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Importance of Mental Health

Mental Health Importance

Prioritizing Sound Mental Health

Your quality of mental health has significant consequence on your overall health and wellbeing. In today’s hectic and fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever to optimize and prioritize practices to enhance your mental health daily.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH,) 1 in 5 U.S. women (or 20%) experienced a mental health condition like depression or anxiety last year. A recent survey indicated about 1/3 of young women aged 18 to 25 years shared they had a mental health condition during the previous year. About 10% of young women have a serious mental health condition that impacts daily activities like going to work or school.

Researchers indicate most mental health conditions begin early in life, usually by 25 years of age. Mental health conditions are common in young people, but some are more serious or last longer than others.

What’s more, many mental health issues are more common in women than men. CDC research shows about 1 in 8 women with a recent live birth experiences symptom of postpartum depression. Older women are more profoundly affected by mental health issues, particularly during menopause and into their golden years.

While mental health issues can’t be cured, effective daily management and consistent treatment can help those afflicted become better and enjoy enriching, fulfilling lives.

Your local Capital Women’s Care team of women’s health experts identify mental health, the factors that can adversely affect mental health and proven findings relating to achieving and maintaining quality mental health and wellbeing; plus, proven tips and important mental health practices you can institute within your daily life to enhance your personal mental health and overall wellbeing; and list of common symptoms of mental health issues and recommendations on when to seek professional help so you enjoy a long quality life.

What is Mental Health?

According to NIMH, mental health encompasses our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, act, make choices and relate to others. Mental health is more than the absence of a mental illness; it’s essential to your overall health and quality of life. Mental health is important as it helps you to:

  • cope with life’s stresses.
  • be physically healthy.
  • have good relationships with yourself and others.
  • make meaningful contributions to your community.
  • work productively.
  • and realize your full life potential.

Factors Affecting Mental Health

Several factors are highly influential to the quality of your overall personal mental health, including:

  • genetics (family history of mental issues/illnesses.)
  • diet and nutrition.
  • exercise.
  • weight.
  • environment.
  • trauma.
  • and your connectedness with others and your community.

Identifying factors that may affect your quality of mental health is the first step toward establishing sound, consistent practices that promote good mental health and wellbeing.

While those having family history of specific mental health issues are more susceptible and face increased risk, it doesn’t necessarily mean diagnosis. If a family member has a mental disorder, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop it, as many other factors also play a crucial role in mental health. Knowing your family’s mental health history can help you determine whether you are at higher risk for certain disorders, help your doctor recommend actions for reducing your personal risk and enable you and your doctor to detect and monitor your mental health for early warning signs.

Other identified factors adversely affecting mental health and wellbeing have plenty of research supporting the best practices to enhance your mental health and wellbeing, plus your quality of life:

  • diet and nutrition. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and processed foods impaired brain function, with worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, like depression. What’s more, researchers compared “traditional” diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, to a typical “Western” diet and determined risk of depression is 25-35% lower in those consuming traditional diets.
  • exercise and physical activity. Research on depression, anxiety and exercise shows the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help improve mood and reduce anxiety. Some research shows that even low impact, regular physical activity like walking may also help to improve mood. Not only do you get the benefit of moving your body, but those who exercise regularly also gain confidence, enjoy more social interaction with others (especially if doing group exercise) and learn to enact healthy coping strategies.
  • weight management. One study found adults with excess weight had a 55% higher risk of developing depression over their lifetime compared to people who didn’t struggle with obesity. Other research linked being overweight with significant increases in major depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder or agoraphobia. Many who face chronic stress, anxiety and depression may use food as a coping tool, a practice that can also lead to unhealthy weight gain.
  • environment. In some cases, environmental factors impact mental wellness by changing brain structure and function. Research on children supports this, noting children raised in adverse environments tend to have hindered brain development, increasing their risk of memory issues, learning difficulties and behavioral problems. Your environment might raise or lower your stress levels. This can change your mental wellness overall, either serving to protect your psychological health or opening the door for mental illness to set in. In short, the world around you can help protect you from mental illness or it may be a catalyst for mental health issues to form and develop. Environment includes where you live, go to school or work and where and how you socialize within your community.
  • trauma. Experiences that are shocking, scary, or dangerous can have emotional and physical effects. These experiences include natural disasters, acts of violence (like assault, abuse, terrorist attacks and mass shootings) plus car crashes and other accidents can all be traumatic. Responses to trauma can be immediate or delayed, brief or prolonged. Most have intense responses immediately following, and often for several weeks or months after a traumatic event. For most people, these are normal and expected responses and generally lessen with time. In some cases, these responses continue for a longer period and interfere with everyday life. If responses continue interfering with daily life or are not getting better over time, it’s important to seek out professional help.
  • connection with others and your community. A noted study showed lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. What’s more, strong social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity. Social connection strengthens our immune system (research shows genes impacted by social connection also code for immune function and inflammation), helps us recover from disease faster and may even lengthen our life.

