by Marna K. Winter, M.Ed., HHC
Mental health is an integral component of overall wellness as it profoundly influences one’s ability to cope with challenges, maintain healthy relationships, and engage in productive activities (Wren-Lewis & Anlexandraova, 2021). Recognizing the significance of mental well-being in overall wellness, this article outlines tried and true actionable steps that Health and Wellness Coaches can share with clients that can be implemented in their daily lives to foster positive mental health. Maintaining good mental health is crucial for overall wellness as it affects every aspect of our lives, including our physical health, relationships, and productivity (National Institute of Mental Health, 2021). Studies have shown that individuals with poor mental health are at a higher risk of developing chronic physical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2020). Additionally, prioritizing mental health improves cognitive functioning, emotional resilience, and enhances the ability to cope with stressors, leading to a better quality of life (World Health Organization, 2018). Health Coaches can guide clients in focusing on self-care, social connections, cultivating a practice of mindfulness, and seeking professional assistance as needed, to cultivate positive mental health and enhance their overall well-being.
In today’s society, we are busier than ever rushing from one task to the next with little time to focus on self-care. Self-care includes practices that safeguard individual health and help to maintain positive mindsets that foster holistic health and wellness (Martinez, et al., 2021). As a Health Coach, encourage clients to prioritize self-care as a foundational step towards positive mental health. Guide them through a brainstorm helping to identify activities that promote relaxation, self-reflection, and personal growth. Support practices such as setting boundaries, engaging in hobbies, maintaining a balanced lifestyle, practicing self-compassion, and setting realistic goals. Emphasize the importance of adequate sleep, regular physical activity, and nourishing their bodies with healthy foods. Finally, help clients to generate ways to hold themselves accountable as they establish a routine practice of self-care. The suggested strategies below have been instrumental in helping clients establish self-care practices.
- Schedule “Me Time”: Encourage clients to set aside dedicated time in their busy schedules for self-care activities. This can be as simple as blocking out 10-20 minutes each day for activities they enjoy, such as reading a book, taking a walk, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in a hobby. By prioritizing this time, clients can ensure that self-care becomes a non-negotiable part of their routine.
- Set Boundaries: Help clients establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Encourage them to define specific times when they are unavailable for work-related tasks or obligations. This allows them to create space for self-care activities without feeling overwhelmed by work responsibilities. By respecting their boundaries, clients can create a healthier work-life balance and allocate time for self-care.
- Establish Non-Negotiables: Assist clients in recognizing what self-care routines they must implement daily to support their mental health. This might include morning devotionals, journaling, and easy movement to start the day. Or ending a day with meditation and a walk with dogs to spend time in nature unplugged. This non-negotiable should be a practice that provides nourishment to the holistic self and is not sacrificed. Clients may need support in establishing this routine. For example, if a client creates a list of non-negotiables which conclude starting the morning with journaling, readings, and easy movement, a Health Coach can help them unpack how to work this into their daily routine. This may mean getting up a few minutes earlier and scheduling it until it becomes an established habit.
Self-care is a personal and individualized practice. Exploring activities that resonate with them and align with their interests and values is an important part of individualizing this practice. It’s essential for them to adapt these examples to their specific circumstances and find what works best for them in prioritizing self-care within their busy lives.
Humans, by nature, are social beings and often thrive in social environments (Jordan, M., 2023). Health and Wellness coaches can help clients support their mental help by helping them foster social connections. Guide clients in fostering social connections as a vital component of positive mental health. Encourage them to seek out and maintain relationships with supportive friends, family, and community members. Help them identify opportunities to engage in social activities, join clubs or groups, and participate in community events. Support them in nurturing empathetic and meaningful connections that provide emotional support, reduce feelings of loneliness, and enhance overall life satisfaction. These strategies have been successful in helping clients to connect socially to others in ways that foster their mental health.
- Join Community Groups: Encourage clients to seek out community groups or clubs that align with their interests or hobbies. This could include sports teams, book clubs, volunteer organizations, or hobby-based groups. By participating in these activities, clients can meet like-minded individuals, engage in shared experiences, and foster social connections based on common interests. Regular participation in these groups provides opportunities for meaningful interactions and can contribute to positive mental health.
- Prioritize Quality Time with Loved Ones: Encourage clients to prioritize spending quality time with their loved ones. This could involve scheduling regular family dinners, organizing game nights with friends, or planning outings with significant others. Encourage them to put away distractions such as phones or screens during these interactions to foster deeper connections. Nurturing relationships and creating space for meaningful connections can contribute to a sense of belonging, support, and overall well-being.
- Attend Social Events or Meetups: Encourage clients to attend social events or meetups within their communities or online platforms. These can include networking events, social gatherings, or interest-based meetups. By stepping out of their comfort zones and actively engaging with new people, clients can expand their social networks, form new connections, and potentially develop lasting friendships. Social events and meetups provide opportunities for shared experiences, laughter, and support, all of which contribute to positive mental health.
It’s important to remind clients that fostering social connections takes effort and active participation. This often means staying open, approachable, and willing to initiate conversations or reach out to others. Some clients may be hesitant or nervous about reaching out to established groups so be prepared to help process this with clients. Remind them that building relationships takes time and patience, and not every interaction may lead to an immediate connection. Staying persistent and embracing the process of building meaningful connections with positively impact mental health.
