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On Mental Health: Physical, Intellectual, and Spiritual Factors (the "Internal").


by Live Better

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you're new to the newsletter, last week we discussed the three "external" factors of mental health (Social, Environmental, and Emotional) within the context of all the "elements" we considered in week one (a non-exhaustive model). The below are those factors:

  • Social

  • Environmental

  • Emotional

  • Physical

  • Intellectual

  • Spiritual

While all of these elements contain both external AND internal factors of influence for mental health, we'll choose to break them up fo discussion purposes.

This week we'll be discussing the three (heavily weighted) "internal" factors of mental health: Physical, Intellectual, and Spiritual. We often derive "purpose" and other important indicators of mental health from within ourselves.

After all is said and done, at the end of every day, we decide what is most important to us. We ultimately decide the fate of our lives by choosing our path. This happens between our ears before we take the first step.

We'll go through each one of the three below, and offer an easy suggestion to improve in each area.

Physical Health
The easiest way to change your mental state is to change your physical state. With more physical energy, tough decisions become easier to handle. We are less physically stressed, which leaves room to be emotionally strong. When fatigued, under-slept, and run down, our fuse gets a bit shorter.

Even a quick walk can release a string of endorphins to help you feel good. People often attribute activities like running to "meditative" states; otherwise known as "runner's high." The same can be said about adventure activities like surfing, sky-diving, and rock climbing to create "flow states", and induce bouts of creativity.

How can this extend to helping solve longer term symptoms of depression, anxiety, or with other mental health challenges?

For May, prioritize movement every single day for the remainder of the month. Don't have time to workout? Fine, take a walk on your next work call. Don't have time to workout? Fine, stretch at your desk once per hour for five minutes.

The excuse of not having enough time is completely ridiculous. Movement simply lacks priority. Multi-task during a conversation (stretch) or fit in "snacks" - 5 push-ups or squats at a time.

Food for thought: What excuses are you making for missed workouts or a sedentary lifestyle? Write them down. Name your weaknesses so you can identify them.

Our physical health is the vehicle to go where we want to go, do what we want to do, and ultimately adventure through life. It plays a pivotal role in our Mental Health; don't take it for granted.

Intellectual Health
Let's assume that you're not an entrepreneur reading this and you have a 9-5 job. How incentivized are you to go home and spend time researching ways to be better at your job? How many days per week do you utilize your "free time" to develop job-related skills?

Another question - do you have a hobby that forces you to create something? We're always talking about creation > consumption, especially in today's world; what are you adding to the world around you?

Intellectual health goes beyond picking up your Wall Street Journal. It goes beyond being informed about current events. Congratulations, you can spit out where new real estate developments are popping up, who is pissed at who in Washington, and know the weather for all of next week, but what are you contributing using your unique gifts that you (and only you) possess?

Find ways to have stimulating conversations. Put down the gossip column. Turn off the (BS) television (Game of Thrones not included). Stop scrolling through Instagram.

Go contribute something epic. Create something unique. Learn something life-changing (about yourself).

In May, commit to learning a new skill or working on a passion project that you will spend more than 1+ hour of time on per day. It doesn't even have to anywhere - just watch how excited you become about creating something yourself rather than regurgitating someone else's ideas for purposes of conversation.

Food for thought: The opposite of growth is stagnation, which is "death" of the mind. A stale mind is a sedentary mind. Intellectual health is "mental fitness."

Spiritual Health
The most open-ended section of them all: spiritual health. The eternal questions of life's purpose, our purpose, and constant self-reflection are important. They paint a larger picture of the world outside of our own purview; the one that tells us we are the center of the universe.

Guess what? Everyone is the center of their own universe. In terms of self-preservation (a basic instinct), this makes sense. In a materialistic game of "500" (remember that ball game??), where all our hands are up in the air trying to "get ours" and get ahead, it makes people assholes (on occasion...or frequently). We're selfish and greedy instead of compassionate and giving.

Spiritual health connects us to each other. Whether that be anything from religion to group fitness class to spending time in nature with other people for you, we must seek out this link to something greater than ourselves.

It provides hope when there is none. It provides a support system of like-minded people when you need a strategy to deal with life (hope is not a strategy, as Jimmy Cameron might say). It provides a purpose bigger than even the most sincere and grand vision we can dream for ourselves.

In May, take some time to explore new possibilities here. Our dogma is usually the most engrained moral framework we have (religious or secular). A closed mind is a dangerous mind because it is ignorant to new connection. The ability to try, disagree, and do so with empathy for your counter-part might be a top priority and open you to new ways of understanding other people and cultures.

Go to church with someone. Attend a class you wouldn't otherwise go to. Try meditating for the first time. Walk through nature (without headphones) without a purpose other than to enjoy being outside. Or, simply stare at the stars when they're out.

Food for thought: Our nationalism defines a way we identify ourselves ("I am American" or "I am Chinese"). Same with our race, religion, sexual orientation, age, and gender. What if the only designation was "human being"? How would you view your neighbor, then?

We're so excited to continue this journey throughout May to de-stigmatize talking about Mental Health. Story you want to share or question you want to ask? Follow along on Instagram and tag @livebetterco, and leave a comment below.