Written by
Mary R. Stanley

What Is Mental Health, And Why Is It Important?

Published on 
June 27, 2022

Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and includes our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors1. Our mental health impacts all areas of our life, including our work life, home life and relationships, academic performance, and our participation in the community. Mental health is an essential part of your daily functioning.

Struggling with mental health and stress is a common life experience and there are benefits to addressing these issues. including increased emotion regulation, reduced anxiety, increased focus and concentration, improved closeness in relationships, and increased self-esteem2. Ultimately, daily life becomes easier to manage when your mind is well.

Everyone’s mental health needs are different. We all have different risk factors which may predispose us to develop a mental health disorder, or be susceptible to stress. Some risk factors include experiencing child abuse or neglect, sexual violence, having a family member diagnosed with a mental health disorder, or substance use and chemical dependence2.

Signs of Mental Health Issues

Warning signs of poor mental health can be subtle. If you recognize the following warning signs in yourself or your loved ones, please seek consultation with a mental health professional1:

  • Lack of appetite or overeating
  • Increased alcohol or substance use
  • Lack of energy or increased fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, focusing or remembering
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Withdrawing from people
  • Neglecting hygiene or personal appearance
  • Intrusive thoughts or unusual behaviors
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Thoughts about harming yourself or others (call 911 or 1-800-273-8255 for help)
  • Mood swings, anger or irritability
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there

How to Improve your Mental Health

Incorporating self-care strategies into your routine can help you stay well and improve your daily functioning. Consider the following recommendations1,3:

  • Exercise regularly. If exercising alone at the gym doesn’t sound appealing, try a group-oriented exercise like a yoga or Pilates class.
  • Improve your sleep. Getting regular sleep is a critical aspect of wellness. See these tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to review your current sleep practices. 
  • Learn to say “no” and build boundaries. When you are busy, declining activities that aren’t in your best interest is okay. Your time is important; spend it wisely.
  • Practice mindfulness. Relaxation activities like meditation, yoga and progressive muscle relaxation are excellent strategies to improve concentration and mental stamina. Check out these guided meditations from UCSD or do a quick search for a yoga class.
  • Practice gratitude. Start your day (or end your evening) with a quick gratitude practice. Write down three things you are grateful for today. Allow yourself to feel the joy of gratitude inside. Where does it live in your body?
  • Connect with your loved ones or friends. Stay connected with people in your support network. It’s okay to tell your support person what you need, such as “I just want to vent without being given advice.”

How to Get Help

Sometimes it is difficult to know where to start. Know that there is always a professional available to help you, and there is no shame in seeking a counselor or therapist. To find a therapist or mental health provider in your area, browse PsychologyToday or check out online therapy websites such as BetterHelp, or Thriveworks.


1MentalHealth.gov (2022, February 28). What is mental health? https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health

2Plumptre, E. (2021, November 15). Why is mental health important? https://www.verywellmind.com/the-importance-of-mental-health-for-wellbeing-5207938

3Cleveland Clinic (2021, January 28). Stress. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress

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