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Mental Health and Longevity

The Habits of Health Transformational System looks at every aspect of wellbeing for opportunities to live a longer, more vibrant life, and that means taking a deep—sometimes difficult—look at ourselves. The reward for asking these hard questions, though, can mean more time to create memories with our loved ones.

According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, trauma and depression can adversely impact our longevity. If you have been following my work, that should not come as much of a surprise because we have known for years how damaging living in a heightened state of anxiety and stress can be for our wellbeing. It turns out that trauma and depression may follow similar paths and shorten our lives.

So few health professionals are having these conversations despite the enormous toll stress or depression can take on us. These emotional states sap our willpower and make it harder for us to make healthy choices, especially if we struggle with emotional eating. To succeed in our journey to optimal health, we have to address the mental as well as the physical.

Mental health includes many key areas, including strong relationships, a sense of community, making time to follow spirituality, and finding engagement and motivation at your job, hobbies and so on.

Here are some ideas to help you informally evaluate your own mental wellbeing:

  • Do you have deep meaningful relationships with friends and family?
  • Do you have passion for your job, enjoy what you’re doing, and feel fully attentive and focused throughout your days?
  • Do you believe that you can accomplish whatever you put your mind and body to?
  • Are you hopeful and optimistic about the future and act thoughtfully on your emotions when they arise?
  • Are you resilient, do you learn from the past, and do you have meaning and purpose and savor the small pleasures of life?
  • Do you feel that life is happening through you and you’re connected to your faith and spirituality?
  • Are you connected to your community in service, and are you having fun, relaxing, and connecting to nature with hobbies and free time for yourself?

Your mental health is primarily determined by how you take responsibility for your thoughts and actions. As we work together (via your Habits of Health journey), you will learn to be able to place your thoughts and mind where you want, for as long as you want, to become the dominant force in your life.

This is important work, and the rewards are numerous. You will not transform your mental health overnight, but if you start to practice mindfulness and reflect on places you might improve, you can begin to make a change, step by step.

Let that be your first accomplishment: Answer the above questions and write down some ideas for how you might improve in one area. Maybe you schedule a weekly family dinner to reconnect with your children. Maybe you join a volunteer organization. Maybe you start keeping a journal to reflect on the obstacles you face in your life, looking for ways you might learn from them.

Start small, and make gradual progress. And don’t forget to consult with your physician as well.

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