Our mental health involves more than a disorder or depressed mood — it encompasses our physical, emotional, social and cognitive well-being. Feelings of sadness, anxiety or frustration can impact our bodies and interactions with the world around us.
Mental health impacts our abilities to maintain relationships, adapt to stressful life changes, express healthy emotions and care for our bodies. Learning about the different pillars of mental health can help you understand yourself better and keep your mind and body healthy.
The four pillars of mental health are social, cognitive, physical and emotional health. Ignoring one could impact your ability to sustain others. In other words, our mental fitness can impact the way we form and nurture relationships, express our emotions, and care for our bodies and brains. The key to well-being is to pay equal attention to all pillars.
The mind and body are connected in powerful ways. For instance, anxiety can impact our gut health. Research shows that caring for gut health can reduce anxiety symptoms. A study of people with ulcerative colitis (UC), a chronic disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract, showed that those who also experienced depression had more severe symptoms than those without depression.
Chronic pain is also linked to mental health conditions. The type of pain is persistent, lasting weeks, months or even years. Chronic pain often causes emotional and lifestyle challenges due to its duration and unpredictability, which can lead to chronic stress and depression. One study found that depression was the most common disorder associated with chronic pain.
Cognitive fitness is another part of mental health. Certain mental health conditions can cause changes to our cognition, impacting focus, concentration, memory, analyzation, problem-solving and categorizing skills. These skills are associated with work, school and social performance, making cognitive fitness crucial to function in our everyday lives.
Anyone struggling with a mental health issue will notice how even the most basic cognitive tasks can seem impossible. Signs of cognitive problems as a result of mental health issues include:
Another pillar of mental health is social well-being. Taking care of our minds is key to building and keeping healthy relationships. Social interactions provide a sense of purpose and belonging, and maintaining relationships can reduce stress while increasing happiness and self-confidence.
In contrast, poor mental health can impact our relationships with children, partners, friends or co-workers. It can also lead to social isolation, vastly impacting mental health symptoms like sadness and low self-esteem. In childhood, poor mental health can harm a person's ability to form bonds with family members and peers. In adulthood, social isolation can lead to child neglect or family breakdowns.
As close friends and family members attempt to address a loved one's mental health issues, the loved one might isolate out of fear of judgment and vulnerability, further impacting their emotional well-being. As a result, social health is one of the most crucial aspects of mental health to address.
Emotional health refers to our ability to recognize and control emotions. When our mental health declines, so does our ability to process and manage our emotions appropriately. It can be especially difficult to manage our emotional health when dealing with stress, trauma or depression. Any changes in mental health can also impact our emotional well-being.
When you can process information healthily, safely and responsibly, you can appreciate better relationships, reduced stress and better overall well-being. Noticing changes in our emotional state can also help us recognize when conditions like depression or anxiety might be at play.
Balancing the four mental health pillars can help you maintain your overall well-being. When you learn about and care for all elements of mental health, you can improve all other aspects of your life — including your physical, social, cognitive and emotional functioning.
Eating foods that contribute to a healthier gut is essential to better mental health. Aim to avoid highly processed foods and replace them with whole foods high in collagen, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids to improve gut bacteria and mood. The following foods are good for physical and mental health:
Getting proper sleep can also help your body and mind feel better. Experts recommend that adults sleep seven to nine hours each night to maintain physical and mental health. Sticking to a sleep schedule, reducing screen use before bed and creating a comfortable sleep environment can all contribute to better rest.
Staying active is another essential aspect of building strong mental health. Studies show that exercise might reduce our likelihood of developing depression or cognitive health problems as we age. Moving the body releases natural feel-good hormones like endorphins and dopamine, which can battle symptoms of depression. Over time, regular exercise can also increase volumes of specific brain regions, improving oxygen and nutrient delivery to support brain growth.
Strengthening and exercising the brain with fun activities can significantly enhance your cognition skills and overall mental health. Here are a few brain activities you might try on your own or with friends and family:
Developing and maintaining close relationships can help build stronger mental and emotional health. With a social support system, you can experience improved confidence and a better ability to relate to others. Social support can also help you when you're experiencing stress from everyday life challenges. The people closest to you can be there when you need validation or a distraction from overwhelming or difficult emotions.
While it might be tough to leave the house when you're experiencing depression or low moods, take things slow. Even getting outside for a few minutes and being around others without talking might make you feel better. Visiting coffee shops, browsing bookstores and shopping for groceries are a few easy ways to build social interaction into your routine.
When you're finding it challenging to balance the pillars of mental health, professional treatment can help. Health providers often use a combination of medicines and therapy to help with conditions like depression or anxiety. Antidepressants and other medication might help you manage symptoms, while therapy can teach you healthy coping skills for everyday stressors.
Social interaction, emotional regulation and cognitive and physical fitness are key components of mental health. When you care for each of the pillars, you can experience improved moods and well-being. While it can be challenging to maintain your mental health, Diamond House is here for you.
Our compassionate and knowledgeable health providers can provide therapy and medicines to manage symptoms and improve your overall health. Whether you're experiencing a mental health condition like depression or simply need someone to talk to, we're here for you.
To learn more about our mental health treatment programs, contact us today.