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Six Areas to Improve for Optimal Mental Health

Did you know that mental health can be viewed as a spectrum of well-being?

Carl Hanson giving a BYU Forum Address
Photo by Brooklynn Jarvis Kelson/BYU

Recently, public health professor Dr. Carl Hanson gave a forum address at BYU about mental health where he taught the difference between mental illness and mental health. Did you know that mental health can be viewed as a spectrum of well-being? Each of us dwells at a point between flourishing (optimal well-being) and languishing (poor mental health). Daily stressors and major life events and experiences can influence our emotional well-being and affect our levels of mental health. Dr. Hanson mentioned six areas to tend to for optimal wellness:

  1. Spiritual,
  2. Social,
  3. Intellectual,
  4. Financial,
  5. Physical,
  6. And finally, Emotional.

Quoting BYU professor Dr. Justin Dyer, Hanson taught that one way to increase our overall well-being is to believe that you are loved, specifically by God. Trusting that you are able to be loved can “lift you higher” and increase the hope you have in the world. Other ways are to find quiet moments and methods to feel God’s love and dive into a religious community. Surrounding yourself with people who are striving towards being better can encourage and inspire you to continue forward - day by day.

The people you surround yourself with, how many, and how often all contribute to your level of well-being as well. It’s understandably difficult to be social if you are more comfortable on your own. Angela Blomquist, director of BYU’s Student Connection and Leadership Center was quoted giving this advice: “We are all social by nature … volunteering is a great way to have a higher sense of purpose, increased social skills, and increased self-esteem.” If you’re wondering how to gain a support system of good-natured people, getting involved in your community - whether it's your campus or cul-de-sac - is a good place to start.

To continue growing is to continue learning. To start thinking that you’ve learned all that there is to know could potentially lead to expecting yourself to be a finished project - but you are not finished. Setting goals creates a sense of purpose and inspires awe in the world around you. The tips given to increase intellectual wellness were:

  • Be curious
  • Be a good listener
  • Ask good questions

One stressor that you may be overlooking as a risk factor to your wellness is financial stability. Paul Conrad, manager of the BYU Financial Fitness Center says, “sustained financial distress may cause us to feel anxious, helpless, and vulnerable.” To combat these feelings, consider: finding a budgeting method, meeting your needs less expensively, not comparing yourself to others, and planning for the unexpected.

The exact connection between exercise and mental health is complicated, but one specific and direct benefit is the change of chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins when you engage in physical activity. Another key way to better optimize your physical health is by prioritizing your mental health. Nathan Ormsby, Director of Student Wellness at BYU, advised to “prioritize sleep as your body craves a regular routine.”

Whether you want them to or not, emotions exist. Not only do they exist, but emotions affect every aspect of your life and mental health levels. Remembering that you are not the only one dealing with stressors, joys, or sorrows can help you to remember to give yourself the grace that you so generously show to others. BYU CAPS director, Clint Hobbs, was quoted by Dr. Hanson to say also that we should “avoid avoiding.” While it may seem that avoiding the difficult task will make it disappear, avoiding only works temporarily.

Applying everything Dr. Hanson mentioned into your life right now will be overwhelming. One way to start implementing these suggestions is to let them function as a guide of aspects of your life to be aware of as you notice your mental health fluctuating between languishing and flourishing. Just as Dr. Hanson mentioned, if you find yourself existing more often in a state of languishing, you may be suffering from a mental illness. Talk to someone you trust about seeking help and counseling.

For questions about helping yourself or someone you love, call us at 801-422-7759.