Taking a Holistic Approach to Mental Health
Let’s dive into the concept of adopting a holistic approach to mental health. It’s all about finding balance and taking care of both the mind and body.
Balance in life is what a lot of people struggle with. I know throughout my career, I have struggled with balance and maintaining health patterns in my life.
When I talk about balance this includes:
- Regular physical exercise
- Eating a healthy diet
- Maintaining social connections
It is the last one, maintaining social connections, that we have learned to ignore during the pandemic.
It is taking a holistic approach that will promote good mental health.
Note: This is the second post of this series. Check out the previous post Nurturing Your Mental Health: A Guide for Those 50 and Older.
Regular Physical Exercise
Physical exercise plays a key role in this approach. Engaging in regular exercise not only improves your physical fitness but also has positive effects on your mental well-being.
We have been told for decades that we need to exercise. How many of you have made New Year’s resolutions to go to the gym and by February you have stopped going
You need to find activities you enjoy, whether it’s a walk in the park, yoga sessions, or hitting the gym. I have taken up bicycling again and found a small group of friends to ride with. There is an interconnection between physical health and the need to be socially connected.
I am now in the best physical condition of my adult life. This can be attributed to having an accountability partner, recording my workouts on an app, Strava, and being patient with myself. I am the oldest and the slowest of the people I ride with. I do not compare myself with others.
This last weekend bunch of my buddies went on a 65-mile-long gravel ride with close to 3000 feet of climbing. I declined as I would only be holding them back, i.e. I could not keep up, and I would be exhausted for days. Instead, I went on a 42-mile ride with 1,300 feet of climbing, where I took a break at an overlook of a large dry lake bed. I could not have done this 3 years ago, but now this is a very enjoyable ride.
I have been patient with myself in my holistic approach to mental health.
A well-balanced Diet is Critical to a Holistic Approach to Mental Health
A well-balanced diet is also crucial for overall well-being. Fueling your body with nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins supports optimal brain function and positively impacts your mental health. Don’t worry, it’s not about giving up your favorite treats entirely but rather focusing on a balanced and nutritious diet.
My wife and I moved to Ajijic Mexico in June of 2018 from our home of over 40 years, Austin, Texas. This has been a blessing in eating healthier.
Every time we travel back to the United States I am amazed at the volume of packaged processed foods. Yes, we still make runs to Costco Mexico in Guadalajara every couple of months. We eat some processed and packaged foods but far less than when we lived in the United States. My wife tends to shop for food several times a week mostly from either local merchants or from farmer’s markets.
I now understand the farm-to-table movement. Most of the fruits and vegetables we eat are grown within 100 miles of where we live. Everything is so much more flavorful.
You can do the same by buying locally and what is available locally at any time of year. Consuming fresh and locally grown food is much better for you.
This would be a major shift in the way we look at how we produce, shop, and consume food.
In my humble opinion, the factory food system in the United States contributes to the mental health problems that people of all ages are experiencing.
Importance of Social Connections
Lastly, let’s talk about the importance of social connections. Spending time with loved ones and participating in social activities can provide emotional support, reduce loneliness, and bring a sense of purpose. Engage in meaningful relationships and cultivate a strong support system.
The pandemic did a lot of mental health damage to those over 50. We were told to isolate to protect our physical health. Unfortunately, this has become the new normal for many 50 years of age.
For most of us, our career success came from the relationships we built. Our networks were what drove our success. What the pandemic did was accelerate the process of our networks aging out. Many of the people who helped us in our careers, retired, lost influence, or died during the pandemic. We also go out of the habit of regularly networking and more importantly networking in person.
Many have started to see family again but my observation is people have just started to return to business networking.
Building new relationships is a crucial piece to a holistic approach to mental health.
How to Get Started in Taking a Holistic Approach to Mental Health
Incorporating these elements into your life can help you nurture your mental well-being and enjoy a more balanced and fulfilling existence during this significant stage of life. It’s all about finding what works for you and taking small steps toward a holistic approach to mental health.
Get started by picking one of the three areas, exercise, diet, or social connections. Focus on that area but be kind to yourself. Just like me starting to bicycle again, I slowly got back into it, I recorded my results and I had help from others.
You can do the same.
My next post will be about practicing mindfulness and stress reduction.