Good Mental Health

There are several proven tips and valuable mental health practices you can institute within your daily life to enhance your personal mental health and overall wellbeing:

  • Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can help boost your mood and improve your health. Small amounts of exercise add up, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do 30 minutes at one time.
  • Spend time outdoors daily. Studies indicate that just 15 to 20 minutes spent outdoors each day has noted positive effects on mood and state of mind. Take a lunch time walk outdoors or take an outdoor break while working from home to refresh and recharge.
  • Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated. A balanced diet featuring plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat proteins like fish and chicken and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. Also, limit caffeinated beverages like soft drinks or coffee, and avoid processed foods, added sugars and sodium plus red or processed meats.
  • Make sleep a priority. Stick to a schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Blue light from devices and screens can make it harder to fall asleep, so reduce blue light exposure from your phone or computer before going to sleep.
  • Explore a relaxing activity. Investigate relaxation or wellness programs or apps, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy activities you enjoy.
  • Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say ‚Äúno‚Äù to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, without focusing on what you have been unable to do.
  • Develop a sense of meaning and purpose in life. You could do this through your job, volunteering, learning new skills or exploring personal spirituality.
  • Devise sound coping skills. These skills are a great toolkit you can use to deal with stressful situations. They may help you face a problem, take charge of a situation or action, be flexible and not easily give up when determining a solution.
  • Practice gratitude. Remind yourself daily of things you are grateful for. Be specific. Write them down at night in a journal or replay them in your mind as you drift to sleep.
  • Focus on positivity. Identify and challenge negative and unhelpful thoughts. Positive affirmations or thoughts offer great encouragement toward remaining positive and help quell negative thoughts.
  • Stay connected. Reach out to your friends or family members who can provide positive emotional support and practical help minus negativity or judgment.

When to Seek Help

Seek professional mental health help if you are experiencing severe or distressing symptoms that last 2 weeks or more, including:

  • difficulty sleeping.
  • appetite changes resulting in unwanted weight changes.
  • struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of your mood.
  • difficulty concentrating.
  • loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable and fun.
  • and/or inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities.

Don’t wait until symptoms become overwhelming. Talk about your concerns with your primary care provider or your Capital Women’s Care women’s health professional, both of whom can refer you to a mental health professional if needed. If you don’t know where to start, read the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Tips for Talking With a Health Care Provider About Your Mental Health.

What to Do in a Crisis

If you or someone you know is struggling or having thoughts of suicide, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat at This service is confidential, free and available 24/7.

In life-threatening situations, immediately call 911.

Your local Capital Women’s Care team of empathetic, compassionate doctors, assistants and support staff is here to answer your questions and concerns relating to your personal mental health and any women’s health issue. Our premier practices prioritize quality, comprehensive treatment and care so you achieve and enjoy a quality long life.