We talk a lot about mental health, mindfulness, and well-being on this blog (I mean, it is a well-being world after all). These concepts have become increasingly important, be it on social media, at universities, or even in schools. The problem is that well-being and mindfulness are rather abstract words, and most people are not immediately able to define them. So, what is well-being? What is mental health? How can you improve them and how does mindfulness play a role in everything? Well, fear not, because we are here to explain them to you!
Let’s start with the topic of mental health, which the World Health Organization (WHO) describes as:
- A state of well-being
- Awareness of capabilities
- Ability to cope with the normal stresses of life
- Competence to work productively and fruitfully
- Ability to contribute to the community
To summarize, mental health entails recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, effectively handling daily challenges, maintaining productivity, and remaining engaged with those around you.
Sounds easy to define? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
This definition can be used as a guide, but it is important to remember that there are problems that can arise when defining mental health, for example, cultural differences. Individualistic societies may have different views on mental health than cultures that emphasize communal values. In addition to cultural differences, societies also change. Many mental health issues, for example, burnout, have only been recognized in recent times.
As you can see, defining mental health is not an easy task, but neither is giving a concrete definition of well-being. To understand what well-being is, it might be worth to take a look at what it is not.
- For one, mental well-being is not the absence of mental illnesses. In fact, people with mental illnesses can still achieve a high level of well-being, while some without mental illnesses may not be as satisfied.
- Mental well-being is not the absence of problems or challenges. Daily stresses and challenges can help us to improve our well-being as we learn to deal with difficulties.
Though the word suggests a state of being in which all is well, there is in reality a lot more involved. Mental well-being can also be described as subjective well-being, which simply means that it reflects how we perceive our life. If you’re happy and satisfied and have found meaning in your life and the things you like to do, then your level of mental well-being tends to be high. How you deal with problems along with the ups and downs of life is also a part of mental well-being.
Too abstract? Don’t worry, here are some examples:
- Someone has found a new hobby and dedicates time each week to practice it. They make time for it because it makes them happy.
- A person is moving and starting a new job. Though everything will be new, they are confident that they can handle the new challenges.
- Someone failed an important exam but is determined to do better next time.
Finding mental well-being is possible within everyday circumstances. As we recognize that it is more than the mere absence of illness, we understand that mental well-being is attainable for all individuals. It can be nurtured, enhanced, and cultivated over time.
How does that work?
If you’ve been waiting for the word “mindfulness” to appear, then congrats, you made it! Because one way of focusing on your mental well-being is practicing mindfulness.
The word is rather straightforward: When you’re mindful, the mind is fully in the moment. We are aware of what is happening right now and what we are doing. At first this may sound like an easy task, but how often do we really just focus on the present? Oftentimes our thoughts tend to flow similar to this: We start to think about the future or the past, then worry about the future or the past, and then we get anxious.
To prevent that, mindful people want to be aware of their present emotions and surroundings in a non-judgemental way. By being acutely aware of what you are doing right now, there is no room to panic about other things.
How many opportunities are there to practice mindfulness?
The short answer is: Once the concept is understood, you can integrate it in every part of your life. Need a few more ideas on how to practice mindfulness? Explore these three ideas below for inspiration:
- Instead of attempting to set a speed record while eating and mindlessly scrolling through social media, pause for a moment to appreciate the vibrant colors and flavors before you.
- While working allow yourself to take intentional breaths and fully concentrate on the task at hand. Pay attention to the rhythm of your typing or writing, as well as the flow of your breaths.
- Take a walk and enjoy the sounds of nature without listening to music or a podcast. Simply enjoy the experience!
What are the main takeaways?
Firstly, it is important to note that there is not one specific definition of mindfulness or well-being that applies to everyone. Both are very subjective and highly depend on who you are as a person. Lastly, remember mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, anytime. Just take a moment for yourself.
Author: Ainoha Röller Paredes