What is mental health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act, and can determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.
According to latest figures, 1 in 4 of us experience mental health problems, and I am guessing with the way 2020 has been, that figure is probably a lot higher.
I am fortunate that I don’t generally suffer with poor mental health, apart from the occasional “low” and feelings of overwhelm, but I have suffered with depression in the past so I understand how debilitating it can be. Whenever I do have a wobble now, the 8 ways to improve your mental health, listed below, are the first things I look at to help me feel better.
Our brains are neurologically wired to look for the negatives in life, a left-over part of our psyche from the cavemen era when we had to be on high alert in order to survive.
Over the years I’ve learned that with conscious direction, we can rewire our brain to change what we focus on, and thereby change our natural state of being. In short, happiness doesn’t just happen, we have to work at it.
This is work I do pretty much every day, and I encourage you to do the same.
Whilst mental health can be a result of chemical imbalances in the brain, I strongly believe that we can improve our mental health greatly by making small changes in how we live our lives.
Here are 8 ways to take care of your mental health:
Here are 8 ways to take care of your mental health:
- Don’t sleep too little or too much. Sleep is as important to our health as what we eat, drink and breath. It allows our bodies to repair themselves, and our brain to process memories and information. Poor sleep is linked to reduced immune functioning as well as mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Interestingly, having too much sleep is just as harmful as not getting enough. If you have trouble sleeping, here is what I recommend; https://pradhipayoga.com/sleep/how-to-fall-asleep-faster-and-sleep-better/
- Eat more fruit and vegetables. When you stick to a healthy diet, you are setting yourself up for fewer mood fluctuations, an overall happier outlook, and an improved ability to focus. Cutting out processed foods and excess sugar is great, but I recommend focusing more on increasing your intake of whole, plant based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lentils and pulses. Here is a great, evidence based article, on the importance of eating right: https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/mental-health/
- Supplement any vitamins or minerals that may be missing from your diet. Vitamin deficiency can affect your mental health. As a general guide, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zing and Magnesium are a great place to start. Here is a great article for more guidance: https://www.psychreg.org/vitamin-deficiency-mental-health/
- Practice Yoga. Yoga is a great way to release not only physical tension, but also trapped mental and emotional tension from our psyche. It encourages self-awareness, and learning about what makes you tick; what energises you and what drains you. It is like having a road map to happier ways of thinking and feeling. It is important to find an experienced instructor that you connect with, which may take a few tries, so don’t quit if you go to one yoga class and don’t like it.
- Get out in nature. Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, stress and increases pleasant feelings. Getting out in nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, but contributes to your physical wellbeing by reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones. This is all the more important as we head towards winter and might be feeling less inclined to get outside. The benefits are worth it, so wrap up warm and get outside!
- Learn to meditate. Studies show that meditation is particularly beneficial for relieving stress, and reducing anxiety and depression. You don’t have to be spiritual or religious to learn to meditate, and anyone can do it. I recommend learning with an experienced teacher, or there are many great apps you can download such as Insight Timer , Calm or Headspace. If you still feel hesitant, read my blog; https://pradhipayoga.com/mindset/5-common-myths-about-meditation-that-might-be-holding-you-back/
- Exercise and get your heartrate up. There is a saying, “Exercise is nature’s antidepressant”, and that is certainly my experience. Exercise relieves tension and stress, and boosts physical and mental energy, by releasing endorphins. Whilst Yoga is great, here I mean exercise that gives you an aerobic workout out such as cycling, swimming or running (or a brisk walk). I realise that when you feel low, the last thing you feel like doing is exercise, but if you can push yourself to do it, you will feel better afterwards. Kill two birds with one stone by doing your exercise outside in nature!
- Talk to someone about how you feel. Try not to bottle up your feelings. If you are uncomfortable talking to your friends and loved ones about how you’re feeling, consider investing in a therapist or coach. Sometimes just getting it all out can feel like a weight lifted.
There is one thing that I haven’t put on this list; #bekind. You never know what lies behind someone’s smile or grumpiness. In fact, if you come across anyone rude and grumpy, be extra kind to them, they may need it more.
We all need to look out for each other in this crazy world.
My email/social media/phone is always open for anyone who needs help and support, or just a vent.