Last month we opened the door to the physical health component of my four-aspect model of complete wellness. The next aspect, or the next step, in understanding your path to total wellness is mental wellness. Mental wellness may be viewed as KNOWING about yourself, your wellness, and how your behaviors, attitudes, and feelings fit in with becoming and being well.
To step back a moment, we looked at your physical health and the things you do to be healthy and well. Now that you are performing all of your recommended medical screenings, do you know why? You see your dentist twice a year and brush and floss every day…but for what purpose? The folks at the gym see you come in three days each week for an hour each day. Why not two days? How about 45 minutes? Why not 2 hours? Your friends told you to take fish oil to help your cholesterol, so you religiously take it two times every day. What does it do for you? Is it even necessary?
When people I meet ask more about this part of their wellness, one of the first things I will do is take one of their goals or desires and attempt to answer the basic information-gathering questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. For example, answering those questions about a goal or desire can lead you to better understand who is involved, what this means to you or what do you need to succeed, when does this start and/or end, where do you find more information or support or guidance, why should you do the particular activity or why is this important to you, and how will you go about getting this accomplished.
The bottom line is this – we do (or do not do) many different things each day in attempt to better our health and ourselves, but we often cannot answer the question, “Why is this important?” Again, mental wellness is based more upon what you know about your health, your wellness, and yourself as a whole and not necessarily an aspect of behavioral health. Mental wellness is knowledge, and knowledge is power. Knowledge of yourself and your environment leads to better understanding, and better understanding can lead to better motivation and ultimately success. I have come across many clinicians and clients in my career that will always say, “I know exactly what I need to do. I just need to (fill in the blank).” Many of those folks do have the education and awareness, but not necessarily the knowledge of themselves or their desires and motivators. You should strive to answer that age-old question posed by every three year-old, “Why?”
Obviously, knowledge alone is not the only piece of mental wellness. Understanding falls in there on many levels, awareness shows up quite often, and basic education holds a permanent place. Now, that does not mean that a person with an advance college degree has more mental wellness than a person that left school after the sixth grade. It is not as simple as your formal education level, but more so your ability, desire, and achievement of furthering your education on some level. Formal education, both old and new hobbies, taking the time to learn something new, or even doing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper each day add to mental wellness. Idle hands and an idle mind can do irreparable damage to your mental wellness through what I call an “assembly line” lifestyle. We all have met or heard about someone like this – this person will get out of bed at exactly the same time every day and has a morning routine set in stone followed by the same breakfast, same lunch, same supper, and same daily routine. This person gets home from work at the same time every day and has an at-home routine that is not dissimilar from yesterday (or the day before) that ends with the bedtime routine that starts and stops at the same time every evening. Sun comes up, repeat the process… This is a person that I would suggest find a hobby, take dance lessons, or even at least drive a different route to work or home once in a while. Find a way to change what your mind can focus upon at some point during the day, week, or month to encourage growth and advancement in the mental aspect of wellness.
To paraphrase Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Don’t fall into an educational or mental rut. Try different things and do different things – exercise your mind no differently than you would exercise your body.
Campbell County Health's Wellness Services works to reduce health risks and promote overall wellness among employee groups and individuals across the northeastern Wyoming region. To learn more about Wellness, please visit
ccmh.net/Wellness or call 307.688.8051.
This blog was written by Troy Stevens, CCH Wellness Specialist.