Somehow my brain associated owning an iPhone or a car to being cool and successful and released dopamine for it.

“But Should life be about these temporary pleasures rather than long-lasting fulfillment?”

As I traveled through my life I realized there’s more to life than these meaningless possessions. I learned the importance of maintaining our inner balance and that happiness comes from within. 

Mental Health – A New Perspective:

Everybody has an understanding of what mental health is and why they practice self-care. 

Imagine mental health as an internal compass that both gives us a direction and in itself is a destination. It isn’t about avoiding any expectations but about learning to be fulfilled with the abundance that the universe has gifted us with. It is about being truly awake and mastering the art of managing the emotions and thoughts that often give us the most pain and suffering. 

Finding and maintaining the balance would ensure a greater quality of life. 

Mental health is not about finding and remaining happy. It is about finding the inner peace.

What do we need to balance to be mentally healthy?

Mental health is never a one-directional process. It requires us to balance certain aspects of our lives to achieve a balanced equilibrium state where we feel good about ourselves and our lives.

Factor 1: Physical Health:

Physical health and mental health has a deep connection and the way we maintain our body will have a drastic effect on our mental health.

Everyone should get their dose of daily exercises done to get the blood flowing

  • Staying active
  • Exercise or Jog
  • Eat perfect Diet
  • Get proper sleep

How does physical activity improve mental health?

  • Endorphins: Physical activity or exercise releases feel-good hormones/endorphins into the bloodstream which helps to improve mood.
  • Self-confidence: I have always felt more confident and secure when I work out. This especially helped when I had major anxiety about work/life. Was a game-changer for me. Research also states that working out helps improve confidence levels.

There are so many mental health benefits that correspond to regular exercise that we can go more in-depth in this article!

Factor 2: Healthy Social Life and Support:

Close your eyes and try to picture some beautiful moments from the past year. What do you think about it?

Do you think about staring at a screen and working? Do you think about the moments you were alone? Or do you think about moments and memories with friends and family? 

Life is about people and relationships. Whether you like it or not! Right?

How does Healthy Social Life improve your mental Health?

  • Stress hormones: Lack of social connections would increase the cortisol levels in our blood which would make us feel stressed
  • Reduced Immunity: Even our immunity is hurt when we lack social connection!
  • Decreases cardiovascular function

After all, what’s the first thing you’d want to do when you achieve a long-term goal? Tell your partner, family, and friends right?

Note: Make sure you pick the right life partner. We spend most of our lives with our partners and the quality of your life is directly proportional to the happiness you have in your marriage.

I also heard in a Ted Talk that they researched individuals for over 70 years and realized that the quality of life is directly proportional to how successful the marriage is. So stop taking your partner for granted and pay more attention to developing the relationship you have with them.

Social Media friends are okay but face-to-face connections matter more:

In the modern world, many people are resorting to social media and avoiding real-time with their friends and acquaintances. But this makes a huge difference as social media interactions lack physical touch and hence limit the emotional depth.

Facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language play pivotal roles in communication, elements that are absent or diluted in the digital realm. Also, we usually project ourselves into their ideal version online and this curated projection can create a false sense of intimacy and stop the development of any true connections.

Forms of connections:

Brene Brown, a social researcher defines connection as the energy between two people when they feel seen, heard, or valued. Which they can give and receive without judgment. When they can drive sustenance and strength from it.

This gives a lifelong sense of safety and support! Also locks our value systems and behavioral habits. Right?

There are three forms of connections:

  • Close Connections:
    •  The inner circle of the top 5 people in your life with whom you have a true connection.
  • Common Clusters:
  • Coincidental Contacts:
    • People we bump into daily. Like our neighbor or the guy at the store! 

Here’s a tip: Connect often with the people in your close connections and express gratitude for their presence in your life. This both improves the relationship and strengthens the connection you have with them.

Factor 3: Financial & Professional Stability:

This point is self-explanatory and the problem is many people spend most of their time trying to win in this factor that they forget the other factors that make you mentally healthy and have a good quality of life.

“Success” is a concept that society preaches and everyone chases whether we like it or not.

What are the factors that help build proper financial and professional stability:

IQ:

  • IQ is something that comes with birth right? Yes, and there are no proven ways to increase the IQ of a person. 
  • Yet our IQ drastically starts declining and falling after the age of 20. To avoid this, one needs to do both aerobic and anaerobic exercises to keep a constant oxygen supply to the brain.

Finding a mentor:

  • Finding a mentor has the power to fast track your career miles ahead. Whatever career dreams you have, it’s important to find someone who is living your dream and request them to mentor you!
  • It’s about identifying opportunities and learning to have the right perspective toward your career and goals
  • Build a relationship with your mentor: One relationship can be a 1000 shallow connections on Linkedin
  • Finding mentors in many people as well. You can

Other tips:

  • OverDeliver: Always deliver more than what you’ve been asked for.
  • Develop these personality traits: Being Proactive, and building social bonds with core people in the company.

Factor 4: Purpose & Meaning –  Sense of Service:

Having a meaning or purpose in life can change our perspective on many hardships that we encounter and it helps us to start living a more conscious and meaningful life 

Our life’s purpose is not about ourselves but the positive impact we can have on others.

Here are 5 key questions to answer to find your purpose:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • Who you do it for
  • What those people want or need
  • How they change as a result

Question: If you can make one positive change in this world/society, what would it be?

Why is it hard to find our purposes lately?

  • Inner connection: A person needs to be connected to their inner selves to be able to discover and live their purpose but in this modern world with so much.

To reconnect with our inner selves we can practice meditation and mindfulness.

