Mental Health: A Holistic Perspective
By Beatriz Martinez
reviewed by juliana ascolani
Health is the greatest wealth one can achieve, and when our hopes for accessible and sustainable health become reality, we benefit from richer, fuller lives. This series of articles connects the six dimensions of holistic health to understand how prevention through lifestyle and empowerment can improve our overall wellness.
Prevention, access to health care, and a support system are key to addressing mental health. In the United States, statistics from 2019 showed that 20.6% of adults aged 18 or older experienced a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, and 44.8% of those adults received mental health support. Also, 5.2% of adults experienced a serious mental illness, causing serious functional impairment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is a common mental disorder, accounting for 264 million people affected in 2018 alone, a number that increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is mental health?
Mental health is a dynamic state of emotional, psychological, and social balance. It involves a person’s ability to cope with the psychosocial demands of everyday life and live in harmony with the values of society, which are: respect and care for others and ourselves, understanding of the importance of social life, and respect for the environment.
The concept of mental health takes into consideration the changes and challenges present in life and the fact that mentally healthy people experience a whole range of human emotions, from joy and happiness to sadness and grief, as well as the possibility to find a balance and restore wellbeing.
A state of optimal mental health allows people to be aware of their potential to adapt, persevere, and integrate effectively in their world. It’s also fundamental to think, socially interact, have an occupation, and enjoy life. This is why promoting mental health and protecting it is the basis for communities and societies worldwide.
What are the benefits of optimal mental health?
- Capacity to face or adapt to different situations;
- More positive moods and behaviors, increasing creativity, improving learning, and being more open to trying new things;
- Awareness of one’s potential and increased self-esteem;
- Healthier relationships;
- Feelings of calm and satisfaction;
- Nurturing of balanced pursuits that help cope with life stressors;
- Decluttering to be mindful of life’s pleasures.
What are the key components of mental health?
- Psychological wellness: An individual attribute, psychological wellness includes basic cognitive skills as well as the flexibility and ability to cope with challenges and stress while experiencing a healthy mind-body connection. It also entails the importance of self-acceptance, self-determination, and boundaries. By deepening our cognitive skills, we are able to solve problems, make decisions, and pay attention, among other healthy actions. By adopting healthier habits and avoiding substance abuse and other harmful behaviors, we can prevent and decrease the prevalence of mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, or even neurological and developmental challenges, like autism.
- Emotional wellness: This facet of mental health involves exploring our own thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative, as well as experiencing empathy towards others. It allows us to understand and find the best way to handle our emotions, and at the same time, regulate stress. Emotional wellness empowers us to successfully manage our feelings and to adapt to unexpected changes and difficult situations. Also, empathy allows us to understand what others feel, improving the communication and the interaction with our surroundings, in order to decrease or avoid harmful behaviors. With strong emotional wellness, we can avoid insomnia, depression, or anxiety, among other health disorders.
- Social wellness: This component refers to our relationships and the ways we interact with others. Healthy, nurturing, and supportive relationships can positively influence our overall mental wellness. By improving our social wellness, we can enhance our self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as gain resilience against distress. Having healthy relationships helps us feel more secure when making important decisions and be aware of our own potential; they will always bring out the best in us.
- Environmental wellness: Body and mind are extremely interrelated with the environment. The overall experience of existing in this world includes how we feel in our surroundings, and finding a balance is key to improving our wellbeing. Interaction with our neighborhood and community can affect our mental health. A safe and engaging neighborhood will enable us to avoid stress and worries, and it will bring joy to our lives. Bike lanes, green spaces, healthy restaurants, community activities, and a low (or nonexistent) crime rate, among other factors, can contribute to a healthy neighborhood and, therefore, can improve our mental health.
How does mental health connect with the other dimensions of holistic wellness?
- Physical: Mind-body connection is a powerful tool for us and working on it can help us enjoy more. Stomachaches or headaches, for example, aren’t only physical disorders; these physical symptoms can be caused by our mental state and the other way round as well. While experiencing distress and physical challenges, we might feel judged and unacknowledged by others. Consequently, we may develop stress and lower self-esteem, factors that can worsen our mental health.
- Spiritual: Spiritual practices are helpful when dealing with stress and worries, promoting better mental health. Furthermore, they’re also a great tool for preventing emotional or psychological disorders, as they can become a way of understanding and managing our emotions and feelings.
- Social: Our mood and behavior don’t only have an impact on our own mental health but also on our relationships. For example, psychological wellbeing is influenced by the emotional support provided by social ties, which, in turn, may reduce the risk of unhealthy behaviors and poor physical health. Being surrounded by supportive people may help us to cope and reduce the effects of stress and, at the same time, may help us to find meaning and purpose in life, improving our mental wellbeing. Consequently, our overall mental health will be affected when we feel less supported and more insecure, which can lead to feelings of loneliness.
- Environmental: Good mental wellness allows us to be more aware of our personal environment, such as work and home, as well as the planet. At the same time, research shows that the physical environment may influence the way we cope with stress and fatigue and how we have relationships with others. For example, poor-quality housing appears to increase psychological distress and increase loneliness. If we feel empowered, it’s more likely that we will adopt positive habits related to mindful consumption and, therefore, enhance a healthier home and work environment, contributing to the betterment of the world around us. Most of all, good mental health promotes self-awareness, so we can appreciate and control our own wellness and environment.
- Economic: Having well-balanced mental health allows us to boost our productivity by focusing on our priorities and successfully finishing our tasks. On the contrary, if our mental health is not optimal, it might contribute to presentism and generate negative work performance, leading to decreased possibilities of promotion and employment stability. Research establishes a clear relationship between mental and economic health, considering that mental health problems are related to, for example, deprivation, poverty, and inequality. At the same time, when people are going through economic crises, mental wellbeing is being challenged. By focusing on the connection between economic and mental health, we can avoid health disorders such as sleeping issues, depression, and anxiety, a lack of interest in favorite activities, tiredness, behavioral shifts, or mood swings.
SolaVieve is dedicated to making a difference in your overall health and wellbeing. We invite you to explore your mental dimension by finding out what works best for you, building on your potential, and continuing your holistic journey with us.
I am a journalist specialised in international relations, and writing is my absolute passion. I translate my knowledge and feelings into words, a process that has become my profession and at the same time my personal healing practice. I believe that being curious about what surrounds us is the key to educating ourselves and to further being able to express it to others. I love reading and am mostly interested in politics, human rights, social movements, and the passionate world of health.
I am a health researcher who bridges data science and health research with direct experience in healthcare and university institutions, passionately and collaboratively pursuing the integration and synergy of all key areas of health and wellness. I believe in inclusion as the main pillar of our society, especially when it comes to health. Promotion and prevention in health empower people to adopt healthy decisions, thus I have been working during the last years in the development of inclusive and holistic health systems. What do I enjoy the most about my job? Realizing how we are making a difference in people’s lives, and seeing the result in their health journeys. I enjoy the challenge of questioning new paradigms and creating debate around them.
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