“If health is the new wealth, then mental wellness sits at the core of our personal health portfolio.” — The Global Wellness Institute
Happy 2021! The new year brings hope for better days, a chance for a fresh start and some social distancing from the disaster that was 2020. For many of us, the stress, anxiety, loss, loneliness and economic uncertainty experienced in 2020 won’t vanish overnight. 2020, the year history will remember and we want to forget, has humbled us and revealed an uncomfortable truth about mental wellness— You don’t have to be mentally ill to be mentally unwell. I learned this at the Global Wellness Summit, where I attended as a member of the press. The international gathering of thought leaders and visionaries explored the conundrum of mental health and an escalating mental health crisis.
“Not having a diagnosis doesn’t mean you are mentally well,” notes Katherine Johnston, Senior Research Fellow, Global Wellness Institute, US. “People are desperate for strategies to improve their mental health.”
Johnston is the co-author of the Global Wellness Report, “Defining the Mental Wellness Economy.” The report notes that “In 2020, COVID-19 has accelerated the deterioration of our collective mental health and well-being. The pandemic has exposed the wide gap between mental health needs and mental health resources, as well as our vulnerability to mental distress even when we do not have a diagnosed mental illness.”
As we make our New Year’s resolutions, I pledge to prioritize my mental wellness and learn how to better care for my emotional wellbeing. Like many of you, I too am struggling to recover from the fallout of 2020 personally and professionally. I’ve been feeling stuck, hopeless, and restless. I’ve watched otherwise resilient friends and family members struggle with depression and anxiety. I’ve watched relationships crumble under the stress of too much togetherness because of self quarantines, working from home and economic stress. So, how do we push forward in 2021 with mental fortitude?
Understand The Concept of Mental Wellness:
First, understand the concept of mental wellness to assess your own state of well-being. Ophelia Yeung, Senior Research Fellow, Global Wellness Institute, US explains mental wellness as an internal resource that helps us think, feel, connect, function, build resilience grow and flourish. “Mental wellness emphasizes our capacity to build resilience to reduce suffering to find inner peace, and fulfillment to seek purpose, meaning and happiness to connect with others,” Yeung says.
According to the GWS report, mental wellness encompasses four dimensions of human life: mental (how we process, understand, and use information); emotional (how we manage and express our feelings); social (how we connect with others); and psychological (how we function or “put the pieces together” to make decisions or do things).
Pathways to Mental Wellness:
As part of my New Year’s resolution to nurture my mental wellness, I’m learning new practices to embrace in daily life. I’ve realized that mental wellness is not about chasing happiness. It’s an on-going process that seeks a more meaningful richer and deeper human experience. I discovered the work of Anna Bjurstam, a wellness consultant and guest speaker at the Global Wellness Summit. During the event, she shared seven daily actions that foster mental wellness.
7 Mental Wellness Boosters:
- Connect with nature
- Move for 30 minutes
- Eat foods that heal and nurture
- Get a good nights sleep
- Hydrate more
- Listen to your heart more than your brain
The path to mental wellness is personal and subjective because each of us has different needs and interests when it comes to supporting our mental wellness. To help us figure out what works best to foster our wellbeing, GWS outlines four broad pathways to mental wellness: activity and creativity; growth and nourishment; rest and rejuvenation; and connection and meaning.
It’s hard to say when life will return to normal or even what the definition of “normal” will be in the coming months. There is so much we cannot control at the moment, but we can feel empowered by taking control of our mental wellness. We can build resilience to everyday mental and emotional challenges including stress, burnout, loneliness, or sadness by developing healthy habits for the mind and body.
Let’s start off the new year with a new mindset and practices to keep us positive and help us survive AND thrive in 2021.