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How to Improve Behavioral Health with Psychotherapy

Behavioral health is not a familiar term for those new to the concept and the practice surrounds general emotions, behaviors, and biology related to mental well-being.

A person struggling in this area may be facing symptoms of depression, anxiety, relational struggles, grief,addiction, learning disabilities, mood disorders, and a number of many other psychological concerns. For those who are familiar with the term mental health, the two vary in the idea that mental health focuses on the biological aspects of wellness while Behavioral Health focuses on psychological impacts, changes,and improvements surrounding abuse (including substance abuse), behavior, habits,and external forces. With Behavioral Health, a system of counselors, case workers, therapists, life coaches, psychologists, nurse practitioners, and physicians all work together or independently to move their client to their optimal mental health outcome. This is accomplished in various ways with the help of the patient and though it is important to seek guidanceof a trained psychotherapist, the tips below can help you on your path to better behavior health. Some may be common and practical, others aim to boost your mood,build resilience, and create enjoyment of life. Practice Positive Self Talk A little self criticism can go a long way when on the road of self development, but like with most things humans tend to overdo the criticism. Even in the silent self talk we can quickly turn negative.1 For example, a person who has experience a car crash can gain insight and awareness from thinking “I should have been paying more attention while I was driving” but non-productive statements like “I’m stupid” or “How could I let this happen.I never get anything right” do little to help and can hinder our developmental health on a long enough reoccurring track. Studies also show that negative self-talk lead to higher levels of depression and stress. 2 If your behavioral health is suffering, your inner dialogue could be a major factor at play.

However, stopping negative self talk is a hopeless goal because negative thoughts that have developed from years of habit cannot simply be changed.When it comes to behavioral health,the best course of action is to begin to actively acknowledge and recognize negative self talk and course correct. This can be done by learning to positively critique your actions and by practicing affirmations. Begin to notice small statements that you say to yourself like “I can never do anything right,” acknowledge that they are negative and unhelpful. Then actively change it by telling yourself something like, “That was a negative non-productive thought, what I meant to say was I know I can do better by concentrating on the task at hand and by eliminating my distractions.” Changing and identifying these thoughts will take time and dedication – for this reason affirmations are also useful.Affirmations are affirming sentences, or mantras, that are short and powerful expressions aimed at creating positive behavior, thinking, habits,and environment. They can become a daily practice or be repeated when you are experiencing low moods. For example,in periods of sadness you may find it useful to repeat ”I create the life I desire with my good feelings”to course correct negative thoughts. Begin Gratitude Practices If you are not familiar with gratitude, it is a practice used to simply remind yourself of the things you are thankful for within your life or current situation. Research shows that even keeping a gratitude journal, and regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful for can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction. 4 However, commonly shared gratitude practices like listing things that you appreciate in your life or journaling can be effective for some people but can quickly lose their effectiveness when thrown into a daily routine for others. Yet, there are still some additional alternatives that can lead you to increased positive behavioral health. Similar to physical exercise, your body can quickly adapt to mental exercises so it is important to keep your practices fresh and new. According to Clinical Psychologist and blogger Julia Kristina, gratitude practices with varied exercises from day to day can be more effective. For example, you may list the things you are thankful for on one day then write a full entry on the following day.

Another important gratitude practice can be visualizing a moment, like the birth of your child,in which you were truly grateful to experience. Learn To Be Present In The Moment As metaphysical as it may sound, learning to increase your awareness in what are seemingly insignificant moments can do wonders for your behavioral health. According to a Harvard study, we spend more than 47% of our time not thinking about what we are doing. 5 During this time we are ruminating on the past – typically on things that we see as mistakes or negative memories. Other times we worry about things that have yet to come with fantasies of negative outcomes that create unnecessary pain. Paying attention to the here and now can remove this mental chatter. Simple tricks like focusing on your breathing, increasing sensory stimulation with touches or smells, reciting affirmations, or actively listening can easily pull you out of negative thoughts and into the world around you. In his popular Ted Talk, Matts Killingsworth — a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar— explains that being in the moment can create happiness because mind-wandering is a like cause, and not merely a consequence, of unhappiness. Similar to negative thinking, mind wandering is ubiquitous and unavoidable. In general, it is easier to acknowledge it and course correct rather than attempting to change it. Find Enjoyment In Physical Exercise As we get older,we consider exercise to be hours spent in the gym doing repetitive movement that at times can be unstimulating or mentally underwhelming. But, if you can see that many children can be physically fit without designating hours of their schedule to gym workouts then you have your first insight into the fact that adults have it all wrong. While you may hear that exercise can help mental illness and improve mental health, motivation may come easier if you understand the how and why. Exercise has been proven to reduce day to day mental stress,increase happiness, and lower levels of both sadness and loneliness. With that said, it is easier to experience the benefits of exercise when we do activities that we find enjoyable and in some aspects physically challenging.

For example,hours in the gym can be replaced with a weekly dodgeball league,a daily walk, or even time at the park with kids or pets. Unless you have a specific physique that you are trying to build any exercise is good exercise,especially for mental health.

While the suggestions above are just some of the ways to help improve your behavioral health, it's also important to recognize when you need to get help. Psychotherapy and, if needed, medicinal treatments are some of the most effective ways to treat mental disorders. If you don’t know where to get treatment, start by contacting your local Milwaukee Counselor, Milwaukee Psychotherapist, or Christian Family Services.

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