17

APR
2023

Why cultivating a mental health activity is essential

Why cultivating a mental health activity is essential
The WHO (World Health Organisation) sponsors and celebrates World Health Day every year on April 7. It is a global health awareness day, which also commemorates the founding of the WHO. What is the big deal about it? For starters, the WHO uses this day to drive home attention on the major health issues plaguing our planet. 

When we talk of health, we mostly take it to mean the health of our bodies. But being healthy does not stop with our physical being; it has a lot to do with the state of our mind as well. 

A more holistic approach would look at health as a state of complete wellbeing, both physical and mental. The mere absence of disease is just a small part of the whole. 
 
Medical science is only now recognising the importance of treating the mind and as well as the body, something that traditional schools of medicine knew for centuries. 

While we have gyms galore all over the urban landscape promising you a sculpted physique, it’s not the same with the mind. Part of the reason lies in the fact that we are still uncomfortable discussing depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges. 

With stress playing a leading role in most of our lives, none of us can afford to neglect our mental health. The triggers are all around us. It could be related to finances, our jobs, relationships, children, unemployment or just the rigours of day-to-day living. 

Stress is nothing but a very natural human response to challenges and what we perceive as threats in our life. 

Typically what happens is that the body’s fight or flight response is triggered by stress and the body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This accelerates our heart beat, basically giving our body the burst of energy it needs to fight or run.

Stress impacts all body systems and can lead to numerous physical and mental ailments like diabetes, obesity, depression and immune disorders.

No discussion on mental health is possible without talking about depression and anxiety. Depression is fast becoming one of the most common mental disorders of our time. In extreme cases, it could even lead to suicide.

The physical symptoms of depression are many and can be seen in changing sleep patterns, energy levels and appetite. They can also show up as feelings of low self-worth, hopelessness, apathy and anxiety. 

The question then is how do we keep ourselves full of zest and vitality? How do we keep both our bodies and minds fit and healthy despite the stress?

Remember the stress is not going anywhere. What we need to deal with is not the stress but our ability to deal or manage it. So it’s all about inner engineering. There is nothing that we need to fix outside, only inside. 
 
Here are some activities which can be taken up seriously to help de stress the mind and body. Any one of them, or maybe all of them could do the trick to help you keep your mind as limber and agile as your body.

Conscious deep breathing - This will help to bring down your anxiety levels. Breathing from your belly will help bring down the cortisol levels in your body.
 
Exercise - Pick up any sport, dance or yoga.
 
Have a work-life balance - Spend some time with yourself and do the things you love.

Forming connections - Reach out to your friends, family, colleagues and neighbours. A good support system is invaluable. 

Spending time in nature - Take a walk on the beach or visit a nearby park. It can be quite soothing.

Practising gratitude - You could start a gratitude journal. You will be amazed to discover how much you have to be grateful for every day. It will also help you to look for the positives in life and thus change your mindset.

Chanting mantras - This can have a tremendous positive and calming effect on your mind. The repetitive act of chanting can bring you to a relaxed, meditative state. 

Practising mindful meditation - It is one of the most powerful ways to deal with stress which will help you to lead a more peaceful and healthier life. It will help you to relax and release all tension. 

The health benefits of meditation are tremendous. Meditation can bring down the metabolic rate, lower blood pressure and improve heart rate and brain waves. The end result is an enhanced sense of physical and mental wellbeing. The best part is that meditation can be practised by anyone. It is a skill which can be learnt, practised and mastered by all. 

So if good health is what you want to gift yourself this year, don’t just stop at enrolling in a gym, remember to also exercise your mind. A happy mind is a healthy mind. 
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