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Mental Illness? No...Let's Talk About Mental Wellness.

January 1st - the start of a new year. Usually around this time people start reflecting on their lives - where they're at and where they want to be. They excitedly and optimistically set goals for the future, often focused on self-improvement. These goals could be anything from physical health and wellness to finally taking that vacation they've been thing about (and everything in between).

Recently there has been a big push for mental health awareness. It has become a hot topic issue - it seems like everybody is talking about it. News and other media coverage has focused on negative events such as school shootings, terrorist activities in our cities, with the most recent focus on the epidemic of sexual assault and violence.

Mental health issues can be caused by a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors, and can have a minor or major impact on a person's thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Whether it's depression, anxiety, extreme stress caused by a major life event, or something else, these things can cause people to experience extreme emotional distress or problems in their everyday lives. Whether they are experiencing problems in their interpersonal relationships, difficulties in job or school performance, legal issues, health problems or anything else, getting treatment and learning to manage symptoms can significantly improve overall well-being and quality of life.

January is recognized as Mental Wellness Month. I figured this would be the perfect time to step back from all the talk of mental illness and instead talk about mental wellness.

So what is mental wellness? According to the World Health Organization, mental wellness (or mental health) is defined as, "a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community."

Here are some ways you can improve your own mental wellness:

* Get enough quality sleep.

* Eat a healthy diet.

* Get regular exercise.

* Develop a support system - and use it.

* Learn and develop coping skills.

* Be mindful.

* Be positive and optimistic while being rational/realistic.

* Be open-minded to feedback.

* Promote a healthy, positive environment.

* Get professional help if you need it.

So what are some goals for yourself? How will you kick off the new year to ensure your own mental wellness?

Happy Mental Wellness Month!! And Happy New Year!!

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