“One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.” That’s a big deal. Such a statistic calls for increased awareness of and attention to mental health. Whether or not you suffer with a mental illness, taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health.
How do you improve your mental health? The answer depends on the individual. However, there are some good mental health habits everyone can adopt.
Below is a short list of effective ways to improve mental health, tips nearly everyone can follow.
1. Practice Gratitude
More than likely, parents, teachers, friends, and/or religious leaders have told you to be grateful time and again. And while the cry to “have an attitude of gratitude” sounds simplistic, insignificant, and cliche, research can back up the importance of thankfulness. Being thankful has been linked to less anxiety and depression, higher long-term life satisfaction, as well as other psychological benefits.
Start practicing gratitude with small steps. Keep a gratitude journal in which you write down three things you are grateful for each day, write a thank you note, take time to appreciate ordinary moments, and express gratitude to a higher power.
2. Meditate Regularly
Meditation used to be associated only with Buddhist, East Asian monks and New Age hippies. But now research abounds showing the powerful benefits it can have on the mind and today people from all over the globe practice it. Real evidence shows how meditation can actually change the brain and decrease anxiety.
There are many different types of meditative practices based on compassion, mindfulness, transcendentalism, yoga, and Sahaj. But they all have certain common benefits. Figure out what works for you and then stick with it. It doesn’t need to be complicated or take up a lot of your time. You can even learn to meditate when you’re really impatient.
3. Improve Physical Health
Your physical and mental health are closely intertwined. Taking care of yourself physically drastically helps you take care of yourself mentally.
Exercise And Mental Health
Sleep And Mental Health
Sleep-deprivation causes depression, exhaustion, anxiety, and more. If you feel tired often, feel drowsy while driving or watching TV, need caffeine to get through the day, and don’t feel refreshed after waking up, you are likely sleep deficient. Set a regular time for you to hit the sheets and follow other sleep-happy practices to improve the quantity and quality of your time asleep.
Diet And Mental Health
What you put into your body impacts the chemistry of your body. Eat nutritious meals and drink plenty of water. Choose foods with lean proteins and healthy fats (fish, nuts, avocado, etc.) and stay away from refined sugars that spike your blood sugar levels.
Drugs And Mental Health
Avoid alcohol and drugs. It is impossible to achieve a healthy mental state while your mind and body are impaired by addictive substances. If you are struggling with addiction, recognize the hope and power in getting help right away.
4. Seek Medical Help
Consult a medical doctor if you fear you are suffering from an illness related to your mental and emotional health. General physicians offer depression screenings and mental health consultations. After assessing your specific needs, they can refer to you to other clinicians, specialists, and/or therapists accordingly. Psychiatrists can provide you with holistic supplements and psychiatric medications to help you overcome trauma, addiction, anxiety, depression, and other psychological illnesses.
Taking antidepressants and other medication to become mentally healthy has carried a negative stigma in the past. However, that is changing, and today people are rightfully more outspoken and unashamed for choosing to get help. Celebrities are coming out, stating how they are unafraid to take medication to take care of their mental health. Truthful and positive comparison are made from mental to physical health: we don’t look down on a person with type 1 diabetes for taking medicine to increase insulin, so why should we look down on a person with depression for taking medicine to increase serotonin?
5. Counsel with a Therapist
More than 59 million Americans seek care from a mental health care provider every year. And approximately 80 percent of people who go to mental health counseling reap benefits according to a 2006 study. Speaking with a mental health therapist can not only improve your life but also actually save it.
While counseling can help individuals overcome mental health problems, it can also fortify good mental health habits you’ve already established. In other words, “The benefits of therapy extend far beyond periods of crisis,” said Ryan Howes, Ph.D., a California-based psychologist. Therapy provides personal empowerment, wellness, development of skills, hope, professional insight, and even prevention of future mental illnesses.
6. Lean on Your Support System
Did you know social connection is vital to staying mentally healthy? Investing in social relationships with friends and family is one big way you can invest in your mental health. And spending time with a best friend can dramatically increase your sense of self-worth and happiness as well as decrease levels of stress hormones.
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you need social connection. Friendships — and social interaction in general — serve important cognitive, emotional, social, and mental purposes. Even if you lead a busy life, be sure to take time to call up your sister, write a letter to your neighbor, go to dinner with your friends, or watch a movie with your partner. Sometimes just getting out, going to the store, and making small talk with the cashier can increase levels of oxytocin, improving your mental health. Develop and lean on you support system.
Make your mental health a priority. Become resilient and develop habits that will help you steer through life’s ordinary moments and crises. Don’t dismiss your mental well-being. Take action today to improve your life. If necessary, seek professional treatment and support. Follow these and other ways to improve mental health by making gradual changes to your lifestyle. The payoff will be well worth your investment. Take hope, practice self-compassion, and strengthen your mental wellness.