Mental Wellness is a term used to describe how well the human brain-mind is physically and operationally functioning. The brain is the "command and control center" of the human body. It interprets each sensation, and it generates and orchestrates a symphony of perception, thoughts, behavior, and actions. The brain-mind initiates, coordinates and controls all basic functions of your body including your internal organs, movements, thoughts, sensations, dreams, ideas, and emotions. It allows us to learn and to remember, and ultimately determines our ability to lead a productive and meaningful life. The brain is the essence of our being. Attempts and theories to understand and capture the complex functioning of the brain-mind and their operations go back at least to the Ancient Greeks.
The living brain is in a state of permanent flux, continuously in a change accordingly with its external and internal environment. It senses its environment, anticipates what actions are appropriate, and acts accordingly through a sequence of operations. Here the operations of perception, coordination, anticipation, and action in the organism become the measurements, predictive computations, and actions. It must run well, for even a little damage to the brain, or a small error in its program may cause havoc. Alzheimer's disease (AD), for example, is a multifunctional disease that degrades the brain.
The human brain is a very advanced electro-chemical, malleable living organ that has the ability to change and redesign itself in response to one's thinking, learning, and experiences. Unlike current computers, the brain is constantly adapting itself, learning how to learn and improve. The brain is like a living creature with an appetite, one that can grow and change itself with proper nourishment, exercise and stimulation. This is known as Neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity (also known as cortical re-mapping) describes the brain's ability to change, growth and reorganize itself by modifying or forming new neural connections, and even new neurons, throughout life. Some neuroscientists believe that if a part of the brain was damaged, neurons (nerve cells) in the brain can alter its structure and find a new way to function in response to new activities, situations, or to changes in their environment.
A part of the brain called the limbic system regulates activities such as emotions, physical and sexual drives, and the stress response. The hypothalamus is a small structure located at the base of the brain that is responsible for many basic functions such as body temperature, sleep, appetite, sexual drive, stress reaction, emotional reaction, and the regulation of other activities. The hypothalamus also controls the function of the pituitary gland which in turn regulates key hormones.
Within the brain there are neurochemicals that are responsible for regulating practically all functions in life, including cognitive and mental performance, sleep cycle, weight, pain perception and response and our emotional states.
The brain has upwards of 100 billion nerve cells called neurons that transmit messages in the form of electrical impulses from one cell to another via a special chemicals called neurotransmitters at an amazing rate of speed of less than 1/5,000 of a second. How well neurons and neurotransmitters are functioning in harmony has a direct affect on how well the person is doing.
These neurotransmitters (NTs) are essential electro-chemical messengers that regulate brain and muscle, nerve and organ function. The most common neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, GABA, histamine and acetylcholine. Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine function within structures of the brain that regulate emotions, reactions to stress, and the physical drives of sleep, appetite, and sexuality. Low levels of these important chemicals are extremely common in the general public due to poor lifestyle and diet.
Deficiencies, imbalances, disruption or malfunctioning of neurotransmitters is extremely common in our society and is at the root of many of common health conditions. Some people are born with deficiencies or malfunctioning neurotransmitters because they've inherit them via their family history genetics. Organ systems do not function as they should when neurotransmitters communication malfunctions. This results in a variety of physically and psychologically undesirable symptoms and disabilities.
Depression and anxiety disorders can be particularly attributed to a chemical imbalance known as Neurotransmitter Deficiency Disorder (NDD). People with NDD can also suffer from one or more of the following conditions: obesity, depression, poor concentration, ADHD/ADD attention deficit, bulimia, anorexia, anxiety, fribromyalgia, chronic fatigue, insomnia, learning disorders, panic attacks, migraines headaches, pms, menopausal symptoms, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, insomnia, general malaise, irritable bowel Impulsive behavior, muscle problems, mood swings, moodiness, restlessness, panic attacks, chronic pain, weight gain and inability to lose weight, kinetic disorders, bipolar disorder, fibromyalgia, hormone dysfunction, memory impairment, autism, Tourette's, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cognitive disorders, adrenal fatigue, excessive sex drive or low sex drive, irritable bowel syndrome. Any form of addiction including alcoholism, drug, nicotine, sugar, caffeine, carbohydrate and/or binging, sex and gambling abuse are also symptoms of NDD. While both men and women suffer from depression and experience the same symptoms, women are disproportionately affected by depression, experiencing it at roughly twice the rate of men. Men with clinical depression are more than twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease, which is the leading cause of death in the US.
Changes in other biological factors such as the central nervous system, medications and illnesses are contributing factors in state the of mental wellness. Other factors such as social environment which includes losses, traumatic events, stress, physical injury or handicap and low economic status negatively affect mental wellness.
Clearly, the brain must be healthy and functioning well for the person to be healthy, excel and flourish. When the brain is well, our emotions and body tend to be healthy. Achieving overall balance requires that we strive for both physical and mental wellness. The mind and the body are interconnected, each directly influencing and affecting the function and health of the other.
Studies in Neuroplasticity show that the brain is capable of wonderful things. All we have to do is give it what it needs to be healthy and flourish. The brain-mind, and body, need proper nourishment, exercise, tranquility, relaxation, sleep, and stimulation to be able to reach and sustain a healthy and enriched state of well-being.
Wonder Moms is a project by three moms to share real talk, helpful information, and practical advice with parents of kids who have intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, autism, language and speech delays, deafness, chronic illness, and traumatic brain injury.
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