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Mental Health vs. Mental Illness: 10 Ways To Flex Your Brain and Stay Sane

Last Updated on December 27, 2018 by Inspire Malibu

Here’s a little bit of truth, a person with good mental health might occasionally experience bouts of mental illness. On the flip side of the coin, a person who is diagnosed with a mental illness can live a happy and fulfilling life.

Is There a Difference Between Mental Health and Mental Illness?

Mental Health vs. Mental IllnessMental Health is a term that focuses on the positive side of mental wellbeing and highlights or pursues happiness and self-esteem through exercise, mindfulness or meditation.

Mental Illness, on the other hand, centers on a clinical condition that negatively impacts a person such as depression, PTSD, bipolar, or anxiety disorder. A mental illness is diagnosed by a physician using a variety of tools, like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health (DSM).

Mental Health: What’s normal, what’s not?

In May 2013, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) released the DSM-5. While it is still the reference manual of choice for diagnosing a mental illness, the latest version has received loads of criticism in the psychiatric community.

Dr. Allen Frances, the former chair on the task force that released the DSM-IV, has been one of the most vocal critics. In an interview on, Dr. Frances said, “There’s been a rapid diagnostic inflation over the course of the last 35 years, turning problems of everyday life into mental disorders resulting in excessive treatment with medication. Pretty soon everyone’s going to have a mental disorder or two or three…”

As the arguments over what is a diagnosable mental illness and what is not continue, it’s important to look for ways to increase positive mental health for everyone, not just those with some form illness or mental disorder.

Here are 10 Things Proven to Boost Positive Mental Health

Exercise Boosts Mental Health

1. Exercise Regularly

Physical exertion not only burns calories, but it produces endorphins, which play a big role in feeling positive about our lives.

2. Protect Your Time

Keeping a regular schedule, getting home early and spending time with loved ones or friends add stability to our lives.

3. Celebrate Success

When something good happens, take a moment to experience the affirming feelings of a job well done.

4. Volunteer

Helping other people forces us to set aside our own worries and fears as we come to the assistance of those with greater needs.

5. Sleep

The amount of ZZZ’s a person needs depends on the individual, but a good gauge is 6 to 9 hours for healthy adults. Feeling alert and rested each day is vital.

6. Be Your Own Best Friend

It’s easy to get down on ourselves. A healthy practice is being mindful of how you perceive and speak to yourself. Keep it positive.

7. Give Compliments

Let people know what you like about them. Making others feel good about themselves pays off with returns of their appreciation.

8. Accept Kindness

When someone is kind to you, in whatever fashion, appreciate and receive it rather than bat it away as unnecessary.

9. Be Grateful

Keep a list of things, people or situations that you’re grateful you have in your life. If you’re feeling down, focus on positive items.

10. Ask For Help

From to time, we all need help resolving problems or facing obstacles. Another person’s unique point of view might be just the answer to solving the riddle.

Practicing these suggestions can form good mental health habits, but it’s also important to be aware when a medical evaluation might be in order.

Prolonged periods of depression, excessive anxiety, substance abuse, or extreme mood swings warrant seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor.

By reaching out and seeking help, you are protecting your long-term mental health and wellbeing.

Related Posts:

The Science and Statistics of Mental Illness

10 Films About Mental Illness

Need A Mental Fix? Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


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