Maintaining Mental Health: A holistic approach to your mental wellnessMay 01, 2023
Did you know that 2022 data shows:
- 1 in 3 Canadians say they are struggling with their mental health (Angus Reid Institute, 2022)
- 1 in 3 Canadians will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime (Statistics Canada 2022)
- 32 per cent of Canadian aged 18-34 say they need mental health care but can’t access it (Maru Public Opinion, 2022)
- 40 per cent of Canadians aged 18-34 say they feel like they’re at a breaking point mentally (Maru Public Opinion, 2022)
Healthcare systems across the world are finding themselves ill equipped to support the increasing number of people, like those in the statistics above who are facing everyday mental health challenges including stress, burnout, and suicidality. In response to these immense gaps, mental wellness has grown out of a grassroots, consumer-led movement that seeks self-directed, alternative solutions outside of western allopathic medicine, psychiatry, psychology and pharmacology.
What is mental wellness?
While conversations about mental health have replaced conversations about mental illness, mental wellness is still not well defined in popular media. Researchers and academics define it as an active internal process that helps us think, feel, connect, and function so we can build resilience, grow, and flourish. It has been associated with psychological well-being and can include experiences of self-acceptance, growth, purpose, autonomy, environmental mastery, and positive relationships all of which are informed by the yogic limbs of the yamas, niyamas and pratyahara.
This process is grounded in the integrated and holistic nature of our health and well-being, including the fact that our mind affects our body, our consciousness and vice versa. It recognizes that our mental wellness is linked to what we believe and value, and our relationships with ourselves, each other, our environment and the universe.
This means that our approaches to improving out mental wellbeing needs to be personalized in order to embrace and include our diverse intersectional experiences because they are enriched by cultural, social, and religious traditions and contexts.
To engage this dynamic, renewable, and positive resource that encompasses multiple dimensions we must
Mental wellness, mental health, mental illness
Mental wellness is an active process of moving from languishing, to resilience, to flourishing. It is not a static state of being, and requires dedication to a lifelong process and a proactive strategy to strengthen your mental, emotional, social, and psychological resources by taking conscious initiative across multiple dimensions including:
- How you think, process, understand, and use information
- How you feel, manage and express emotions
- How you connect in relationships with others.
- How you act or function, or “put the pieces together” by taking external inputs along with your internal capacity and then making decisions or doing things.
This requires a preventative approach including developing strategies to cope when life is difficult, facing distressing/stressful situations with a mindset shift that increases resilience. The other part requires a deliberate approach of selecting experiences that are deeper, richer, and more meaningful so we can flourish, instead of languish.
Being mentally well is the not the same as not experiencing mental illness. Instead of being opposite ends of the same continuum, there are have a more dynamic relationship as two separate continua that interest, like a cross. This means that mental wellness can exist in the same time as mental illness. As an example, a person with ADHD can still have good relationships, or a person with obsessive compulsive disorder can still feel happy, or someone with anxiety can still function well at a job.
Additionally, maintaining a high level of mental wellness can prevent mental illness, and help manage existing conditions. People who feel like they are "flourishing" while living with mental illness experience better outcomes that those who feel like they are "languishing." For people without mental illness, a shift from flourishing to languishing increases that risk of developing a mental illness unless effort is made to shift towards the flourishing side of the spectrum.
What does being mentally well look like?
Your mental wellness is self-directed, personal and subjective - just like your yoga therapy practice. Maintaining is requires the daily practice of personal agency to cope with regular experiences of stress and to deliberately seek happiness and make choices that support your wellbeing. This can be empowering as you purposefully seek states of peace, joy, happiness, meaning, and purpose and recognize the universal desire for these experiences.
This could look like practicing the niyamas particularly sleep hygiene, nourishing food, appropriate movement practices, meaningful relationships - including with one's self, stress management. These practices are protective factors for mental health, and can help lessen the impact of mental illness symptoms when combined with other therapies.
Bring mentally well can look like tapping into many ancestral, evidence-based complementary modalities that have been around for millennia, and that have operated on the fringes of modern psychology and medicine. It could look like seeking self-care practices that are rooted in a holistic approach that recognizes the mind-body-breath connection, and therefore extends to lifestyle strategies such as nutrition/ayurveda and exercise/yoga.
Holistic Yoga Therapy for Mental Wellness
I approach our work to support your mental wellness and flourishing in the following steps:
- Assessment: In addition to exploring where you are on the mental wellness continuum from languishing to flourishing, we will assess a number of quality of life markers to help determine immediate and long term changes that might be feasible
- Goal review: We will explore your short, medium and long term goals for the practice we will design and do together, as well as how much time you can commit to it
- Practice design to strengthen your mental, emotional, social, and psychological resources through better breathing, reduced nervous tension, improved sleep, lymphatic function, immunity, digestion and elimination which includes trying tools in a morning or evening practice including:
- Prāṇāyāma or mindful breathing
- Dharana or a focused meditation
- Asana or accessible therapeutic movement
- Sound through chanting or humming
- Once distress has been relieved, and flourishing becomes more accessible, we will review the practice and add strengthening components to address experiences of languishing and identifying ongoing ways to iimprove resilience responses.
- Practice testing, where you do your homework by trying to do the practice on a daily basis. We check in regularly to adapt it to suit your life as situations change.
Through your practice you are encouraged to start slowly and begin with a guided breath work practice to calm and centre yourself. As you cultivate resistance and explore how your experience shifts along the mental wellness continuum, you are encouraged to observe how your responses to stressful experiences change, instead of pushing through. This will help reinforce the mindset and restore a sense of meaning and purpose to growth experiences.
Learn more about these five steps to improving your mental wellness and quality of life. They will help you reconnect with your body, breath and mind so you can achieve your goals and feel your best.
Schedule your free no obligation call now and we can explore working together to restore your energy and focus so you can achieve your goals.
Feel more energized, focused and mindful.
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