In recent years, researchers have emphasized that mental health is just as important as physical health when it comes to a person’s overall wellbeing. Our mental health encompasses our psychological, emotional and social well-being and this can impact how we think, feel and behave every day. Mental health strengthens our ability to have healthy relationships, maintain our physical health, make good decisions and reach our fullest potential. Understanding the foundations to good mental health will help you feel happier and more fulfilled in your life. A formula to achieving positive mental health is recognizing the three pillars of mental health which are mental flexibility, mindfulness, and resilience.
Mental flexibility is the ability to adjust your thinking and behavior quickly in order to deal with various circumstances differently. Being able to adapt to new or complex situations is an important mechanism to getting unstuck from old habits as well as being able to let go of emotional baggage and resentments. Staying flexible from life’s inevitable surprises will serve you well in achieving emotional wellbeing.
One way to improve your mental flexibility is to first become aware of when you are getting stuck in your thinking. When you realize that you are telling yourself that you “can’t do something” is when you need to pivot and reset your mindset to tell yourself that “maybe you can.” Processing and letting go of grudges and resentments will also keep you moving forward in your life and not stuck in your past.
Mindfulness is a mindset achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, as well as the ability to acknowledge and accept your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. Mindfulness grounds you in the present moment, which can enable you to navigate and manage your unruly thoughts and emotions better.
One mindfulness strategy is the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique. This technique entails noticing 5 things that you see around you, 4 things you can feel such as your back against the chair or your hair on your neck, 3 things you can hear, 2 things that you can smell and 1 thing you can taste like toothpaste from brushing your teeth or a cup of coffee you drank. Practicing this exercise will ground you to the present moment as well as settle your cluttered mind that can easily be littered with worries and perseverating.
Resilience is the capacity to recover swiftly from difficult situations or experiences in your life. The ability to bounce back from hardships and learn from these experiences is a necessary tool to enable us to move forward. Not allowing yourself to be paralyzed by life challenges will also build mental toughness and a strong character. One way to begin building resilience is to recognize the lessons that can be learned from difficult situations in life. Reframing your thinking to a growth mindset will enable you to overcome your difficult experiences. It is often our hardships which make us stronger individuals and successful at conquering our fears.
Understanding the three pillars of mental health and striving to incorporate them into your life will dramatically improve the health of your mental and emotional wellbeing. With these three pillars of mental health, you will build a strong foundation to an empowered life filled with purpose and meaning. Practicing ways to become more mentally flexible, incorporating mindfulness techniques into your daily life and building your resilience to life’s difficult problems will most definitely lead you to a healthier and more content life. Making a commitment to tend to your mental health and seeing it as an important aspect of your overall health will perhaps inspire others to do the same.
Your inspiration of others may contribute to the breaking down of the stigma that has led to the suppression of positive mental health in previous generations. About the stigma surrounding mental health, Glenn Close, the American actress and cofounder of Bring Change to Mind, a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging dialogue about mental health, said it best: “What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.” There is no time like the present to get the conversation going and build our pillars to better mental health.