Mental illness can be debilitating and incredibly isolating. Not only do the conditions feel overwhelming, but they can also affect us so much that our relationships, physical well-being, and our daily lives are impacted. I’ve previously struggled with depression for months, unable to do my normal day-to-day activities. Given the impact mental illness can have, it is key — especially for people in recovery — to focus on achieving and maintaining mental wellness.

Despite mental illness affecting so many Americans, it is still grossly misunderstood. As a malady we can’t see, we often don’t know how to respond to it. What’s more, few know the importance of maintaining mental health, much less how to do it.

What Is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as, “health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.”

Common mental illnesses include:

Who Is Affected by Mental Illness?

Anyone can be affected by mental illness, and it can occur at any time during a person’s life. Although, it’s most common in those with a family history of mental illness. That said, most diagnoses are made between 18–20 years old. In any given year, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience some form of mental illness.

Mental illness is treatable. Most people will be able to live a normal life with a treatment plan. Typically, this can involve psychotherapy and sometimes medication, which is something you need to consult with a medical professional about. There are also several well-being activities that can support mental health that you can try.

How Do You Achieve Mental Health?

Mental health is absolutely integral to your overall well-being and in maintaining your recovery. Being mentally well makes daily tasks, work, and relationships more manageable. It also makes you more able to adapt to change and cope with adversity.

As a person in recovery who suffers from depression and anxiety, I have found the following activities to be effective in bolstering my sense of well-being:

  1. Exercise: I cycle everywhere, run regularly, take walks among trees, and lift heavyweights. I feel amazing after working out; It gives me energy, stabilizes my mood, helps me feel calmer, and promotes healthier sleep. Also, exercising leads me to make healthier and more nutritious food choices.
  2. Talking: I have found several talking activities helpful: regularly talking to a therapist, attending self-help groups, and speaking to a support network of friends. Those closest to me know what is happening with me and can check in on me if I am having a tough time. I always feel better having connected with another human being, too. There is great power in the empathy of another person saying, “me too.”
  3. Eating well: I eat nutritious food that provides sustainable energy and nourishes my body, ensuring I am able to function optimally. The food we eat has the ability to affect how our body operates, from digestion to energy production.
  4. Mindfulness: I meditate and practice yoga on a regular basis to boost my sense of calmness and clarity.
  5. Gratitude: I begin each day by journaling my thoughts and writing a list of 3–5 things or people I am grateful for.

It just so happens that these activities enhance your recovery too. They boost your mood and create the energy you need to fulfill your recovery activities.