Melisa Alonso

Leah Casciano

I first became interested in psychology and how the mind works back in high school. I found myself constantly thinking about the human mind and why it is that we process things the way we do. For instance, why is it so easy to think negatively but so challenging to think positively? I took a couple of psychology classes during this period and decided it was the right fit. I went to Florida International University and obtained a Bachelors in this field. However, I still was not sure which route I wanted to take. Did I want to burry my head in research or did I want to work with people on a one on one basis? I took a year off to figure myself out. During that year, I realized I loved helping others. I decided I wanted to be a therapist so I enrolled myself in a Master’s program. During these past two years, I grew a lot as a person. I have learned how to be more understanding, more patient, more caring and how to avoid passing judgment. As life would have it, I was assigned to work with adolescents who were encountering substance abuse issues. These issues had not developed into a full blown addiction, however, a lot of these teens were becoming dependent on their drug of choice. To be completely honest, I had only worked with 5 year olds up to this point and had not realized how much I would enjoy working with individuals that I could actually have a conversation with. When the year ended and it was time to pick our internship sites, I decided I wanted to continue working with substance abuse. I worked at a substance abuse facility in downtown for almost a year. It was in this facility that I finally learned that the more you help your body, the more you help your mind.

So what exactly is mental health? Well, this question can be answered in many ways. The simplest answer is that mental health encompasses our psychological, emotional and social well-being while affecting how we think, feel and act. Our thoughts affect our feelings, which in turn, affect our behaviors. Our mental health also has an impact on how we deal with stress and make important choices in our lives. What is deemed as positive mental health can be impacted by multiple factors including: brain chemistry, negative life experiences (trauma or abuse) and family history. Battling with substance use or mental health concerns is challenging. By engaging in physical activity, you are increasing the amount of endorphins in your brain. Therefore, if you are in good physical shape, you have a tendency to have a more positive outlook on life. Fitness combined with a positive outlook may help you realize the full extent of your potential, become a productive member of the community and connect to others in meaningful ways. The goals of counseling and fitness can be defined similarly; to help individuals live healthier and happier lives. Healthy body, healthy mind, healthy life.