We in the United States love to chase after happiness. After all, it’s part of that American Dream, right? By improving your mental health, you can give your body and mind the chance to feel happy more often, live more fully in the present moment, and lead a more enriching life.
Today, we discuss how feeling good is often a matter of mental wellness.
Key Points of Discussion
- We’ll take a look at why mental health is important.
- We’ll discuss what happens in your body that makes you feel happy.
- Then we’ll give you some simple tips for how you can improve your mental health.
Why Mental Health Is Important
Mental health is important because it affects all aspects of our productivity, our physical comfort, our ability to achieve successes great or small, how we build and maintain relationships, and even how we choose to spend our time.
Every single part of your day is influenced by the current state of your mental health. It’s as crucial to your health as the beating of your heart and the synapses firimg in your brain. So, why, then, is it almost taboo to discuss our mental health as openly and honestly as we would, say, our kidney health, heart health, or any other health condition?
While we, as a society, have made great strides in addressing mental health and mental wellness in a more public manner, your own personal mental wellness begins with how you care for yourself at home and in your doctor’s office.
How Mental Wellness Impacts Your Overall Health
Your mental wellness is the foundation for improved health. There have been extensive medical studies covering mental health, how it affects your body’s ability to fight off disease, and even how poor mental health affects your likelihood to develop addiction disorders or get stuck in a trap of poor work performance or low wages. Meditation research as recent as 2017 determined that “The baseline value of mental health has a statistically significant and positive direct effect on present physical health.”
We know that our mental health has significant effects on our physical health and our quality of life, but how can we improve our mental health and make lasting changes that will positively impact our lives, our relationships with family members or loved ones, and – let’s be honest here – make us feel happy? Let’s take a look at that – what exactly happens in the body when we feel happy and how we might be able to increase the likelihood of that happening.
What Makes You Feel Happy?
Would it surprise you to know that feeling happy is quite a biological process? Neuroscience explains it as a process of chemical signaling in the brain through the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and other brain chemicals like endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin.
The good news is that because we know these chemicals influence how we feel, happiness can be “prompted” within the brain by doing activities that release these chemicals. Fun side fact: there are even areas of the brain designed to process humor and jokes. Dean Burnett, stand-up comic, neuroscientist, and author of Happy Brain: Where Happiness Comes From, and Why, explains that “we have parts of our brains devoted to understanding jokes – namely, the temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes, from which laughter originates.”
So, how might one stimulate this brain activity and prompt feelings of happiness? First, address biological and emotional factors that may impair these activities.
Mental Health Conditions
There are a lot of things out of your control. Like your genetic predisposition to develop certain mental health disorders. Also, trauma, which has a lasting impact on both your mental and physical health. And mental illnesses, physical illnesses, or learning disabilities you may have.
While, yes, there are things that are out of your control, there’s so much more help available to us today. People with mental illnesses are living longer and happier lives with medication, treatment, and therapy. People who are isolated due to physical illnesses or limitations have the world at their fingertips with technology that opens up opportunities to meet social and cognitive needs.
Mental illness is no longer a one-way trip to the psych ward, and modern medical science is far closer to understanding why the brain functions in the myriad ways it does. Social stigmas are disintegrating. Wellness, mental as well as physical, is becoming more mainstream and widely celebrated.
Mental health conditions are similar to physical ailments in a lot of ways – but like your twisted ankle or your sore kidney, some things simply must be addressed by a licensed professional. Therefore, as you likely already know, if you have concerns about your mental health, your stress and how that’s impacting your health, your cognitive function or memory, and how that’s impacting your day-to-day function – then make that appointment to have a heart-to-heart with your doctor.
There’s no time like right now to take care of your own mental health and make it a priority. Your mental health is important – and it’s time for you to start prioritizing it as you would any other health concern.
Mental Health Resources
Mental Health Hotline: 866-903-3787
Suicide Prevention Hotline (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline): 1-800-273-8255
Or Text GO to 741741 to reach a trained Crisis Counselor through Crisis Text Line, a global not-for-profit organization. Free, 24/7, confidential.
Tips for Improving Your Mental Health
Mental health and daily mental wellness is important for everyone, with or without a diagnosed mental health condition. Every single human being has mental wellness needs, and it is not a selfish act to prioritize these needs or to work hard to maintain mental wellness.
“Feel Happy” Goals for Maintaining Mental Wellness Include:
- Improving your relationships with your spouse, partner, family members, friends, classmates, or your children.
- Finding and fulfilling purpose in your life.
- Improving your performance on the job or at school.
- Creating a life for yourself where you feel happy, safe, and productive.
- Working on management of mental disorders, learning disabilities, social anxieties, or other mental health issues.
- A desire to live more in the present moment and let go of emotional baggage that’s holding you back.
Those are some pretty ambitious goals, but here are some easy tips that anyone can use to live a more fulfilling life, make mental health a priority, and to feel happy more often, knowing that you are taking the best care of your mental health that you can.
Educate Yourself on Mental Health Issues
The National Institute of Mental Health is a great place to start. NIMH can help you with all sorts of information like various types of mental illnesses or mental health conditions. Aside from keeping up to date on the latest mental health news and mental health research, NIMH works hard to provide a comprehensive reference page on mental health topics and how they apply to certain parts of the population – for example, single mothers, teenagers, or the elderly.
Educating yourself on all aspects of mental health can help you to not only be informed but also to approach your mental health as you would any other aspect of your health. Knowledge is empowering.
Make Every Day Mental Health Day
Practice activities each day that either remove obstacles to your mental health or stimulate brain activities that support feelings of happiness, wellness, and safety. Feel happy more often with these strategies and tips:
- Get stress under control.
- Get regular exercise. (This helps stimulate endorphins!)
- Get healthy and regular sleep.
- Remove yourself from toxic relationships or part ways with a toxic work environment.
- Take a vacation – studies show that vacation days affect our happiness.
- Take CBD. Preliminary research may indicate that CBD can help with mood regulation.
- Spend time with loved ones or family members that bring you comfort and joy.
- Live in the present moment with a regular meditation and mindfulness practice.
- Spend time in nature! Take walks, visit parks, or go on a drive on a nice afternoon.
- Explore hobbies, take up a new creative skill, or express yourself through art. Curious people are happier people!
- Listen to music that gives you positive vibes.
- Cut down on stimulants like caffeine and nicotine.
- Make a little time each day to do something fun!
- Practice daily self care.
- Get therapy to help you process traumas that may be keeping happiness at bay.
- It may sound obvious – but make it a daily practice to do those unique activities that make you feel happy. Life can get to be “all about the grind” and you need to take the time to feel happy!
Feel Happy More Often
You can feel happy more often when you place your mental health at the top of your priorities list. Keeping mentally healthy is a practice – just like your exercise routine keeps your body more healthy, a regular self-care practice can help shape your mental wellness. For more mental wellness tips, follow our health and wellness blog.