Holistic Strategies To Improve Your Mental Wellbeing

Moving into the new year, many people take the time to define resolutions. Some might want to exercise, others might want to eat healthier, and other might only want to improve their mental wellbeing—not yet knowing how to achieve that. This article explores the interconnection of body, mind and spirit that is needed to improve your mental wellbeing as well as three strategies to enhance your health holistically.
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog
mental wellbeing
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog

When you break a bone, you go to the doctor. When you’re depressed, you go to the psychiatrist. And when you’re feeling lost and yearning to understand your deeper life purpose, you (might) go to a spiritual teacher or priest. The way we structure the outside world gives a clue to how we structure the inner one: i.e. we behave as if human beings are composed of isolated components–body, mind, spirit–with a separate solution for each separate component.

“Mental Health” Is Just “Health”

But are these components really so separate? After all, a person suffering from a mental illness also experiences physical symptoms like fatigue. A person who is socially isolated in life cannot avoid it affecting his thoughts and beliefs. And a supremely intelligent person can lose concentration if they’re tired or sick.

We are not machines made of discrete compartments, but living, dynamic organisms that constantly relate to others and our environment. Beyond the conventions of language, there simply are no separate compartments. The truth is that taking care of our “mental” health often means taking care of all of what we are–in other words, “mental health” is just “health.”

Only A Holistic Approach Can Improve Our Mental Wellbeing

Our culture is dominated by the brain. To some extent we all believe that the brain is the master controller, ruling over everything else like a CEO. But nature isn’t quite like this. When we can see all our complex characteristics as interconnected, we can improve our complete wellbeing, coordinated not by the mind, but by a greater overarching consciousness.

The adage reminds us, “the mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.” The brain is a marvelous tool for understanding and analyzing the world–but it’s just one part of the highly complex and sophisticated whole.

Here are a few ways to improve your mental wellbeing, holistically.

1. Get Back Into Your Body

The modern, abstract world is a busy place bustling with ideas, symbols and words. It’s common to be completely disconnected from the lived experience of our physical bodies or from the breath. The result is burnout, mysterious aches and pains, stress, anxiety and “thought traffic” running wild.

But human beings are embodied. The mind cannot exist outside of the brain. This means that if you’re not physiologically healthy, you can’t be mentally healthy. You can go a long way to relieving mental issues by simply making sure that you’re physically well. A healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise, sleep and good food will support your brain health, which can’t help but improve the quality of your cognitive health–in the same way as tuning a piano improves the sound of the music.

Read more: A simple practice to feel into your body and manage stress or anxiety is the 54321 grounding technique which helps to anchor your self in the present moment.

2. Connect To The World Around You

Another consequence of our compartmentalized way of thinking is believing that human beings are all islands or discrete individuals forever isolated from one another. But is it possible to be healthy but completely disconnected from the world? How could we be healthy if our personal relationships, family lives and communities aren’t? Many of us spend time and money on personal development, but what good is a perfectly developed human being if they never give, take, change, share, connect, love or engage with others?

Low self-esteem, social anxiety and loneliness are called mental health problems, but they can all be helped by looking beyond the individual. Volunteering, socializing, asking for help, participating in a community, raising children and caring for elderly people are paradoxically better for “personal” development. The more you forget about yourself, the healthier that self becomes; the more you concern yourself with the wellbeing of others, the greater your own sense of purpose and joy.

Read more: In another article, we explore the concept of social mindfulness and alruistic behavior.

3. Dig Deeper

Teachers from faiths and philosophies throughout history have identified a great human illusion: that if we merely reduce suffering and secure enough physical and material comfort, we will be fulfilled. However, we are creatures of meaning possibly before anything else. Culturally, we tend to psychologize the problems of life so that we can label suffering and existential doubt as a mere brain disorder that can be fixed with medication or therapy.

While these things certainly help, many people find a more lasting path out of challenging times by anchoring more deeply into their soul’s most fundamental longings: who are we? Why are we here? What truly makes us happy?

Sometimes, it’s not that we’re depressed, but rather that our natural and innate impulse for joy and expression is blocked. Before labelling an experience “depression,” ask if you are missing something bigger than yourself that you can connect to. Have you been enduring a situation that is against your soul’s values?

What Does Your Entire Being Need?

Moving into the new year is a perfect time to take stock of our lifestyles, values, habits and desires to improve our mental wellbeing. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, winter is a dark and sometimes depressing season, but it’s also an opportunity for deep rest, reflection, gratitude and a gentle reappraisal of life.

Is your mind serving you? Are your relationships feeding and encouraging your growth? Is your body vibrant and full of the energy you need to live well?

If not, now is the time to make changes. Reach out to others, exercise, find joy and purpose, practice gratitude, eat well, and be kind—to yourself and others. The mind is not the be all and end all of who we are. We can always pause, take a breath and choose to act from a higher consciousness, asking what our entire being needs in every moment to be fulfilled, no matter if that’s body, mind, or spirit… or all three.

Meditation. Free.