Mental health awareness can help you develop stress management skills and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. Did World Mental Health Day passed you by? Not to worry, because you don’t need to wait until next October 10th to start improving your mental health.
In fact, you can start implementing changes that can start helping your mood improve.
What mental health looks like
Individuals who might be considered to have “good” mental health share some common characteristics:
- Self-confidence and high self-esteem
- An overall sense of contentment, satisfaction, and love for living
- The flexibility to adapt to change and to learn new things
- The ability to cope with and manage stress, and to bounce back from challenges
- Good work/play/rest/life balance
- A sense of meaning and purpose in activities and relationships
- The ability to laugh easily and have fun
- A healthy ability to build and nurture meaningful relationships
If any of these don’t sound recognizable to you, it’s OK. If you put some effort into it, you can learn to enjoy these same benefits.
Are you ready?
- What the heck are you eating? A brain-healthy diet is always good for your mental health.
Have you ever thought about the effects your diet has on the way you feel and think about life? Eating too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right ones can impacts your brain and your mood saps your energy, disrupts your sleep, and debilitates your immune system. So what to do? You need to change over to a healthy diet, low in sugar and rich in healthy fats.
Everyone is different and responds differently to foods. Genetics and other health factors come into play, so go ahead and experiment a little. First, get rid of your “bad fats,” the ones that can wreck your mood and optimism for life, and start consuming all the good fats that are healthy for your brain.
Foods/drinks that mess with your mood:
- Fried foods
- Sugary snacks and soft drinks
- Trans fats/anything with “partially hydrogenated” oils
- Refined carbs (e.g., white bread, white flour, white rice)
- Foods with lots of chemical preservatives/hormones
- Caffeine/soda/energy drinks
Foods that help your mood:
Fatty fish rich in Omega-3s such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna
- Nuts (i.e., peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, almonds)
- Leafy greens such (i.e., spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale)
- Fresh fruit (e.g., blueberries)
- Get moving!
Physical activity releases endorphins, which are mood-boosting chemicals that also give you energy. A regular exercise regimen (it doesn’t take a lot!) will also improve your memory, release stress, and improve your sleep. By getting on top of your physical health, you’ll start feeling better almost right away. Also, you can’t have a healthy mind without a healthy body.
How to get started
You can get away with as little as 30 minutes for your exercising to have a positive effect on your brain. Even broken up into three 10-minute blocks will work just as well.
- How about some rhythmic exercises that get your arms and legs moving? Walking, running, weights, swimming, dancing, martial arts, etc.
- Be mindful. Mindfulness can help enhance your exercise. Don’t let just let your mind run wildly and blindly, rather focus your thinking on your breathing, on how your body is feeling as you move, on the wind on your skin, on the way your feet feel as they touch the ground. This will help clear your mind, too.
So, take a walk at lunchtime and enjoy the fresh air. Play Frisbee with your dog. Dance to your favorite tunes. Play active video games with your family. Start cycling and walking more.
A little bit of exercise goes a long way and helps you get a sense of more vigor and control.
- Stress management
Stress will sap your mood as quickly as just about anything, leaving you feeling emotionally drained and bummed out. Life is always going to have some level of stress (if you had zero stress, you’d never be motivated to go to work, pay your bills, take care of yourself, etc.!), but it is unhealthy to have it in excess; fortunately, you can keep it controlled. Try some stress management activities and say “hello” again to a sense of balance in your life.
- Learn to enjoy leisure time. Do plenty of things simply for the sake of doing them, and because they make you feel better. Watching funny movies, walking on the beach, diving into a good book, etc. And don’t feel guilty – you’re not being irresponsible. Your brain and body need to decompress from time to time.
- Spend time with family and friends. Getting some face time in with someone who cares about you and your wellbeing is a surefire way to calm your nerves and insulate your stress. You’ll feel better quickly, even if you can’t change the stressful situation right away.
- Be good to your senses. Big, scented candles. Soothing music. A hot bubble bath. The warmth and the scent of coffee in your favorite café. Do any of these things sound appealing? How about squeezing a stress ball? Opening the window and listening/smelling the rain? Start experimenting with some things that make your senses tingle to find out what you respond to best. You’ll always be able to get yourself to calm down and relax when you need to.
- Gratitude. Nothing dissolves a bad mood quicker than being grateful. Pray and meditate on these things, keep a gratitude journal (write down at least three things daily you’re grateful for), remind yourself to be grateful more often. Your outlook on life will begin to improve drastically.
Bonus tip! Own your emotions
How well do you know yourself and what you’re feeling? How good are you at identifying and articulating those feelings for yourself and others? If you learn to be more aware of, identify, and take more responsibility for your emotions, you’ll be well on your way to better mental health management skills. Find an app or check out this free online pdf download that can walk you through some techniques.
When to seek professional help
If you’ve made honest and consistent efforts to get your mental and emotional health normalized where you’d like them to be and still aren’t functioning optimally at home, work, and in your relationships, it may be time to seek professional help. Input from a trusted mental health professional may be able to motivate you to do more for yourself than you’d otherwise do alone.
What is the latest regarding your mental health? Always remember that it is very treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.