Everyone has their own definition of what “mental health” means to them. For the sake of this article, I’d like to use the definition put forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.” It’s an integral part of the way we respond to different situations, how we interact with other people, and how we decide what’s right and wrong.
Given how important it is, let’s talk about a few ways you can improve your mental health:
- BFFs Are Important. Healthy friendships with people who care about you and support your health and happiness are key to your sense of well-being. They can be neighbors, family, church members, or someone who shares your passion for 80’s hair band karaoke. Research has shown that healthy friendships, and other types of positive social support, are a “protective factor”, something that helps to protect us from the stresses of life.
- Cut Back On The Cookies. Eating healthy and well-balanced meals encourages good brain health: think foods like leafy green vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Putting the right kind of fuel in your body isn’t just for physical health, it’s good for your mental health too. A number of studies have shown an important relationship between nutrition and well-being.
- Catch Plenty of Zzzz’s. Quality sleep is an important aspect of maintaining our mental health. A night of tossing and turning is stressful on our bodies and minds. Lack of adequate sleep has been linked to irritability, increased aggressive behaviors, faulty memories, an inability to think productively, and weight gain.
- Get In Gear. Exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as increase the ability to think productively. But integrating exercise into your routine is not always easy. