May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so this month Health Matters is focused on mental health issues.
At some point, everyone feels down, sad or not as happy as they’d like to be, but sometimes it’s hard getting enough willpower to admit help is necessary.
Dr. Caroline Boxmeyer, a clinical psychologist at University Medical Center, said before you can treat those issues, you need to assess them.
“I would want to know how long you’ve been feeling that way and also when the last time you felt happy was,” she said.
Feelings like happiness and sadness can be fleeting, and psychologists look for feelings of joy or fulfillment to figure out when the last time a patient was experiencing those emotions.
The goal is helping a patient identify the things that help them feel fulfilled and content. If they’ve gotten away from doing those things, getting them back on track is the first step.
“What we really try and do is understand the individual and their story,” Boxmeyer said. “Often as part of learning about them and their story, we notice that, and the research supports this, that the way we spend each day makes a big difference in both our health and our mental health.”
Daily choices and habits may not cure depression, but it can go a long way toward getting healthy again. One thing a lot of people who need help have in common? Loneliness.
“We need to make sure we’re taking the time to be around other people, not just communicating through text and technology but actually face-to-face relationships are very valuable,” Boxmeyer said.
And short-term happiness may not bring long-term joy, but something unexpected could help get the joy back, Boxmeyer said. Doing things for other people doesn’t just help the other person, it helps the person doing the giving, too.
“We’re finding in the research that finding ways of doing things for others as well as finding things you’re grateful for are some of the best things we can do on a daily basis that will also bring us fulfillment in our life,” she said.