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. It is the active and continued pursuit of a lifestyle the brings about optimal functioning in the mind and the body for everyday life. BrainWings, LLC| Occupational Therapy & Wellness for Adolescents
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 they are mentally well. There are individuals who do not have a mental illness but are stressed, have negative attitudes, residual mental blocks, are overwhelmed by life demands, do not have healthy relationships, struggle with substance abuse, have difficulty coping with setbacks or loss, lack awareness of strengths and weaknesses, have deleterious eating habits, do not exercise, and do not make rest and relaxation a priority. They lack mental wellness.
Similarly, one can be mentally well despite being diagnosed with a mental illness. This can come about as the mentally ill diagnosed individual pursues wellness and techniques to help him or her get better or to manage their illness. Solutions the individual might pursue besides counseling or medication include altering false beliefs, exercising, improving their nutrition, engaging more 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, making sure to get enough rest, and 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 attitude, helps us to face setbacks in life. We are better able to manage circumstances and respond instead of react to them. Realizing that we always have the power to choose how we interact with our world and all its' stimuli, 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 be self-aware. Self-awareness is key to accessing our strengths for our own personal endeavors as well as to benefit those around us and
those we serve. Mental wellness will help us handle our shortcomings, be open to constructive feedback, while at the same time being able to repel or “not hold on” to negative criticism. When
we know who we are and what we want, then we are better equipped to come up with 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 and relaxation. We have plenty of obligations that are vying for our attention. In order to be able to fulfill these obligations, we generally need to be able to apply various levels of cognitive, physical, and social skills - depending on our environment. Rest is found in sleep and relaxation in active participation of interests or hobbies. Rest and relaxation help us rejuvenate or reenergize so that we can undertake life’s challenges. The ability to balance these two aspects is important 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, he/she is able to connect with others, develop healthy relationships and boundaries, and the ability to give back to the society. One is able to 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 for others. There is a human connection that 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. This is not to say that if you do all the things that foster mental wellness, you cannot have a mental illness or that it 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 illness.
6. Promotes healthy participation and enjoyment of daily life
Mental wellness helps us see and appreciate the fullness of life. It is most important that everyone, whether they have physical, cognitive, or mental limitations, pursue or engage in mental wellness to some capacity. 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 shows up in our empathy, creativity, productivity, and generosity.
Occupational therapists (OTs) work with a variety of 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 problem solve and to enable improvement or return to engagement in meaningful activities. Health Promotion Fact Sheet