It is important to realize that mental health is as important as physical health for a person’s overall wellbeing. Just like a person experiences physical illness, he/she can be mentally ill too. It is true that in many cases it is beneficial to share your concerns and symptoms with a family member or friend. Some people may also require professional help and medications to improve mental health. But there are also ways by which a person can tend to and take care of his mental health all by himself.
Here are some ways suggested by studies to improve mental health all by yourself. Read on:
1. Spend time outdoors
It is true that many of us like to spend time indoors, in our safe and comfortable environments, and watch TV or use our phones. But if you do not frequently spend time outdoors, you could be damaging your mental health. Many studies have also been conducted to provide evidence for this relation.
- In 2015, the National Academy of Science found that spending ninety minutes walking outdoors can decrease brain activity in a region called the subgenual prefrontal cortex. This area is particularly active when we are thinking in a pessimistic manner.
- Moreover, a study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology in 2010 found that spending about five minutes in a green space can boost self-esteem. And what better green space is there than all the lush greenery outdoors?
2. Mindful meditation
Many studies have shown that mindful meditation can help relieve anxiety and depression. Moreover, practicing meditation is pretty simple: just sit quietly in a comfortable spot, and focus on your breathing. Try to bring your mind’s attention to the present. Meditation is very beneficial for the mind and body and can improve mental health.
Furthermore, being mindful of the present can also help in escaping from negative thoughts and feelings. Try to pay attention to small details in your surroundings and feel and be aware of all your senses that are, sound, smell, touch, sight, and taste.
3. Incorporate exercise in your daily lives
Regularly working out is beneficial for your physical and mental health. Moreover, exercise can also help combat the symptoms of stress and depression. This is because our body releases mood-boosting and stress relieving chemicals called endorphins while and after exercising. It is for this reason that exercise is made part of the treatment of many people with mental illnesses.
- A 2014 review in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that physical activity reduces the symptoms of depression in people with mental illness, and even reduce symptoms of schizophrenia.
- Moreover, another study found that adding an exercise routine to the treatment plan for post-traumatic stress disorder can help reduce symptoms in the patients and improve their sleep.
Exercise also helps maintain a healthy brain as we age. A study used magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of a group of elderly people, mostly in their 70s. Among these, those who reported walking or exercising in any way a few times a week showed less brain shrinkage and stronger brain connections than those elderly people who led a sedentary lifestyle.
4. Obtain proper nutrients to your diet
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is essential for the maintenance and improvement of physical and mental health. Nutrients in the food you eat are beneficial not only for your bodies but also for your brains. For example, consuming carbohydrates increases the level of the chemical, serotonin, in our bodies.
- Studies have shown that serotonin has a calming effect on a person’s mood. Foods rich in proteins increase norepinephrine, dopamine, and tyrosine in a person’s body and helps him stay mentally alert.
- Studies have shown that these nutrients can improve mental health by improving mood and maintaining the structural integrity of the brain cells, which is important for healthy cognitive function.
Moreover, fruits and vegetables contain many healthy nutrients that feed the cells of the entire body, including those that control the mood-regulating chemicals in our brains. It is also advisable to consume foods containing Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids such as fish, nuts, and flaxseed.
5. Don’t worry too much
As we grow up and shoulder more responsibilities, we also tend to worry more about the present and the future. Constant worry can become a habit and lead to stress and anxiety. If such is the case, it is better to schedule a time each day for worrying. In this way, a person can avoid worrying all the time and instead postpone such thoughts for a time later on.
6. Do not react to every little thing
Some people tend to respond aggressively and anxiously to every small problem in their everyday lives. Reacting to instances such as being stuck in traffic, or having an argument with a loved one can lead to building up of stress and frustration. This can lead to long term conditions such as chronic stress.
7. Pursue your hobbies
Most of the people today lead extremely hectic lifestyles and juggle between work, study and other responsibilities. This can be pretty stressful and can have a negative impact on mental health. It is essential to take time out for hobbies occasionally.
Moreover, you can take time out for other activities that can relieve stress. For example, completing a daily crossword puzzle, planting a tree, learning another language or taking lessons to learn a musical instrument.
8. Don’t take failure too personally
It is ambitious to set high goals but aiming for perfection each time can prove to be detrimental for mental health. Perfectionists set high goals but also tend to worry about reaching them excessively. Moreover, if they fail, they tend to be overly critical of themselves. This common cognitive distortion our brain makes every day.
This can be resolved by setting up small, more manageable targets rather than one big goal. In this way, a feeling of accomplishment can be achieved even after successfully completing one small goal.
It is essential that people experiencing any signs of mental illness should adopt these ways to improve mental health. Moreover, people who do not have any such symptoms can also incorporate these habits to ensure that they maintain their mental health.