In our social media-saturated world, mental health and wellness are often depicted as things that one either has or doesn’t have. If you happen to fall on the “doesn’t” end of the scales, it’s likely that feelings of failure, frustration, resentment, and hopelessness – feelings that should be known as The Four Horsemen of Interpersonal Comparison – are readily knocking at your door. Mental health and wellness aren’t things one is magically imbued with, like good bone structure or amazing hair; learning to attend to and care for your mental wellbeing is a skill. And hallelujah for that, because skills can be taught and learned!
A skillset is defined as the knowledge, abilities and experience needed to perform a task, or the basic knowledge needed to excel in a specific subject matter. Skill sets are often transferable and they are continually developed. As we continue to deepen our knowledge and flex these skills, we eventually develop an expertise. If you’ve taken the time to craft anything in life, you know that expertise takes time, effort, patience and a whole lot of practice.
Our skill sets are seen as assets that can make us money and offer us upward mobility. Our skills hold value – thus, being conscious of what your skills are should be seen as valuable, too. Even when we think we’ve perfected certain skills, we can unlock a new level and find ourselves back at the drawing board. If you’re reading this, you can probably think of several areas of your life in which you’ve worked to perfect your skills – for example, in subjects like coding, weightlifting, parenting, and even mental health.
Mental Health as a skill set
We should all be equipped with the skills needed to maintain our mental health as soon as we can fully process the world around us. Unfortunately, many people only acknowledge or become aware of their mental health in the wake of personal devastation and/or tragedy. Too often, we take the reactive, rather than proactive, approach to mental wellness. How different might things look if we applied our knowledge of skills-based learning to practicing mental wellness?
This approach might give you a better grasp on the warning signs and triggers that can exacerbate mental health challenges. It involves the intentional development of coping skills that can be used on your good, bad, and in between days. It requires you to consciously choose sufficient sleep, a balanced diet, an active lifestyle, and hobbies you enjoy. It asks you to practice patience and grace towards both yourself and others. Most importantly, it means knowing these skills are invaluable assets that nourish your wellbeing when performed intentionally and habitually.
Wellness as a lifestyle
As the pandemic wears on, ongoing and necessary public health measures expose many people to situations linked to poor mental health outcomes, such as isolation, financial pressure, and health anxiety. Ironically what has remained most consistent in the last two years is chronic uncertainty. As we unfortunately contend through these trying times, the best option is to focus on the things in your life that remain within your control.
Leading a wellness-centered lifestyle is a part of a preventive approach to mental health. This means routinely practicing positive mental health techniques that reduce risk and increase protection against life’s stressors. Below are four tactics we can use to regularly invite wellness into our lives:
- Cultivating joy is essential to our existence and can fill our hearts even in the most adverse of circumstances. While we might not feel joy everyday, we can consciously choose to cultivate it. Having joy allows you to see the world differently; it’s a source of inspiration and allows you to see opportunity as endless. Joyful people take on the world and all that it has to offer with a different energy than those who view it from a less positive, lower-energy perspective. Do yourself a favor and cultivate joy in your life today!
- Living intentionally requires making conscious attempts to live according to your personal beliefs and values. What’s essential to this practice is the awareness that it’s your choice and occurring on your terms, which allows you to embrace and commit fully. It’s all about taking the active approach in your friendships, finances, and other personal goals.
- Finding purpose and fulfillment is based on the idea that those who believe they are contributing to the well-being of humanity tend to feel better about their lives. Most people want to be part of something greater than they are, simply because it's fulfilling. Challenge yourself to grow, contribute to others and connect to something larger than yourself.
- Maintaining balance is just what it sounds like! It is the intentional incorporation of everything listed above, in addition to making time for rest. When you prioritize your personal needs, shifts happen and balance ensues.
Lastly, do yourself a favor and become familiar with the dimensions of wellness. Know that your version of wellness will look different from someone else's version of it. Whatever that thing is that makes you laugh, feel connected, or gives you purpose — stick with it. Mental health is all about finding, defining and refining according to your wants, needs, and non-negotiable requirements of life. Just as you perfected the skills needed for using Excel or Photoshop, you can perfect the skills to help you live a satisfying life — one in which you get to not only survive, but thrive.