Just as strong healthy teeth requires regular dental hygiene (e.g. brushing and flossing your teeth), a strong and resilient mind also requires consistent care and attention. Imagine what would happen if you stopped brushing your teeth for a a month because you “didn’t feel like it”? Now imagine what would happen to your mental health if you decided to skip regular meals, your jogs in the park/yoga classes, or that call with your friend on a regular basis? Chances are your mental health will start deteriorating.

The good news is that this deterioration is not fixed. We can engage in certain practices and activities to help us improve our mental health. But first… what is mental health?

You might be surprised to know that the definition of mental health is subjective. In fact, it varies from person to person (depending on one’s culture, and the theories/perspectives they subscribe to). I like to think about mental health as a universal human experience, because it affects all of us.  I particularly enjoy the definition by the World Health Organization. It’s a really holistic and balanced take on this subject.

So what can we do to help us improve and maintain our mental health and wellbeing?

The Healthy Mind Platter is a fantastic tool to get us started on this journey. The platter presents seven essential mental activities that are necessary for optimum mental health. Just as certain foods refreshes and boosts our well-being, there are also certain “mental nutrients” that can optimize our mental health.

“These seven daily activities make up the full set of “mental nutrients” that your brain and relationships need to function at their best. By engaging every day in each of these servings, you promote integration in your life and enable your brain to coordinate and balance its activities. These essential mental activities strengthen your brain’s internal connections and your connections with other people and the world around you.” – Dr. Dan Siegel

Aren’t these activities just so great? I love that they make total sense, and can be easily incorporated into your life right away.

The point is to be aware of the full spectrum of essential mental activities so that you can balance your day with each of them. For example, you might feel lethargic, bored, and empty if you spend too much focus time (e.g. working/studying), without enough connecting and downtime. You can start using the platter by mapping out an average day and see how much time you spend in each essential mental activity. This will give you insight into how you can create more balance in your day to day life.

It is important to remember that there is no set recipe for a healthy mind, as everyone is different, and our needs are constantly changing with time. That being said, mental wellness is a sate of wellbeing that we can all cultivate with practice. As Dr. Dan Siegel describes, mental wellness is “all about reinforcing our connections with others and the world around us; and it is also about strengthening the connections within the brain itself.  When we vary the focus of attention with this spectrum of mental activities, we give the brain lots of opportunities to develop in different ways.”

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