August is National Wellness Month. While we’re still in a pandemic, it’s a good time to focus on staying healthy—both physically and mentally.
According to the Global Wellness Institute, there are two main facets to wellness. For one, it is “an active pursuit that is associated with intentions, choices and actions as we work toward an optimal state of health.”
Secondly, wellness is not only about physical wellbeing; it includes mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental health. Some definitions also include financial, professional, and intellectual health. The wellness philosophy recognizes that we need to take care of our whole selves in order to feel balanced.
Recently a doctor asked me how often I participate in activities that put me into a “flow state,” the feeling of total immersion. He said anything I can do to lower stress will boost health. It was one of the first times a medical professional asked about these parts of my life. In our society, we still tend to treat physical and mental health as separate.
Mental health—which is affected by a person’s environment, personal life, social activities, and other factors mentioned above—impacts physical health. Several studies have shown that stress weakens the immune system.
Physical health, in turn, affects mental health. The rate of Depression is two times higher in people with Diabetes than in the general population.
In her book Sick, Porochista Khakpour talks about how living with undiagnosed late-stage Lyme Disease caused Anxiety, paranoia, Depression, PTSD, and a general sense of mental unwellness. In the years between her first symptoms and diagnosis, she developed an addiction to Benzos. People who are suffering mentally or physically may use substances to escape.
Wellness is about prioritizing your health not only when you’re sick, but all the time. The word “self-care” is often overused, but wellness is the best embodiment of the concept I’ve seen. It’s caring for yourself in every aspect of your life.
But sometimes this can seem overwhelming. If people try to make sweeping changes they can burn themselves out. National Wellness Month is an opportunity to take small actions that add up.
A simple thing that many people skip over is to drink more water. I have an app called MyWater that reminds you to drink water throughout the day. When you set it up, you provide your weight and level of physical activity, and it calculates how much water you should be drinking. Apart from the reminders, you log your intake so you can track how much you’re drinking.
Another thing many people don’t think about is the impact all our screen time has on our eyes. Try taking breaks from screens altogether. If you can’t, take a few moments every hour or so to look away from the screen and rest your eyes.
Meditation is another great thing to add to your routine. Whenever mental health is the topic, it will inevitably come up. But at the risk of sounding cliché, meditation really does have innumerable physical and mental health benefits.
It can seem unattainable, like you have to sit still for long stretches of time until you make it to some mythological moment of pure inner peace. I know I’ve felt that way before. But I’ve learned that if your mind wanders when you meditate, that’s all the more reason to do so. Meditation isn’t the absence of wandering thoughts; it’s learning to sit with them.
Often I set an alarm for 3 or 4 minutes and just stare out the window. That’s meditation. Other times I use a guide. Check out this list of guided meditation resources we’ve shared, each of which have ones ranging from a few minutes to over an hour.
There are the things people always mention, too—exercising, eating more fruits and veggies, getting better sleep—but I wanted to focus on simple changes that have big returns. Wellness is about recognizing that these small things add up to a better quality of life.
If you are struggling with your mental health or substance use, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers specializes in co-occurring mental health disorders—treating not just your addictions, but any mental health disorders. We help you understand the underlying causes of your substance use, while promoting wellbeing in all aspects of your life. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.