Mental health vs. mental wellness

By Melissa Clark

You may hear stories on the news about the impacts this pandemic made on people’s mental health. The social distancing and isolation can cause negative thoughts or emotions, plus a variety of other feelings. So, what is mental health and how does it impact your everyday life? 

What is mental health?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes mental health as “our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.” 

Why is mental health important for overall health?

Mental health has the potential to cause issues with your overall health. People who experience depression may have a reduction in physical activity, eat unhealthy foods and isolate from their family and friends. These lifestyle changes may cause heart disease, obesity and diabetes. 

What is mental wellness and how does it improve mental health?

The Global Wellness Institute defines mental wellness as “an internal resource that helps us think, feel, connect and function; it is an active process that helps us to build resilience, grow and flourish.” 

Doing things that make you feel good, happy or meaningful will increase your mental wellness, resulting in an increase in your mental health. Some activities that may improve your mental wellness include:

  • Physical activities (hiking, swimming, biking, exercising, etc.)
  • Artistic activities (singing, drawing, painting, dancing, etc.)
  • Volunteering
  • Enjoying time with friends and family
  • Eating good food
  • Completing personal goals

What is the difference between mental health and mental illness?

There can be confusion between the terms mental health and mental illness. The American Psychiatry Association explains that mental health revolves around how you function in your daily life. Mental illness is caused by mental disorders that affect your thinking, emotions and/or behavior. Mental illnesses can impact your mental health negatively, leading to depression, anxiety, phobias, etc.

Your mental health and wellness contribute a lot towards how you function in your life. Identify the things that make you feel happy and continue to incorporate them into your life. By improving your mental wellness, your mental health with improve with it, which in turn, makes for a healthier life.  

Mental & Behavioral Health Care at University Health

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call that National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

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