Good mental wellness means you are happy, positive and self-assured. Your mind and thoughts are clear which have a massive impact on your physical and social well-being. So can you improve your mental wellness?
Improving your mental wellness requires you to undertake practices that elevate your mood, help you become more resilient and just enjoy and get more out of life. You can view these practices as mental health exercises and like any physical exercise the more you do them the better you get at them.
The strength of your mental wellness will determine how well you cope with a challenging situation. Improving your mental wellness will help you become more healthier and can increase your life expectancy by 10 to 15 years.
The practices you want to incorporate involve making changes to your lifestyle and taking care of your health. Find ways to add value to yourself as well as giving your time to others. Below are the best practices you should be doing to improve your mental wellness.
Lifestyle Practices – Diet
To improve your mental wellness, firstly focus on your diet. Food is not only your body’s fuel, choosing and eating the right food helps combat stress, dementia and other mental declines. Maintaining a balanced varied diet will nourish your whole body, including your brain.
All the major food groups have nutrients that benefit the brain’s functions. A moderate amount of carbs increase serotonin which helps to regulate your mood. High protein food will keep you alert as they increase the amount of dopamine, norepinephrine and tyrosine your brain receives. The nutrients in fruit and vegetables are used by every cell in your body including your brain cells.
Regularly eating certain food can lessen the risk of dementia and mental decline. By incorporating fish that have high levels of omega-3 fatty like herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and tuna into your diet you lessen the risk. Other foods that can boost your mood are:
- Beans and Lentils
- Dark Chocolate
- Fruit (bananas, berries)
- Leafy Greens (Bok Choy, cabbage, spinach)
- Nuts (almonds, macadamia, pistachios)
Conversely you should try to limit some foods as they can negatively affect your mood. These are caffeine, processed foods, refined carbs, sugars and trans fats.
Lifestyle Practices – Staying Active
There has been plenty of research establishing a strong link between physical activity and a strong mental wellness. When you exercise your body releases endorphins that boost the mind and relieve stress.
If you enjoy the feeling you get from running or working out at the gym it will be easy for you to understand how exercise can help you cope with anxiety, depression or stress. But if you are not into fitness or even hate exercise there are steps you can make to be more active.
Try to add walking to your daily routine whether it’s part of your commute or a lunchtime walk or taking your dog for a walk in the park. Even a modest amount of physical activity 2 or 3 times a week will improve your mental wellness.
Lifestyle Practices – Sleep
Sleep is important to your health for a number of reasons so you should aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep a day as often as possible. A good night’s sleep sets you up for a great day as you are more alert and better prepared to deal with stressful situations.
If you have a busy lifestyle it is tempting to skip a few hours of sleep. This is a big mistake as skipping even a few hours takes a toll on your energy, mood and mental sharpness. Research has shown that lack of sleep contributes to higher levels of anxiety and depression.
To improve your sleep, aim to go to bed at the same time each day. If you struggle to fall asleep close to when you lie down, you can make some changes to your sleep prep. It is important to give your brain time to unwind before your night sleep.
Try to take a break from screens at least an hour before sleep. Ensure your bedroom is free from clutter and your bed is comfortable and only used for sleep or relaxing activities. Use strong curtains to block out the light and use white or background noise to block out disruptive sounds.
Lifestyle Practices – Keep Learning
Learning a new skill requires a great amount of commitment and focus. As you move through your adult life you are less likely to learn new skills. It is understandable as we do have a lot more commitments and spend less time focusing on ourselves.
Whether you decide to develop new computer skills, learn to speak a new language or grow your own vegetables it will help to keep your brain active, healthy and well. Learning a new skill will give a boost to your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Many forms of learning involve contacting with others which connects us to our communities and peers. Consequently this is an additional benefit of keep learning to improve your mental wellness.
Connecting with Others
One of the consequences of the digital world is that we are less connected. Social media is the primary way many people connect with others and many times there is no interaction with another person.
Aim to talk to another person for at least 10 minutes daily. A US study found that there were many benefits for mental wellness when you interact with others. They include providing a short-term boost to executive function and improving certain kinds of intellectual tasks.
If you are feeling a bit down or overwhelmed, interacting with someone is very beneficial to your well-being. Remember reaching out is not a sign of weakness and most people are flattered when you show some trust in them.
Connecting regularly with someone you trust is most desirable but if you don’t have that try to interact with people you encounter during the day. These could be your neighbours, your barista or people on your daily commute. Start with eye contact or a small exchange then move to a friendly greeting or general chit chat.
Sharing Yourself and Your Time
A sure way to improve the way you feel about yourself is to be helpful to others. Just as we are programmed to be social, we are programmed to give to others.
Volunteering not only allows you to help others, often less fortunate than yourself but it can also enrich and expand your life and make you happier. Charities, churches, nonprofits, medical and religious organisations all depend on volunteers for their survival.
Learn to Relax
More and more people are struggling with anxiety, depression and stress. Learning to relax is a great way to deal with these symptoms. There are many ways you can relax but for relaxation to be effective you need to prioritise time for yourself.
You can try a relaxation practice such as mindfulness meditation or yoga that can re-balance your body and mind. In the same vein throughout your day take a few moments to practice some deep breathing. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. For each one, count to four as you inhale, hold it for a count of four, and then exhale for another four.
This technique is super effective for calming your mind and reducing anxiety or stress levels.
Smiling and laughing are awesome tools in reducing stress and relaxing your body. As much as possible remember to see the humor in life and don’t take life too seriously. When you have a good hearty laugh your muscles are relaxed up to 45 minutes after.
Laughter also releases endorphins which are your body’s natural feel-good chemicals. When you laugh in a situation you can shift your perspective. You create a psychological distance helping you from feeling angry, anxious, sad or overwhelmed.
It is so easy to add more laughter into your life, just check out some of the funny videos on Youtube. They are a slam dunk to improve your mental wellness 🙂
As you can see there are many practices to improve your mental wellness by changing your lifestyle and outlook on life. If you find that these practices are not improving your mental wellness then it is time to seek some professional help.
Seeking help is a sign of strength, not a weakness and recognition of underlying issues should be addressed as soon as possible.