In our current state of busyness, our brains are often overloaded and overstimulated, working overtime often leading us to feel anxious, fatigued, and depressed. Help support clients in cultivating mindfulness and stress reduction techniques. Introduce clients to mindfulness practices as effective tools for managing stress and promoting positive mental health. Guide them through techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness-based stress reduction. Teach them to be present in the moment, observe their thoughts and feelings without judgment, and cultivate a sense of calmness and relaxation. Clients may need support in integrating these practices into their daily routines to manage stress more effectively and enhance their overall well-being.
- Daily Mindfulness Practice: Encourage clients to set aside a specific time each day for a mindfulness practice. This can involve activities such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or body scan techniques. Advise them to find a quiet and comfortable space where they can focus their attention inward. Encourage clients to start with short durations, such as 5-10 minutes, and gradually increase the practice over time. Regular mindfulness practice can help reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and promote overall well-being (Chiesa & Serretti, 2011). There are many applications available to help support clients in learning how to meditate as well as guide them through breathing practices. Clients who are new to these practices may need additional support getting started.
- Incorporate Mindful Moments in Daily Routine: Encourage clients to integrate mindful moments into their daily routines. Clients can reflect on these moments in a journal. Guide them to slow down and pay attention to the present moment, noticing the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise. Encourage them to engage their senses fully, savoring each experience without judgment. By infusing mindfulness into everyday activities, clients can reduce stress, enhance focus, and cultivate a sense of calmness.
- Mindful Movement Practices: Activities such as yoga, tai chi, or qigong can help clients connect mind and body, cultivate awareness of physical sensations, and promote relaxation. Encourage them to find classes or online resources that cater to their preferences and abilities. Practicing mindful movement not only reduces stress but also improves flexibility, strength, and overall physical well-being.
Consistency is key when cultivating mindfulness. Encourage them to be patient with themselves, as it takes time and practice to develop mindfulness skills with different techniques that resonate personally. By incorporating mindfulness into their lives, clients can reduce stress, enhance self-awareness, and cultivate a greater sense of calm and well-being.
Connected to mindfulness, it is important to help clients foster a practice of positive thinking. Empower clients to cultivate a positive mindset as a key element of positive mental health. Help them recognize and challenge negative thoughts, replacing them with positive affirmations and gratitude. Often these negative thoughts contain past narratives or limiting beliefs that negatively influence daily actions. By encouraging them to focus on the positive aspects of their lives and practice gratitude regularly, they can redirect their thoughts and actions to support their mental health. Support them in surrounding themselves with positive influences, such as uplifting books, music, or supportive individuals, to foster optimism, resilience, and a positive outlook.
- Gratitude Journal: Encourage clients to start a gratitude journal as a way to promote positive thinking and establish a gratitude practice. They can dedicate a few minutes each day to write down three things they are grateful for. Encourage them to reflect on both big and small things, such as supportive relationships, personal achievements, moments of joy, or acts of kindness they have experienced. Writing in a gratitude journal helps shift their focus toward positive aspects of their lives and cultivates a sense of appreciation and optimism.
- Positive Affirmations: Guide clients to incorporate positive affirmations into their daily routine. Encourage them to choose affirmations that resonate with them and reflect their goals, values, or desired mindset. They can write down these affirmations and repeat them to themselves throughout the day, particularly during challenging or negative moments. Positive affirmations help reframe negative self-talk, foster self-belief, and promote a positive mindset.
- Surrounding Oneself with Positive Influences: Encourage clients to surround themselves with positive influences in their environment. This can include choosing uplifting and motivational books, podcasts, or music. Advising them to spend time with supportive and positive-minded individuals can also contribute to fostering positive thinking. By consciously choosing positive influences, clients can create an environment that reinforces positive thoughts and promotes an optimistic outlook.
Remind clients that promoting positive thinking is an ongoing practice that requires consistency and self-awareness. Encourage them to be patient with themselves, as it may take time to rewire negative thinking patterns. Regularly checking in with them and providing support can help reinforce their efforts and track their progress. By incorporating these practices into their daily lives, clients can cultivate a positive mindset, increase resilience, and enhance their overall well-being.
Finally, there are times when mental health is in a place where clients may need additional support beyond a Health Coaches’ Scope of Practice. However, Health Coaches can help clients identify when to seek professional assistance and educate them about different avenues and the importance of doing so when needed. Inform them about the availability of mental health professionals, such as therapists or counselors, who can provide guidance, support, and evidence-based interventions tailored to their specific needs. Encourage clients to seek professional assistance when experiencing persistent or severe mental health challenges, emphasizing that reaching out for support is a sign of strength and self-care.
- Research and Find a Suitable Professional: Encourage clients to research and find a professional who specializes in the specific area they need assistance with. This could include therapists, counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists. Assist them in exploring reputable sources, such as professional directories, online reviews, or recommendations from trusted sources. Encourage them to consider factors like expertise, credentials, and approach to ensure a good fit.
- Leverage Supportive Networks: Encourage clients to seek support from their personal networks when seeking professional assistance. They may find it helpful to reach out to trusted friends, family members, or colleagues who have experience with therapy or counseling. These individuals can provide recommendations, share their own experiences, and offer emotional support throughout the process. Remind clients that seeking professional help is a common and courageous step towards well-being.
- Remind clients seeking out Professional Assistance is normal and necessary to support mental health. Clients might be hesitant to reach out for support due to stigmas associated with mental health support. Help clients feel empowered and understand how this will only further enhance their mental health.
As health coaches, we have the opportunity to guide our clients toward positive mental health. By incorporating the steps outlined in this article—prioritizing self-care, fostering social connections, cultivating mindfulness, promoting positive thinking, and seeking professional assistance—clients can take actionable steps toward enhancing their mental well-being and a greater sense of fulfillment.
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