- Lack of awareness about the interaction of mental and physical health. Studies show that people with heart disease experience more cardiac symptoms, both in number and severity, when they feel under stress. The best cardiac treatment plans address not just physical factors but also emotional ones.
Many Americans don’t understand that proactively caring for mental health can benefit both mind and body. This is especially true for older adults. “Unless you have a well-defined psychiatric issue, seniors may not take mental health seriously.” Dr. Cora says. But depression, which affects 6.5 million Americans age 65 or older, can contribute to a number of physical problems, including dementia.
- Not knowing how to get started. One in ten people expressed confusion over how to get started as a barrier to achieving their health goals. At some point, we’ve all been overwhelmed by the idea of a big project. Taking the first step to a healthier life is often the hardest part.
So how do you prioritize mental health?
The good news is that prioritizing mental well-being is a lot more straightforward than you might think. Experts stress that relationships are key to strengthening emotional health. For many Americans, that means shifting our focus toward connecting more with others, preferably offline.
The health benefits of connecting with others are far-reaching. Experts agree that social involvement is an important factor in maintaining all kinds of healthy behavior, whether it’s exercising, eating right or quitting smoking. It’s also a powerful stress reducer, which has its own positive impact on health.
And don’t forget to prioritize sleep, nutrition, exercise and relaxation. In addition to keeping your body running, these activities work wonders for your emotional well-being.
Finally, if you’ve been struggling to lose weight, changing your approach may be just what the doctor ordered. For many people, calorie counting isn’t nearly as effective as paying attention to the emotional triggers driving unhealthy eating. Refocusing on mental health goals may actually result in better weight control.
Read how Cory Metzler let go of fear and anger ― and lost 100 pounds.
Connecting the dots: How to set mental health goals.
Experts recommend setting mental health goals around three levels of connection: yourself, your loved ones, and your community. Here are some examples:
- Connect with yourself. Relax and do something you enjoy that allows you to get in touch with your feelings. That could mean meditation, yoga, massage, reading in a hot bath, walking in nature, journaling/scrapbooking, or gardening. Aim for 20 minutes a day.
- Connect with others (offline). Spend time with positive, loving people you care about and trust. They can be friends, family, a support group or counselor.
- Connect with your community. Expand your social circle or just become more aware of your larger community. Take a class, volunteer, attend a public event with a live audience, or practice random acts of kindness with strangers.
How will you know your great experiment in creating mental health goals is working? You may experience lower perceived stress, better relationships, more restful sleep, even fewer physical symptoms like pain and fatigue. Over the long term, you should enjoy a stronger brain and heart, improved immune function and other physical benefits.
Be sure to share your goals with your doctor. Our research confirms that doctors play a critical role in supporting your holistic health goals. Your doctor can also help you monitor your progress toward a healthier you—both in mind and in body.
You can get a quick read on your emotional health by using the MindCheck® online tool.
At first, you may feel a little guilty for making socializing a priority. How can something you enjoy actually be good for you? Just remember that strong relationships are not a luxury; they’re essential to mental and physical health. By reaching out to others, you may find your other health goals become easier to reach.