Living with a mental health challenge asks that we participate in our care and well-being in ways that are focused and intentional. The level of dedication required to build a lifestyle of wellness is no small task. To do so, it is vital that we understand the mind, body, and spirit connection and how we work to integrate the three aspects of ourselves for a greater experience of wellness. Such an understanding is part of self-awareness, which in turn informs us about how we relate to our environment. First and foremost, it’s important that we partner with our doctors to discuss and chart a path that can complement any medicines, therapies, and technologies that we are engaged in.
Meditation is an ancient practice that has traditionally been practiced sitting still and watching the breath move in an out of the body. Many people believe that meditation is about quieting the mind but for most (or new) practitioners, meditation is a way to watch our thoughts. The purpose of watching the thoughts ignites the observer within us. Practicing meditation can assist us in identifying the thought patterns that lead to anxiety, depression, and even more traumatizing experiences. It is critical to remember that there is no right or wrong way of meditating. There is no amount of time you need to sit in order to get it right. We can even do moving meditations, offering a mindful presence of what is occurring within us as we breathe and move. In many eastern cultures forms of meditation include yoga and other body-movement practices.
City living can convince us to believe that we are not a part of nature, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Nature has a way of calibrating our internal energy flow. Like nature, we also have seasons. Each season looks different within us—the winter in California is not the same as winter in New York, and we need to prepare for our personal seasons. Spending time in nature can help us find our natural rhythm and to learn to trust our internal process more and more as we mature.
It’s no secret that Americans are some of the sickest people on the planet due to the processed foods we consume. Healthy eating is one way to complement any wellness program we can design with our doctor. Eating organic foods and removing a large percentage of processed foods from our diet will contribute greatly to our wellness program. The more organic meats, fruits, and vegetables we eat while cutting out sugary food, the more improvement we’ll see our mood and weight management. Healthy eating helps us determine what feels good in our bodies and what does not. We learn what foods impacts negative moods and what makes us feel cheerful. Moreover, healthy eating can help us understand our emotions. Many of us use food as comfort, rather than nutrition. And some of us lose our appetites entirely when we are stressed. Having an awareness of our eating habits is priceless for our wellness journeys.
During the Bebe Moore Campbell’s Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, we can begin thinking about holistic practices that will complement our medical treatments. What I’ve mentioned here are just a few choices. I would also suggest group activities like sports, a group art class, or spiritual community. For more information about holistic practices, click here.