Pathways to Wellness: Leading Full and Productive Lives

By Traci D. Patterson,

Director of Communications

Mental Health America of Greater Houston


Wellness—it’s essential to living a full and productive life. We may have different ideas about what wellness means, but in every case, it involves a set of skills and strategies that prevent or shorten the onset or duration of illness while promoting recovery and well-being. Wellness is about keeping healthy as well as getting healthy.

Wellness is more than an absence of disease. In fact, achieving wellness is a balancing act between the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of a whole person that work together to form wellness and well-being.

Whatever our situation, we are all at risk of stress given the demands of daily life and the challenges it brings—at home, at work and in life. Steps that help us all build, maintain and achieve wellness include a healthy diet, regular exercise, and enough sleep.  Having a sense of self-worth, and the development of coping skills that promote resiliency, emotional awareness, and connections to family, friends and the community are also vital to establishing well-being.

Taking stock of one’s well-being through regular mental wellness checkups is also important to the physical and mental health of men, women, children, older adults and the elderly.  Just as we check our blood pressure and get cancer screenings, it is also a good idea to take periodic reading of our emotional well-being.

One recent study indicates everyone should get their mental health checked as often as they get a physical, and now, many doctors routinely screen for mental health, which typically include a series of questions about lifestyle, eating and drinking habits and mental wellness.

Getting a checkup does not necessarily require a special trip to the doctor. There are also online screening tools that a person can use to give them an idea of whether there might be a need for help from a doctor or a mental health professional.

Many people who are concerned about troubling symptoms and behaviors associated with mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety many times take advantage of the online anonymous screenings for mental health concerns.

While this is a positive step in gauging and working toward wellness, people should always be reminded that online screenings should not and do not take the place of a professional evaluation. However, it can be useful to share the results of an online screening with a health or mental health professional to help open or begin a conversation about potential mental health concerns. Only a medical or mental health professional can diagnose mental illnesses. Mental health conditions like depression are common—roughly 1 in 5 Americans have a mental health condition—they are extremely treatable especially when they are diagnosed early.

Fully embracing the concept of wellness improves health in the mind, body and spirit.  It also helps maximizes one’s potential to lead a full and productive life. Using strategies that promote resiliency and strengthen mental health leads to greater academic achievement by our children, a more productive economy, and families that stay together.