By Dr. Andrea Gottlieb

Welcome to the very first Mental Health Moment! In this monthly column, experts from Sheppard Pratt Health System will share advice, resources, and practices to help you build a healthy mind.

Americans spend thousands of hours at the gym each year to build healthy bodies, but most give much less attention to the care of their minds. Like your body, your mind and emotions need strengthening, rest, and renewal. Engaging in practices that intentionally foster mental health is every bit as important as going to the gym. Here are a few of these practices:

Many people are helped through traditional psychotherapy. If this term conjures up an image of someone lying on a couch, then your view of therapy likely stems from the movies and cartoons rather than real life! Psychotherapy is an umbrella term for traditional talk-based mental health treatment with a psychotherapist, typically a psychologist, counselor, or clinical social worker.

Many people also find comfort in group therapy, where they are surrounded with people dealing with the same issues that they are. Some group therapies are aimed at people learning new skills and others focus on building support and hope. And still other people embrace creative therapies, such as art, dance, or horticulture therapy, as well as eastern practices, such as yoga and acupuncture.

A proactive strategy that you can learn to do on your own is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of observing the present moment, as it is, without judgment. While mindfulness is often associated with meditation, you do not have to meditate to be mindful. Self-help books focused on applying mindfulness to your life can be a first step for someone not knowing where to start! Some of them help with building self-compassion and loving kindness and others focus on accepting symptoms of anxiety or depression.

And finally, while it seems like common sense, focusing your time and energy toward the things that are in line with your values can have a great impact on mental health. For example, someone who values community might think about spending time with a group of friends, attending a religious gathering, or even walking around a neighborhood park. Can you restructure your schedule to allow time for more values-driven activities?

Here are some tips:

  • Define what you hope to see improve, and be honest with yourself about your mental health needs.
  • Find something that is aimed at helping you with this goal you just defined.
  • Do your research. If you care about finding treatment that you know will work, look for practices that are supported by research! t

The author is affiliated with the Sheppard Pratt Health System