When thinking about personal development, many people focus on just the physical aspect. Numerous resources solely focus on helping us motivate ourselves to work out or find healthy recipes. However, there is no doubt that physical and mental health are intricately linked, and that the state of both greatly influence our quality of life.Studies show that one in four people are affected by any number of mental disorders. Yet, almost half of people with symptoms of mental illness state that they only received information on various treatment options and medication available. The much needed advice on wellness was sorely lacking.
Mental health has a massive impact on your life, affecting how you think and act, how you make decisions, the relationships you have, as well as how you deal with the stresses in life.
The unfortunate thing is that simple lifestyle changes tend to significantly affect your quality of life, especially for those dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. They also minimize the risk of developing risk factors that can cause conditions - such as hypertension, diabetes or heart disease - which are common in people struggling with mental illness.
There are changes you can safely make in your day to day life to boost your mental health. Research shows these are some of the effective lifestyle changes to improve mental health:
- Change your Diet
It has been proven in numerous studies that what we eat is likely to affect how we feel. The foods we eat can affect our concentration, memory, alertness and mood. This is because different foods contain various nutrients that affect what hormones our bodies produce, as well as how they are released and synthesized into our systems.
Good nutrition can also prevent, or at least slow down, the deterioration of cognitive function associated with conditions such as Alzheimer's and dementia.
It is recommended that you eat foods rich in vitamin B, iron, magnesium, zinc and iron to enhance the brain's function. Also, make sure to ingest enough glucose to help balance your mood and prevent extreme highs and lows. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grain or sprouted bread and pasta, or potatoes are excellent sources of glucose.
Include fruits and vegetables in your diet as they are a rich source of the B vitamins, which can help you manage depression.
Also, do not shy away from adding fats into your diet. The brain has the largest level of fat in the body, so feed it with a good supply of unsaturated fat. This includes foods like nuts, seeds and vegetable-based oils. People suffering from depression have been found to have very low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids; so make sure to add a lot of fish and other seafood in your diet.
Avoid copious intake of caffeine. While it can improve attention and memory in the short term, drinking too much of it can result in higher anxiety, make you more jittery, cause insomnia and aggravate stress.
Avoid too much sugar, which can negatively affect your weight and blood sugar levels; as well as increase the risk of depression and exacerbate any symptoms you might already be experiencing.
- Start Exercising
Exercise has been proven to have tremendous advantages for those with mental health issues. Studies show that, even regular low impact physical activity such as walking, can reduce the occurrence of depression now and as you get older. It has also been known to improve the physical and mental health of people suffering from schizophrenia.
Further, exercising helps you keep your weight under control. Weight gain is a side effect of much of the medication taken for mental illness. Extra weight will not only make you unhealthy and prone to developing conditions such as diabetes, but will also contribute to your mental distress.
The ideal way to keep fit may be to work out from home, since it can be more convenient. You can do some research on home gym equipment ideas and set up a gym which will typically have equipment for weight and strength training.
However, make sure to consult your doctor before beginning any new physical regimen. For example, exercise can trigger mania in some people with bipolar disorder. Make sure to get your doctor's approval.
- Find Ways to Deal with Stress
Stress is not conducive to proper mental health. It actually aggravates the symptoms of mental illness. One of the methods you can adopt to deal with stress is meditation. Even a thirty minute meditation session a day can reduce stress and improve your mental resilience.
You can also take up yoga which, apart from being a powerful stress reduction tool, is a very good exercise routine. It can help you adopt a more positive outlook, and keep you engaged in the world around you.
- Get More Sleep
Lack of adequate sleep can induce the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Commit yourself to a regular sleep routine, going to sleep and waking up at consistent times, avoiding eating heavily before sleep, and getting adequate exercise.
You can also try avoiding activities that prevent you from sleeping, such as late night movie binges.
- Keep a Journal
Expressing yourself through keeping a record of your thoughts and how you are feeling can be a healthy way to deal with stress. Start keeping a journal and use it to identify your triggers. You can even go back to it from time to time to reflect on your progress, which helps to keep you motivated.
- Consider Therapy
There is a certain unfounded stigma associated with therapy today making most people afraid of trying it. However, talking through your problems with a trained professional can be very beneficial for your mental health.
A therapist can help you untangle what you are feeling, guide you through negative thoughts, and teach you how to cope with daily life issues.
- Have a Strong Support System
Humans are known to thrive on socializing. Spending time with family and friends can make you feel happier and more content. Isolation can aggravate symptoms of mental illness and even affect your physical health.
Expand your circle of friends and make a concerted effort to be more social. Recognize that connecting with people can help improve your mental health.
- Get a Hobby
Find something you enjoy doing that challenges you either mentally or physically, or both. Outdoor activities are even better as they will help you socialize more and meet new people. Learning a new skill or mastering an old one can also help you feel more proud and accomplished.
Giving back to your community forces you to look outwards and deal with the needs of others every once in awhile. This can be very helpful in reducing stress and improving your perception of the world.
- Unplug Yourself
Every once in awhile, it is important to separate from the world to give yourself time to reflect, think and plan for your future.
Introspection can help you be self-aware and resilient. Shut off the computer and unplug from social media from time to time. Appreciate nature and the world around you, and think of how far you have come or what goals you want to achieve.
- Be Honest about Mental Health
Undeniably, there are all sorts of stigma and preconceived notions about mental illnesses. However, it is important to recognize that anyone can be affected. Seek help from trained mental health professionals when you need it. And most importantly, be kind in acknowledging the mental health needs of those around you.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. How you feel and see the world affects your personality, actions and decisions. It is critical to take steps and make lifestyle changes for improving mental health that will ensure your wellness and overall health.
Be sure to check out our post on 7 Daily Habits to Gain Self-Confidence and Better Health!