How to stay mentally well.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Mental Health or Mental Illness

Mental Health or Mental Illness?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Being mentally well involves a lot more than not having a mental illness.

I learned this lesson from an old car I used to drive. The car was battered, and it had a lot of miles on it, but it ran, and it got me where I need to go. Periodically I took it to a mechanic to get it serviced. There wasn’t anything broken on the car, but it didn’t always run as well as I would have liked. On the freeway, if I got up to a certain speed, the car would start to shake and become hard to control, so I had to slow it back down. But when I tried to accelerate it took forever to get up to speed, and the things that the mechanic fixed didn’t seem to make any difference. This car had an air conditioner, but it never seemed to be able to keep up once the air temperature outside got above eighty degrees.

Finally, that old car did break down, and there was no fixing her this time. I bought a much newer car and was quite surprised at how much easier it was to drive my new vehicle. It accelerated rapidly, and it didn’t shake when I got up to freeway speeds. Not only did the new cars air conditioner cool on high, but it could also make the car feel downright cold.

Just as there was a long-distance between a car that ran poorly and a car that didn’t run. There can be an equally large distance between a condition that is so severe it’s diagnosed as a mental illness and you’re being fully mentally well.

Here are some tips on how to improve your mental health and be mentally well.

Try some of these tips to improve your mental wellness.

Don’t let your thoughts control you.

There is a difference between your thoughts and the truth. Not everything you think is accurate. What you need to do is separate helpful from unhelpful thoughts. Just because something scares you doesn’t mean it is dangerous. Don’t fall into the perfectionist trap of believing that if you’re not perfect, you’re a failure.

Get honest with yourself.

Many people have these little stories they tell themselves. It’s easy to blame other people for what’s wrong in your life. Many people self-handicap. They tell themselves they can’t do something which then becomes their excuse for not trying. When I work with people, who were in recovery from substance use disorders, I discovered many of them had told other people lies so often they come to believe their own stories. You’re going to spend your whole life with you make it an honest relationship.

Being real is essential for good mental health.

Be true to yourself. Don’t go through life being a fake and living for other people’s opinion. Don’t fall victim to the “impostor syndrome.” Do what you can do the best of your abilities but don’t ever doubt that you do have some abilities.

Be true to yourself; avoid dissonance.

Living your life by someone else’s values will not be satisfying for you unless those are also your values. Many people have three separate selves, who they think they should be, who they believe they are, and who they wish they were. The farther apart these three selves are the more dissonance. Accept yourself the way you are rather than trying to become some ideal perfect person. Work on improving the who you are and consider living the life of the person you want to be.

Knowing yourself is part of being mentally well.

Self-knowledge will help avoid fuzzy boundaries. Avoid being enmeshed or codependent. Your thoughts and feelings are your own. You must live your own life. You can share part of your life with others, but you can’t live their lives.

Don’t dump your stuff on others.

Psychoanalysts spend a lot of time looking at things called transference and countertransference. Don’t assume because you’re angry that everyone else is. If you had a problem with your father, don’t treat all men as if they were your father. Try to see each person as a unique individual who may not feel or think the same way you do.

Double-check the blueprints you developed in childhood.

A lot of the problems adults have are things they learned between the ages of eight and eighteen, which turned out to not work as adults or to not to be true. Crying may have worked well to get grandma to give you candy but falling down on the floor, and crying won’t get you a raise, and it may get you fired. No one learns everything a hundred percent, and your parents could only teach you what they knew. Reexamine those old templates you stored in your brain about how you should be and how you should interact with others.

Learn to calm yourself down.

Small children are dependent on their parents to soothe them when they’re upset. As we grow, we should learn to regulate our own feelings and to self soothe. Don’t believe that other people can control the way you feel. You may not like the things others do, but you don’t have to become angry or hurt. Just because you feel agitated does not mean you have to act out.

Look for improvement opportunities rather than failures.

Making mistakes is a part of life. Everyone does it whether you see their failures or not. Don’t beat yourself up for every mistake. Learn from your experiences. Continue to get better at living life. Life will give you a lot of challenges. Just because you missed the target once don’t stop trying. You will either learn from your mistakes, or you will keep making the same ones over and over. Grow because of your experiences rather than giving up.

