Updated: Jun 16
Mental Health vs. Mental Wellness
There is a need to distinguish these two terms that are sometimes used interchangeably but do not mean the same thing.
Mental wellness is not just the absence of mental illness. Mental wellness is the active and continued pursuit of a lifestyle that optimizes the mind and the body for everyday life.
Mental health is a state of being free from illness or injury (Oxford Dictionary). Health is the current status quo and can change based on an injury, trauma, or decline. One can say, "I am in good health," but not necessarily claim wellness.
let's dissect mental wellness
Mental wellness encompasses everyone, regardless of whether one is diagnosed with a mental illness or not. Just because one is not diagnosed with a mental illness does not mean that one is mentally well. Some individuals do not have a mental illness but are stressed, have negative attitudes, and have residual mental blocks. Others are overwhelmed by life demands, do not have healthy relationships, struggle with substance abuse, or have difficulty coping with setbacks or loss. Alternately, others lack awareness of strengths and weaknesses, have harmful eating habits, do not exercise, and prioritize rest. They lack mental wellness.
Similarly, one can be mentally well despite being diagnosed with a mental illness. Mental wellness can come about as the mentally ill diagnosed individual pursues wellness and techniques to help them get better or manage their condition.
The individual might pursue the following:
- Counseling, which helps to alter false beliefs
- Improving their nutrition
- Increase engagement in interests or hobbies
- Being a part of a support group
- Having a confidant or mentor
- Increasing their social interaction
- Adopting a religious or spiritual practice
- Streamlining routines and roles to lessen demands or stress
- Make sure to get enough rest
- Volunteer work/giving back.
Mental wellness should be a priority for everyone and here are the reasons why:
1. Helps us cope with life
Going after mental well-being by adopting healthy mental practices and attitudes helps us face setbacks in life. We can better manage circumstances and respond instead of reacting to them, realizing that we always have the power to choose how we interact with our world. This realization empowers us to take responsibility for ourselves. While there may be times when things happen that are out of our control, we are better able to accept things as they are, process them, and eventually, let go and move on.
2. Sheds light on our strengths and weaknesses - helping us to make goals and have positive pursuits
Pursuing mental wellness opens one up to being self-aware. Self-awareness is key to accessing our strengths for our endeavors and benefit those around us and
those we serve. Mental wellness will help us handle our shortcomings, be open to constructive feedback, and be able to repel or “not hold on” to negative criticism. When we know who we are and what we want, we can develop goals that will add richness, depth, and meaning to our lives. We begin to see and accept ourselves and hopefully desire to achieve our potential.
3. Maintains balance so that we can learn and grow
Mental wellness entails the art of balancing daily demands and rest. We have plenty of obligations that are vying for our attention. To fulfill these obligations, we generally need to be able to apply various levels of cognitive, physical, and social skills - depending on our environment. Sleep provides rest. Active participation in interests or hobbies gives relaxation. Rest helps us rejuvenate or re-energize to undertake life’s challenges. Balancing these two aspects is vital for performance, participation, productivity, or overall quality of life.
4. Improves the ability to form and maintain healthy relationships
When one has mental well-being, they can connect with others, develop healthy relationships and boundaries, and give back to society. One can seek help from others without feelings of inadequacy, failure, or shame. Healthy relationships can support those with mental illness. Mental wellness helps us see people as fellow sojourners in this world. We develop more kindness, compassion and desire good things for ourselves and others. A human connection realizes that we all want a life filled with joy, meaning, and purpose.
5. Can serve to prevent mental illness or mitigate the effects of mental illness
“A mental illness is a condition that affects a person's thinking, feeling, behavior or mood. These conditions deeply impact day-to-day living and may also affect the ability to relate to others.” Mental Health Conditions
A lifestyle that embraces positive stimuli both mentally and physically can stave off mental illness. For example, social interaction holds back isolation because isolation can lead to depression. It is not to say that if you do all the things that foster mental wellness, you cannot have a mental illness, or this is a "cure-all." Sometimes medication management is necessary. However, as mentioned earlier in this post, those with mental illness can actively engage in mental wellness routines to help manage their condition.
6. Promotes healthy participation and enjoyment of daily life
Mental wellness helps us see and appreciate the fullness of life. Everyone must pursue or engage in mental wellness to some capacity, whether physical, cognitive, or mental limitations are present. The “going after” mental wellness has many rewards. Benefits include improved self-awareness, our ability to think - to tackle our roles and routines, regulation of our emotions and behavior, our ability to cope with demands and setbacks, healthy social interactions, and rejuvenation. These rewards tend to give us a zest for life. This zeal for life reveals our empathy, creativity, productivity, and generosity.
Occupational therapists (OTs) work with various people and in different settings to promote health and wellness. OTs identify hindrances that affect performance and participation in daily life. They work with the client to solve problems and enable improvement or return to engagement in meaningful activities. Health Promotion Fact Sheet