Improving Your Whole Health One Small Step at a Time
“May is Mental Health Month!” This annual event was started by the Mental Health Association in Indian River County’s national organization, Mental Health America, in 1949. Its purpose has always been to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone. This year the focus of the campaign is about having a healthy lifestyle to prevent the emergence or worsening of mental health or physical health conditions. As the Executive Director of the Mental Health Association in Indian River County I am thrilled to be able to tell you about whole health and how to achieve it. There will be three more articles written by our staff over the next three weeks which will dive deeper into the topic of whole health.
We achieve whole health by eating healthy foods, exercising, getting enough sleep, managing stress, having healthy interpersonal relationships and staying intellectually stimulated. Research has shown that young people with the healthiest diets are about half as likely to have depression. In another study one-third of participants with depression experienced full relief of their symptoms after improving their diet. We know that exercising and controlling weight improves our chances of living longer. Exercising strengthens our bones and muscles and improves our mental health. Pay attention to sleep habits. Getting the right amount of sleep improves our mood and our ability to learn. It also positively impacts our immune system.
All of us have read about how stress negatively impacts our health. As life stress increases our bodies release chemicals that cause increases in blood pressure and heart rate. Stress is associated with immune system problems and high levels of stress create anxiety and depression. Also thereis recent evidence that intellectual stimulation and socialization keep us mentally sharp and may have an inoculating effect against the development of dementia. Need I say any more about mind and body interaction, and its impact on our overall health?
Living a healthy lifestyle is not easy. Many of us have tried and failed in the past. If we start by trying to make small positive changes, celebrating the progress we make, and acknowledge that some setbacks are inevitable as we try to change the manner in which we are accustomed to doing things, we can begin to experience good mental and physical fitness.
So here are a few ideas about how to get started. Identify ten to twenty minutes a day for quiet reflection to unwind from ongoing stress. Use the time to listen to music, relax, meditate, or take a walk outside. Make sure you get seven to nine hours of sleep at night and try to exercise at least two and one-half hours a week. Try Identifying one thing you want to change about your eating habits and commit to making the change for at least a month.Take the whole health challenge! Challenge yourself to make changes every day to improve your whole health. Go to www.mhairc.org every day during the month of May for our daily whole health tip.
If you have been taking steps to live a healthy lifestyle but still feel you are struggling with mental health issues, visit www.mhascreening.orgto learn more about your symptoms.Taking a mental health screening is a quick way to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.It is free, confidential and anonymous.
If you have been struggling with significant mental health issues for quite some time and feel you are in need of urgent assistance you can go to the Mental Health Association Walk-In and Counseling Center Monday through Friday at 820-37thPlace in Vero Beach for a free mental health screening and consultation. Call 772-569-9788 for hours of operation. If you need immediate assistance go to the emergency department at Indian River Medical Center, call 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. It’s Okay to Get Help!