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The Importance of Taking Good Care of Our Mental Health
By taking the active decision to join Puerfons as a member, it is one of your top priorities to feel well, physically obviously, but also mentally. However, while there is a common understanding of what is meant by physical health, for many of us mental health is more difficult to grasp. This is our topic for this month.
Strong mental health is not just the absence of mental health problems. Mental health is overwhelming because it influences how we think, feel, and behave in daily life. Just as physically healthy people are better able to recover from illness or injury, people with strong mental health are better able to bounce back from adversity, trauma, and stress. They can maintain a positive outlook in front of setbacks or an uncertain future for instance.
But what “feeling well” means varies for each of us. We all need different things to feel our best. For some of us going to a funny movie, taking a walk on the beach, listening to classic music, doing yoga, reading a good book or playing with our children can be such good habits. More generally, making leisure time one of your priority, exercising more and opening up to people are recommended recipes.
Mental health awareness is important, and we have to be conscious that mental health can, and relatively often does, go wrong. Roughly a quarter of the population regularly struggle with it. It can be anxiety disorders (such as panic disorders for instance) or mood disorders (also called depression). Research is starting to uncover the complicated causes of these diseases, which can include genetics, brain chemistry, brain structure, experiencing trauma and/or having another medical condition, like heart disease. Stigma against mental illness is still powerful though, largely due to stereotypes and lack of education.
From science we now know that there are tips and techniques which improve our mental health. Stanford’s neurologist Dr. Andrew Huberman for instance advocates gratitude (that is the “feel good” or “feel capable” types of sensations), breathing techniques to remain calm, the acceptance of uncertainty, the habit of good sleep and the wrongdoings of too much time spent in front of a screen. He points out also that exposure to more lights during the day (particularly in the morning) is critical for healthy sleep patterns. Many practices are actually accessible to all of us. One of them is the “five minutes of stillness” practice. Meditation or mindfulness has been called as a push-up for the brain as found by researchers in Harvard. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brain they have shown how quickly subjects practicing short sequences of meditation can disengage from negative thoughts.
Although it is still difficult to understand how our brain functions, it is so rewarding to think that there are now tools, which can become habits, that will help us to be more comfortable in our mind and our body. In other words, it depends also on ourselves to learn how to feel good!
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