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Defining wellness as mental health month approaches

Since it's mid-April, mental health providers and advocates across the country are gearing up for Mental Health Awareness Month recognized each May. This year's theme is "Pathways to Wellness," with the intent of reminding people that the brain is part of the whole body and true wellness must be considered from the perspective of mind and body together.

Wellness is defined by the National Wellness Institute as an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence.

Because living a "successful existence" means something different to each individual, wellness can be many things, but it generally includes the pursuit of health, defined by the World Health Organization as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity" and working toward achieving one's full potential.

Here are some tangible tips from Mental Health America to improve your state of wellness:

• Connecting with others can help you to enjoy the times when you are alone.

• Staying positive can improve your mood and your health.

• If you quit smoking now, in 20 minutes your heart rate drops, and in 12 hours the carbon monoxide (a gas that can be toxic) in your blood drops to normal.

• Exercising in "spurts" can be just as effective as continuous exercise.

• Helping others may help you experience less depression.

• Drinking beverages with caffeine should be stopped 6-8 hours before bed to ensure a more restful sleep.

• Creating joy and satisfaction can be easy with little things such as making a gourmet meal while listening to your favorite music, treating yourself to a massage, or even taking a few moments to admire nature.

• What you drink is just as important as what you eat.

• Spirituality can give you a sense of purpose and meaning.

• Writing down your problems can help shift your thinking about the issue and ultimately improve your mood.

• It is essential to choose a provider who understands the importance of the both of you working collaboratively regarding your healthcare.

• Stress management techniques are important because chronic (long-lasting) stress can change your brain and the way you function.

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