Start now working on your mental health and wellness as well as your physical health. Some things may be out of your control but take control of things you can. Just avoiding illness is not enough. You deserve to have the best life possible.

Look here for more information on Mental Health and Wellness.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

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Hope- the missing Mental Health ingredient.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Hope

Hope. The missing menatl health ingrediant. 
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Without hope treatment for mental illness is ineffective.

Large doses of hope may turn out to be the most effective treatment for mental illness. It is an ingredient that has been missing from treatment programs for far too long.

The conventional wisdom, when it comes to mental health, turns out to not be true. For a long time, there has been the belief that there are two kinds of people, the normal and the mentally ill. The result of this thinking error was that we lost hope for those with a mental illness to recover.

Turns out that they is us. In their lifetime half of all Americans will have an episode of a mental illness that should be diagnosed and treated. No, just toughing it out and pretending you do not have a problem will not make it go away.

Mental Health is on a continuum. Some people’s experience of a mental illness will be more severe than others. People on this continuum can move to being more healthy or less mentally healthy. Just like physical health, you may not be able to know who is going to get which disorder at which time but we know there are risk factors and ways to keep yourself more mentally healthy.

This misunderstanding, that people without a mental illness can get better or worse and so can those with a mental illness, has impeded our ability to help those experiencing an emotional problem.

Many of our mental health treatment systems are still stuck in that old way of thinking. If the mentally ill are different from the rest of us then they will always be ill and society needs to take care of them and run their lives. That approach is devoid of hope and disregards the role of the person with an illness in managing their symptoms and their life.

If we recognize that mental illness, like physical illness, can get better at times and worse at times, then this tells us that there is hope. Hope for recovery is fundamental to any rational approach to treating mental illness.

If those with a mental illness are not permanently stuck in a hopeless place then there are things that they can do to improve their mental health and wellness. This concept, that people with a challenge can live meaningful lives, that you can recover, is one of the basic tenants of 12 step programs. It seems that recovery works very well for alcoholism and addiction – why not for mental illness?

By recovery or Wellness and Recovery we do not necessarily mean a cure. Some conditions, once you have them, there will always be a risk of a relapse. Both Mental illness and Substance Use Disorders are conditions for which there is a high risk of relapse.

If there are things that increase the risk of relapse then there are certain things that can reduce this risk. This means to me that recovery from mental illness is not something that the doctor or therapist does to the client, it is something we help the client learn to do for themselves.

Some of you are thinking, yeah right! They need to see a doctor for medication. Yes, this is true. They need the doctor’s expertise when it comes to medication. But those meds are worthless unless that person has the skills needed to take those meds as prescribed.

Every program I have ever worked at has talked about a subject called “medication compliance” as if getting people to take their meds was something we professionals should make people do. Truth is we get the best results, and so do the clients, when we empower clients to actively participate in this process.

This concept, that Hope is a necessary part of recovery, is not something original with me. The value of hope has ancient roots. When it comes to mental health it is a concept that’s time has come.

W.R.A.P. – Wellness and Recovery Action Planning.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a training on a program called “WRAP” which stands for Wellness and Recovery Action Planning.” This program was developed by and for mental health clients/consumers to use in planning to maintain their mental health and to have a plan for what to do if that mental health faced a challenge.

For more on this program see: https://copelandcenter.com/wellness-recovery-action-plan-wrap

Look also at http://www.mentalhealthrecovery.com/

Books about WRAP are available from https://www.wrapandrecoverybooks.com/store/

As a result of attending this training, I am now a certified W.R.A.P.  Facilitator. If you want to know more about that contact me or check out the links above.

One of the important parts of this training was the discussion of 5 “Key Concepts” that are the foundation of the W.R.A.P. program.

One of those Key concepts? You guessed it. – HOPE.

How do all of you feel about this radical concept – Hope? Do you have some? Do any of you have stories about hope and recovery you would be able to share with the other blog readers?

Consider how much hope you have and how you can build more hope for you and others.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.