JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS
Walking the Path
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
Congratulations! You have survived the holidays, made New Year’s determinations, been sick a time or two, enjoyed the few days of sunshine, and are now anticipating the warm spring breeze. The question is, “Do you walk this daily path in good mental health?”
I thought I would review some of the different attitudes, lifestyle habits, and ways of thinking that support holistic mental health. Of course, that means we are looking at the whole person in the context of the environment. True healthiness includes all the aspects of our being, our relationship to others, and to the environment.
Attitude of Gratitude
Beginning each day with specific statements of gratitude and generously sprinkling them throughout the day can be one of the most potent ‘wake-up’ and ‘feel-good’ remedies known to us.
Establish and Live Your Sense of Purpose/Meaning
Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” establishes the profound truth that a life with purpose and meaning is rich, full, joyous, and long! We all know we need to have a sense of purpose to have direction and meaning in our lives. It is easy to lose this sense of oneself when the daily grind is demanding and small, seemingly inconsequential tasks eat up the time. We can remind ourselves that each action, no matter how small, is connected to the larger purpose. That gives meaning to what may seem trivial and inconsequential.
Sense of Humor
When our ability to laugh at ourselves and others is gone, mental health runs quickly in the opposite directions. This is not about ridicule, sarcasm or putting oneself or others down. It is about seeing the paradoxes of life, the incongruencies, enjoying a play on words or visual images, or seeing the humor in difficult situations by reframing it. When you are criticizing yourself, pick a cartoon character or comedian and speak to yourself in that voice. Soon you will be laughing instead of criticizing yourself.
Nurturing Self and Others
Any good mental health program includes a healthy dose of self-nurturing and equal amounts of nurturing others. Most philosophies or religions talk about the balance of loving yourself and others as in, “Love your neighbor as yourself” or “Practice for yourself and others.” This is more complete. Just focusing on oneself can become egocentric or narcissistic. Only taking care of others encourages dependency and resentment on our part and the part of others.
We can nurture ourselves and others by reframing situations in positive, constructive language and thoughts.
We can nurture our bodies with good self-care. This includes the things we know about, but often forget exercise, good nutrition, nutritional supplements, diverse and enjoyable activities plenty of sleep, massage, or other nurturing kinds of bodywork.
Daily Spiritual Practice
People who have some kind of daily spiritual practice, guided by a belief system, tend to be healthier physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This doesn’t mean that one has to join an organized religion. Rather, it is about embracing a set of values, a philosophy that makes meaning out of life and all its activity. Whether you take a walk, meditate, chant, attend a religious ceremony, connect deeply with yourself or another in some way, you are bringing together all the parts of yourself in meaningful action. It helps to reserve a time each day and to have a ‘special’ place where you connect, refresh and renew.
Sense of Awe and Wonder
Finding a way to awaken and nourish a sense of awe about the world, ourselves, and others is a powerful way to be positive, joyous, and alive. The poem, “Summons”, by Robert Francis reminds us of this ‘wonder-full’ way of living.
“Keep me from going to sleep too soon
Or if I go to sleep too soon
Come wake me up…
Tell me the northern lights are on
And make me look…
See that I see..."
Take your inventory and ‘walk the path’ of good mental health!
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC is a counselor and educator. She is the author of the Life Weaving Education Curriculum that teaches creative, effective holistic problem-solving. For counseling appointments (confidential video or in-person sessions), seminars, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Relationship Therapy call