How to maximize mental wellness without being mind-blown

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Mental Health and Mental Wellness are buzzwords in today’s society. Whether it’s in the workplace, the media or in general chitchat everyone discusses mental health at some stage or another, in some context.

It’s not unusual to hear someone state that “they are working on their mental well-being” or that “their mental health is suffering”.

In contrast to 10-15 years, when no one ever spoke about mental health, it is no longer as taboo a subject as it used to be. Back then to speak about your feelings, emotions or worse yet, depression or mental illness was frowned upon. Common practice was to ‘suck it up’ and keep it to yourself.

While there is still a long way to go to break down the stereotypes and stigmatization attached to mental illness, we have progressed from a generation when it was a topic only murmured about in hushed tones and never openly discussed.

Even though Mental Health is now a popular topic, what are the differences between it and Mental Wellness? And how do you improve your Mental Wellness when you aren’t really sure what it is?


What are the distinctions between Mental Health and Mental Wellness?

Mental Health and Mental Wellness are increasingly popular terms, and more commonplace in today’s society than they were a decade ago, but the actual connotations are vague and misunderstood, and the terms are often used in the wrong context.

The two terms are not well-defined and I have tried to piece together a simple explanation to help differentiate between the two.

Without doing a thesis on the subject, having a basic understanding will help you simplify your approach to maximizing Mental Wellness.


Mental Health = includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being.

It is how we think, feel and act.

Mental health is one of the key elements of overall health and well-being (WHO 2013).

Yet, mental health is frequently misunderstood and the term misused.

The term “Mental Health” is often incorrectly used to describe mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar.

Good vs Bad Mental Health

Our mental health is always fluctuating.

It is fluid and ever-changing and dependent on our circumstances.

How we deal with these states of flux and shifts in our situations influences our mental health.

Our mental health can either be good, or it can be poor. Studies have shown that serious mental health illnesses can lower life expectancy by 10 to 15 years.

Poor Mental Health:

negative, unengaged, poor concentration, inattentive, unmotivated, stressed, burnt out, time-poor, low mood, worrisome, overwhelmed, tearful, sad, uninterested, always tired, avoids social situations, irritable, short-tempered, self-destructive behaviour like binge drinking or illicit drugs

Good Mental Health:

positive, engaged, productive, social, insightful, takes initiative, good attention span and concentration levels, excellent time management, self-regulating and resilient, confident, optimistic, sets goals, encouraging, good self-esteem


Mental Wellness = is a state in its own right and the result of proactively investing in your Mental Health.

Mental Wellness is a proactive process that we need to work towards. Like how we train our bodies to achieve physical wellness, we need to train our minds.

The state of our mind affects our body, and the state of our body affects our mind!

It does not mean the absence of mental illness.

Nor does it define happiness.

Instead, it is a cohesive balance between emotional, psychological and social well-being.

Mental Wellness determines how you handle and react to stress, social relationships and decision-making, and how you self-regulate your emotions.

Mental Wellness does not JUST happen.

You need to proactively work at it, and strive for it!

To proactively work towards something means to ‘self-initiate‘ certain behaviours in advance to deal with an expected change or difficulty

It is an active process that requires conscious action.

And a lifelong approach to persist with, invest in, develop and train to enhance your overall Mental Health.

Like the key dimensions of Wellness, Mental Wellness is broken into 4 main sub-categories:


  1. Mental – how we think, process, understand and use information
  2. Emotional – how we feel, how we manage and express our emotions
  3. Social – how we connect and interact, our relationship with others
  4. Psychological – how we act and function day-to-day

People who have achieved a state of Mental Wellness are positive and confident.

They are in control of their thoughts, emotions and behaviours.

And have the ability to handle challenges, build strong relationships and enjoy life. They also usually have:

  • a positive outlook and awareness
  • the ability to deal with challenges, stressful situations and crises
  • are productive and enthusiastic
  • are able to set and achieve goals
  • are actively involved in social situations and have the capacity to form and maintain healthy relationships
  • the ability to regulate negative emotions like stress, anxiety, worry, loneliness, anger and sadness

How to Maximize your Mental Wellness:

1. Be Self-Aware
    • understand what makes you happy, and know what doesn’t
    • acknowledge what you can and can’t change about yourself and your life
    • identify your strengths and weaknesses; accept them, enhance them or change them
    • pay attention to your own needs and feelings
    • express your thoughts and emotions (journalling, counselling, communicating)
2. Set Achievable Goals and Objectives
    • have a vision and clear understanding of what you want in life
    • you have the power to do anything you want within reason, you are never too young or too old; if you don’t have the necessary skill set, you have the ability to learn
    • Having goals and measurable intentions motivates you to achieve your desired result
3. Mental Stimulation
    • exercise your brain, and engage in a combination of memory, decision making and strategizing activities to keep your brain active and prevent dementia
    • learn a new skill i.e. a new language, instrument, or start a blog..!
    • use a brain training app like Elevate
    • read a book; studies have shown that reading for as little as 6-minutes a day can improve sleep, reduce stress and sharpen mental clarity
4. Seek Support
    • never be ashamed to ask for help and seek the guidance of others, talk to a friend, a work colleague or a qualified counsellor
5. Maintain and Focus on Key Areas of Wellness
    • Physical – embrace a healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, and regular exercise and ensure you get adequate sleep; exercise and physical activity are proven to assist with brain health, as are sleep and nutrition
    • Emotional – practice mindfulness, gratitude and meditation, and relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises or EFT (Tapping), walk in nature, be self-aware and present, and notice your thoughts and feelings
    • Social – interact with others, do something for someone else i.e. help out a friend, nurture your relationships and reconnect on a more meaningful level with those that are important in your life, join social groups such as the gym, yoga or a dance class, positively appreciate yourself and others
    • Environmental – create a healthy, happy home, find pockets of tranquility in life i.e. a shady tree to have lunch, a sunny window to read a book, reduce allergens and chemicals in your house, declutter your living space, create stress-free zones to relax and de-stress in peace
    • Financial – create a financial plan, and a budget that works for you, avoid overspending, strive to save each pay, talk to your partner about your financial situation, and don’t be afraid to seek financial assistance
    • Occupational – separate home life and work, avoid overtime, take allocated breaks, create connections with co-workers, add some greenery or personal touches to your office space, and if you aren’t happy or content, and you dread going to work each morning then don’t settle for “better the devil you know”, reassess your goals and ambitions

    Final Thoughts

    Don’t overwhelm yourself – remember, baby steps.

    If you try to achieve everything at once, you will set yourself up for failure.

    Start by setting small, achievable goals. And once you have routinely included them in your daily schedule, you can work toward adding more.

    Having a healthy and happy mindset will help you achieve Mental Wellness. And even though it’s difficult with the day-to-day dramas and stresses that we all face, if we can adopt 1 or 2 small steps, hopefully as a result our Mental Health will flourish.

“Mental Wellness is the result of investing in your Mental Health”

Five Steps to Maximize your Mental Wellness:

  1. Be self-aware
  2. Set achievable goals and objectives
  3. Stimulate your brain
  4. Communicate and seek support
  5. Include 1 or 2 steps from each key Wellness area in your daily routine

“Wellness is the act of practising healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes so that instead of just surviving, you are thriving.”

Simple ways to enhance Overall Wellness:

Mental – be aware of your emotions & stimulate your brain

Physical – exercise, sleep & eat healthily

Emotional – meditate & start a journal

Social – hang out with friends & go for a coffee

Environmental – declutter your home & find a tranquil place to de-stress

Financial – start a saving plan & create a budget

Occupational – keep work and home separate & don’t settle if you are unfulfilled

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