Being healthy matters. Your health directly affects your quality of life, and the better your health, the longer and happier your life will be. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, not smoking, and getting out and exercising every day are all lifestyle choices with obvious health advantages that will improve your quality of life. When it comes to health, we often think first of physical health… and we don’t always give mental health the attention that it needs.
You know that fast food and junk food are bad for you and you can choose to make better decisions about what you eat. You know that smoking leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, and cancer, and you can choose not to smoke. You know that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for you health, and you can get up and move around to stay fit. But what about that stress and anxiety from a looming deadline, or a family crisis? What action can you take to cope with that?
Feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and sadness are a part of the human existence, and many people accept these feelings without taking any action. Sometimes people hesitate to admit that they’re not feeling mentally healthy because of the stigma that is often still associated with mental health troubles. People may figure that everyone feels the way they do, or they may think they could just snap out of their bad moods if they have the right attitude. Maybe they’ve grown up with the attitude that complaining about feelings shows a lack of character, or they believe that positive thinking is under their control.
But mental health is just as important to your happiness, productivity, and overall quality of life as physical health. And there is evidence that mental health issues may be no more under your control than physical health issues.
Research on happiness suggests that as much as 40% of your tendency toward cheerfulness may be genetic. Only about 10% of Americans’ sense of well being seems to depend on circumstances. The good news: that means that as much as half of your level of happiness could be affected by your lifestyle choices.
- Some actions associated with better mental health:
- Regular exercise, especially outdoors
- Pleasant interactions with other people
- Finding meaningful work, whether as a professional or a volunteer
- Intentionally helping others
- Making an effort to see the positive side
You know that your physical health is important, but your mental health is important too. In the same way that you make efforts to improve and maintain your physical health, you should do what’s necessary to maintain good mental health. For some people this is as simple as reflecting on issues, relaxing, and staying positive, but for some, a cheerful attitude isn’t enough. If you are dealing with mental health issues, contact a knowledgeable mental healthcare professional.