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What does it mean to practice mental well-being?

You probably already do a lot of things to support your mental well-being! When we practice mental well-being we engage in activities and adopt habits that promote and maintain mental health intentionally and actively. Practicing mental well-being is continuous and there may be times when it is more challenging to do. This is part of the process. Taking small steps and remembering that practice makes progress (not perfection!) can help.

Connection and relationships are what makes human beings – human! Looking inward allows us to gain greater self-awareness that leads to stronger connections with others. Gazing outward allows us to appreciate the perspective of others and empathize with them strengthening bonds or increasing prosocial/positive behavior.

Check-in with yourself – look inward:

   • What are my recurring thoughts? Are they harsh? Kind? Critical? Have they changed from                         encouraging (e.g., I can do this) to discouraging (e.g., this is impossible)?                     • When was the last time I was outside? Being in natural environments, like parks, forests, or green spaces, can increase feelings of relaxation, cognitive function and enhance mood.       • How long have I been on my phone, computer or other digital device today? Have I set any limits on my phone usage? Stress, anxiety and sleep disturbances are all associated with usage of digital devices, such as cell phones. Stress can increase due to overwhelming amounts of   information and constant notifications and messages. Social media can connect us with others,       but also leads to comparisons and creates unrealistic expectations. Sleep patterns can be                   disturbed by blue light emitted by screens and notifications waking us unnecessarily.                      • Have I sought support from family, friends and/or a mental health professional?                             • Is something bothering you and repetitively showing up in your thoughts?                  • Have you been engaged in any conversations with real connection to let someone know when you're struggling? Talking about how you feel and being vulnerable with others can be beneficial to your well-being: Emotional connection grows relationships. Vulnerability can encourage empathy and compassion which can be comforting. Self-awareness and personal      growth may occur from acknowledging and sharing vulnerabilities. This also challenges the           notion of “perfection” and contributes to the reduction of stigma.                                             • Am I setting healthy boundaries with others?

Check-in with others – gaze outward:

                  • Ask how they are doing & listen to the answer (without distractions!).                        • Notice non-verbals (e.g., facial expressions, eye contact) and respond accordingly. For example, if a family member seems disengaged, fidgety or not how they usually seem ask if they are ok.     • Consider the impact of tech and social media on others. Our cell phones often hijack our brains, and this can disrupt in-person connections with others. For example, if your child is attempting to share their day with you and a text or other notification comes through and diverts your attention to your phone, consider how it feels for your child. There is the potential for sharing to stop as your child notices something else taking your attention in another direction. Letting your child know, “Hey, I really want to give you my attention, but I need to respond to this text. Do you mind if I take a minute to do that before you tell me the rest of what you were saying?” can be useful. Your child can learn that you have other responsibilities but that you also care about your time with them. And, letting them know what you're doing invites them to learn about you. Also, consider waiting to answer the text if it is not urgent (most texts are not!) and be in the moment. This example could also be relevant to situations where a friend, spouse or partner is present (rather than a child) and the same approach applies. We have to work a little harder at being present with others (especially friends and loved ones) now that devices, typically through texts or other alerts/notifications, are grabbing our attention incessantly!              

Demonstrate compassion for the self & others: 

Everyone is going through something and, often, many things at once. And, many of our experiences and challenges are internal. Many of our experiences and challenges are internal. You can’t tell what someone is going through by looking at them. Compassion can manifest in our thoughts, behaviors and actions. It is an ongoing practice in that there may be times when it is easier to be compassionate and times when it’s more difficult.  

              • Speak with kindness (toward others and in how you speak to yourself).                                                                 • Apologize when you’ve made a mistake.                                                                               • Listen with compassion prioritized over judgment.                                                                                          • Encourage other people.                                                                                                               • Offer to help with a task.                                                                                                     • Be happy for someone else’s success.                                                                                                • Accept people for who they are.                                                                       • Forgive people (and yourself!) when mistakes are made (we all make them!).             • Let go of what you can’t control. 

Mon, February 26 2024 17 Adar I 5784