Are you happy with your mental health? If you are, that’s great! But even if you aren’t, don’t worry – you can improve it! To help guide you on your journey to improve your mental health, here are 10 things that impact your mental health and how to tackle them. Remember, everybody is different and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to improving your mental health – this list is just some ideas that have worked for many people in the past! Have fun with it and see what works best for you!
As if you needed more reasons to be kind to yourself, stress is a leading cause of mental health problems. It can manifest in a number of ways including physical reactions like increased heart rate and sweating, sleep disturbances or disruptions in your digestive system. And when it comes to helping your mental health, it’s not just about reducing external stressors like work deadlines and traffic jams—it’s also about learning how to better deal with interpersonal relationships. So focus on using positive coping mechanisms like reaching out for help from friends and family rather than bottling up your emotions. And don’t forget about physical activity: A regular workout routine has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms by as much as 70 percent.
If you don’t get enough sleep, your mental health suffers. Lack of sleep has been linked to stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between seven and nine hours a night for optimal mental health. In fact, researchers have found that getting six hours of sleep or less actually doubles your risk of stroke! And while it may be tempting to push through on just four hours of sleep in order to squeeze in more work during waking hours, you shouldn’t do it. Not only will your work suffer, but so will your mental health—and both can lead to serious long-term issues if left unchecked. So remember: Take care of yourself first!
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What you eat affects your mood. For example, if you suffer from depression, eating sugary foods or processed foods high in refined carbs and artificial ingredients can worsen your symptoms. To improve your mental health, focus on eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables; whole grains like oatmeal and quinoa; healthy fats like avocados and olive oil; nuts and seeds; herbs like basil, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary and thyme; fish like wild salmon or trout (in moderation); good quality proteins such as eggs or grass-fed beef (in moderation); probiotic-rich foods including fermented veggies and kefir. Drink lots of water too! It’s important to keep hydrated throughout each day for optimal mental function.
Exercise is an important component of mental health, but it’s not just about your body—the more you exercise, and the more time you spend outdoors in nature, have been linked to reduced rates of depression. One large-scale study found that people who engaged in outdoor activities had a 50 percent lower chance of experiencing depression than those who avoided nature. Participating in physical activity has also been shown to increase endorphins and serotonin levels—chemicals that improve mood and boost energy. Exercise can be used as a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety, too. According to one study, exercising for 45 minutes can help manage emotional responses to stressful events.
Family and relationships
You can’t change your family and you can’t change relationships, but you can improve them. Relationships make us happy (assuming they are healthy ones), but they also make us sad. Emotions and mental health are inextricably tied to our relationships with friends, family, spouses and more. When we work on improving our relationships, we improve our lives and vice versa. Whether you want to be more emotionally stable or more well-liked by those around you, it all starts with relationships.
Having a group of people you trust and love around you can help cushion some of life’s harsher realities. Friends can provide perspective and support when times are tough—and when they’re going well, too. Just as social relationships are linked to mental health, so is loneliness; feeling isolated has been linked to an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. To improve your mental health, build deep friendships. It doesn’t take hundreds of friends; just make sure to keep a small group close by that offers you companionship when needed—and vice versa.
Being involved in a community is a great way to improve your mental health, especially if you’re volunteering. Getting involved with an organization or cause you believe in can also help: It will give you a sense of purpose, meaning and satisfaction. Research shows that being active in a community can lower your blood pressure and protect against heart disease—all of which boost your mental health. At any rate, being more social is always good for our well-being. Mental health issues can also be eased by spending more time with friends, family and loved ones. Socializing reduces feelings of isolation and boosts our self-esteem, regardless of whether we have anxiety disorders or not.
The nature of your job can play a significant role in your mental health. Are you stuck in a position that doesn’t utilize your skills or capitalize on your interests? Chances are you’re unhappy and that may be affecting your mental well-being. No one wants to work somewhere they don’t feel fulfilled, so taking steps to change that is important. Focus on improving your professional situation—even if it means volunteering or interning at another company before accepting a permanent position. If nothing else, knowing what you really want from a job will make it easier to accept opportunities when they come along.
When it comes to mental health, having a sense of financial security is one of the most influential factors. If you don’t have enough money, your stress level can go through the roof and hinder your ability to get things done. However, there are plenty of ways that you can live your best life on a budget. Think carefully about your spending habits and make smart decisions; avoid impulse purchases and consider cutting down on unnecessary expenses (e.g., premium cable). If you feel like you’re ready to take control of your finances but aren’t sure where to start, check out our piece on personal finance basics.
Being in tune with your thoughts and feelings is a great way to manage stress levels and maintain mental health. There are plenty of ways to practice mindfulness, such as yoga, meditation or breathing exercises. Mindfulness is also a great way to combat negative thinking. Thoughts have an impact on our moods; by identifying thought patterns that make us feel bad, we can then try to think more positively instead. Making time for quiet contemplation and self-reflection can also help us connect with what’s going on inside of ourselves—which is ultimately good for our overall well-being.
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