Two categories of people lack a sense of purpose:

  • Anti Workgroup
  • Sigma grind folks
  • Technology has externalized our attention and we stopped paying attention to how we feel as we experience the different phases of our lives. 

Some say it’s important to realize some truths of this universe:

  • The truth of cause and effect: every action has a reaction.
  • The law of impermanence: everything is temporary.
  • The law of suffering and attachment: attachment to things leads to suffering.
  • The truth of death: we will all die one day

Learn and accept death, instead of fearing it. Use that fear to live a more fulfilled life. Make every moment count, love deeply, laugh deeply, and be present in the moment. 

It’s about finding a strong reason/ finding something that we feel is worth sacrificing ourselves for.

“If you have nothing greater than yourself to sacrifice for, your life becomes meaningless. If you find something worth sacrificing yourself for, your suffering becomes meaningful”

 Plan a life you’d like to have

  • It’s important to have a vision of what we want our lives to look like. Have a valued goal build motivations around these goals and break these goals into microprocesses. 
  • Be well organized in your life in this way and derive pleasure from moving towards the goal.

Important Point: Do not have vague goals. Having vague goals without specifics would mean that we do not know when we fail. We need to know when we fail. Get over this willful blindness.

  • So make a schedule and stick with it! 

“Schedules are not a prison

  • Set a schedule for a day you want! Not just your work.
  • Find the right ratio of Responsibility: Reward

Factor 5: Emotional Well-Being – Maintaining a positive Mindset:

Balancing the inner self through the various storms of everyday life is key to having good mental health.

Emotional awareness and intelligence are the backbone of a good life. Irrespective of who we are and which part of the world we are from, rich or poor, our life is as good as our ability to manage our thoughts and emotions. 

General advice on how to maintain your emotional well-being:

  • Focus on positive emotions, not the negative:
  • Being stressed has become the new norm in this world – Learn how to deal with stress
  • In every situation in life, your perspective makes all the difference. Have strong perspectives on life and remind yourselves of these perspectives often, especially during tough times
  • Learn to forgive: Carrying around baggage trying to hold grudges and having enemies is not a good way to spend your life. Acknowledge and grieve through the pain and forgive the event/person.

Some Daily habits that can help with this balance:

  • Meditate
  • Being Mindful: Ability to focus on the present
  • Stress – Learning to Relax
  • Health: Eat healthy, exercise, and sleep well
  • Avoid excessive time on social media
  • Practice self-awareness: Being true to yourself!

Additional Factor: 

Are you physically healthy, have a good social support system, financially successful, living a purposeful life and emotionally well, and still feeling something is missing?

Well everyone is made different! You might just have another core value/need that is still not being met. Or you might just value uncertainty in life and might miss that.

Mental Stimulation and Growth: Time and Space for New Things – Exploration:

A need for exploration and mental stimulation is a need that’s core to who we are as living beings. Constantly exploring new challenges and hobbies is good for the brain.

Being stuck in the same routines and cycles is not good in the long term and hence let’s explore this aspect in depth:

  • Satisfying the Curiosity: Psychologist Todd Kashdan talks about the importance of curiosity for the emotional well-being of an individual. Humans are curious beings and satisfying the innate curiosity will lead to a better quality of life.
  • Self-Actualization Needs: In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is a higher-level need that requires us to explore new habits and experiences. If you think about it, it is a journey rather than a destination.
  • Escaping Psychic Entropy: Psychologist Csikszentmihalyi discusses the concept of “psychic entropy,” where repetitive, monotonous activities can lead to boredom and dissatisfaction. 

Other advantages of exploring curiosities:

  • Reduced stress levels in humans
  • Maintains Cognitive functions and presents cognitive decline over time -This promotes Neural growth and connectivity
  • Enhanced creativity – More perspectives and fresh ideas!
  • Enhanced Self-Confidence: People who step out of their comfort zones often have increased confidence and a broader social support network group.

Some recommendations:

  • Journal and reflect as you explore: Journaling helps us reflect and realize the various experiences we have in our lives.
  • Embrace failure: Go at these activities with a light mind to explore rather than trying to succeed at each aspect of life.
  • Read for mental exploration: Reading is an amazing way to explore more ideas and perspectives and we have numerous amounts of books to choose from.

Self Acceptance:

There’s been some news about how following self-help and trying to become the best version of ourselves would make us create checklists. And whenever we don’t hit the checklist we end up feeling miserable again.

It’s important to build a strong knowledge of who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. In this process, understand and accept yourselves for who you are. 

You are a live human being who’s living in a hard world. You will have some days that work for you and some that don’t. It’s important to accept certain facts as such and live with them in peace.

Habits to try to improve Self Acceptance:

  • Self-Compassion: Treat yourselves with kindness and understanding. This involves dealing with your inner critic who has a list of criticisms against you. 
  • Practice Gratitude: Focus on your strengths and positives rather than your negatives and imperfections. Acknowledge and appreciate yourself
  • Let go of comparison: Every person is different with different mindsets, personalities, and needs. No two journeys are equal. Focus on personal growth and strive to improve here rather than getting stuck in the cycle of comparisons

Takeaways:

Lessons:

  • We need to find a balance between the following pillars to be mentally healthy:
    • Physical Health
    • Social Connectivity
    • Financial and Professional Success
    • Purpose and Meaning
    • Emotional Wellbeing/ Mindset

To Practice:

  • Find a mentor for your professional success
  • Exercise for at least 5-10 mins in the morning every day
  • Reach out to your old friends and talk to them once a week
  • Find a strong reason or purpose that you feel is worth sacrificing yourself for and live purposefully
  • Plan a life you’d like to have

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