How to improve your mental health
Mental health impacts many important aspects of our lives. It affects how we think, feel, and act and can even influence our physical health. If you're experiencing negative emotions, there are many things you can do to improve your mental health.
What is mental health?
Mental health covers your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how you relate to other people, make decisions, and handle problems. Good mental health can help you build positive relationships, cope with stress, and bounce back from hard life events or failures.
Mental health usually changes over the course of your lifetime based on your environment and life events. Although people often confuse poor mental health with mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, they are different. Poor mental health could be a temporary issue that gets better after making changes. If you are diagnosed with chronic depression or anxiety, additional treatment is often needed to feel better.
To take care of your mental health, practice self-care. Self-care can also give you increased energy and a reduced risk of chronic diseases. Here are some tips:
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can cause you to feel moody or sluggish. About eight to 12 cups of water per day will keep you well-hydrated and help to keep your mood balanced. Avoid sugary drinks.
- Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet consists of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day along with whole grains and lean sources of protein, such as fish, poultry, and beans. Avoid processed foods and those with added sugar, reduce saturated fats, and avoid trans fats.
- Exercise. Research shows exercise and good mental health go hand in hand. Aerobic activities, such as running, walking, dancing, and cycling, are especially beneficial. Pick an activity you enjoy that gets your heart pumping and do it at least five days a week. Consistent physical activity keeps your brain sharp, improves sleep, and can help ward off depression and anxiety.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep heavily impacts both our physical and mental health. Aim to get at least seven to nine hours per night. If you have trouble sleeping at night, create a sleep schedule where you wind down with a routine every night. Also, reduce screen time before bed. Avoid TV, smartphones, and other devices.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is living in the present moment. People who practice mindfulness are generally more aware of their thoughts and how they feel, which can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. One way to practice mindfulness is to sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed and pay attention to your breathing. Start with short five- to 10-minute sessions.
More ways to achieve better mental health
There are so many simple things you can do to improve your mood and maintain good mental health. Consider the following activities:
- Affirmations, affirmations, affirmations. Have you ever heard the expression "if you believe it, you can achieve it?" Our thoughts are powerful, so think positively about yourself. Make a point every day to encourage and appreciate your unique self.
- Challenge your negative thoughts. If you catch yourself having a negative thought, stop and ask yourself if that thought is true. If you make a mistake, forgive yourself and let it go. Nobody is perfect.
- Find positive coping skills. Coping skills help you manage your stress or anxiety during trying times. They include praying, exercising, coloring, and other activities that help you switch gears. Everybody's coping skills are different, but aim for positive ones rather than using drugs, alcohol, or food to feel better.
- Reach out to your friends and family. Human beings are social creatures, so maintain strong social connections. Spending time with others can have a strong positive impact on your mental health.
- Seek help if you need it. Asking for help when you need it can make a big difference in how you feel. If you struggle with your mental health, reach out to a therapist or have a discussion with your primary care provider. These professionals are compassionate and knowledgeable about how to help people get mentally healthy.
- Set goals for yourself. Goals can help you find new meaning and purpose in life, and new experiences can reinvigorate you and help you remember why life is so great. Be open to new things and continue to reconnect with life.
- What are you thankful for? Thinking about or writing down things you are grateful for each day can help you reframe your life more positively. If you get hung up on your negative emotions, practicing gratitude may help you realize there are also good aspects of your life. Some research shows practicing gratitude can even have a positive effect on physical health.
If you'd like help improving your mental health, Reid Health Outpatient Behavioral Health is by your side. Request an appointment.