“Mental health… is not a destination but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going.” — Noam Shpancer
People too often ignore the "health" part of mental health, and holistic approaches to supporting it.
One's mental health can benefit from seeking out diverse novel experiences and embracing uncertainty and impermanence.
Research finds that simply talking and listening to others also delivers real mental-health benefits.
Mental health practitioners have helped many people heal and grow from a range of emotional conflicts that can harm their relationships, work, and overall lives. But where we’ve been less effective in helping people know what the “health” part of mental health really is, and what helps build it.
That is, what lies beyond healing early traumas and learning to manage and cope with their residue in adult life; and beyond learning how to engage in more productive, functioning relationships. All of that is important.
But we need a broader vision of mental health: a picture of continuous growth and expansion of your whole being—your mental, emotional, creative, and spiritual needs and capacities.
You’re a bio-psycho-social-spiritual entity, within your societal and cultural matrix. Every one of those facets of your being impacts every other. A simple example: We know that the microbiomes in your gut directly influence your mind and emotions, your longevity potential, and the health of your physical infrastructure. The same can be said for each other “part” of your being: “Mental” health is better understood as “whole-being” health.
Increasingly, empirical studies reveal overlooked approaches that can fuel and energize your whole-being health, when viewed from a broader, more integrated perspective.
But they are different from learning new “behaviors” or “techniques” to use in your relationships or in pursuit of goals. And they lie beyond managing and coping with the residue of old conflicts. Here are three worth considering—and practicing.
3 Overlooked Ways To Boost Mental Health
1. Seek New And Diverse Experiences
A study published in Psychological Review found that an important but overlooked dimension of well-being is seeking out new life experiences, especially ones that may emerge unexpectedly—those marked by novelty or complexity, and that may require a change of perspective. It might be learning something new; participating in an activity beyond your zone of familiarity, or perhaps traveling somewhere you’ve never been.
One implication of this research: When you consciously seek out and open yourself to new experiences, you stimulate growth and expansion of multiple facets of your being. It filters into all dimensions of yourself. For example, it can alter some of your personality traits; your emotional attitudes; and how you treat your body. Overall, the new experiences contribute to the feeling, “This is why life is worth living.”
These findings highlight a link with feeling grateful for just being alive. Gratitude in this sense is deeper than feeling grateful for all you’ve achieved or acquired in your external, material life. Rather, it’s inner life awareness of your continuous connection with life in all its forms; an awakening of being part of a continuous whole, from the beginning of time.
Embracing new experiences and gratitude for your existence, at this moment, lifts you from conflicts or disappointments you might be experiencing. That expanded perspective is part of whole-being health.
2. Embrace The Anxiety Of Uncertainty…And Life’s Impermanence
Research highlights turning fear into positive energy for growth. A study published in the journal Emotion reveals the overlooked positive impact of experiencing uncertainty in your daily life—and we all experience uncertainty at various times.
This finding contrasts with assuming that uncertainty is necessarily stressful and can harm your health. Of course, there’s evidence that it can.