Prioritizing your mental health is an important step in maintaining overall wellness. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or any other type of similar issue, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 20% of Americans have some type of mental health condition, ranging from mild to severe. Fortunately, there are many small but easy ways you can support good mental health on a daily basis.
1. Focus on Your Digestive System
The foods you eat have a direct impact on every system of the body. Certain ingredients can even impact brain function due to the chemical reactions that occur as your body metabolizes them. Focusing on gut health is important to help your body maintain balance and ensure that your digestive system is working properly. Consuming foods that are rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats can help support mental health, while highly processed foods that are loaded with sugar and saturated fats should be limited.
2. Prioritize a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting plenty of rest each night doesn’t just give you the energy you need to function the next day. It also plays a critical role in balancing emotional health by enabling certain areas of the brain to function efficiently. According to healthline.com, sleep elevates the activity of the hippocampus, insula, medial prefontal cortex, amygdala, amd striatum. Some of these areas of the brain help monitor the body’s responses to fear and stress, as well as regulate emotional responses to various situations. Sleep helps to monitor and control hormone release, which can have a significant effect on emotions and mental health as well.
3. Exercise on a Regular Basis
Many people have heard it said that exercise is a great way to reduce stress and regulate your mood. Studies have shown that people who exercise generally experience less depression both immediately and long-term. This may be connected to the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which generates the “fight or flight” response. When placed in a stressful situation, the body tends to try to conserve energy by inhibiting the digestive system and releasing cortisol, the stress hormone. The body’s intent in these actions is to allow enough energy and strength to run away and escape a dangerous or stressful situation. Vigorous exercise helps restore balance in the body, reduce cortisol levels, and deactivate the sypathetic nervous system so that the rest of the body can continue to relax and function normally again.
4. Find Healthy Ways to Unwind
Dealing with stress, anger, depression, and anxiety can be trying, so it’s important to find healthy ways to cope with these negative feelings. Make a list of activities that are good for your physical and mental well-being that also help you feel more relaxed. Then, you can refer to the list when you’re feeling overwhelmed and need help unwinding and taking your mind off negative thoughts. Some beneficial activities may include:
- Going for a walk
- Reading a book
- Watching your favorite movie or show
- Taking a hot shower or bath
- Enjoying a nourishing meal
- Playing with your pet
- Practicing yoga or mindful meditation
- Playing a sport or game
- Spending time outdoors
- Practicing a craft or hobby
When you recognize symptoms that signal an approaching mental health episode, take a step back and practice self care with a positive activity.
5. Connect With Family and Friends
Feelings of isolation tend to make any kind of illness seem much worse than it is. Unfortunately, those who struggle with a mental health issue may have a tendency to withdraw from opportunities for social interaction. Set realistic goals for yourself to help you stay connected with loved ones who help you feel supported and cared for. For example, you could try to text someone once a day, call someone every few days, and spend time in person with a friend or family member once a week.
It’s important to remember that you should always discuss any changes in mood and all mental health concerns with your doctor. Combining the guidance and support of a medical professional with wise everyday choices can help support mental health and wellness.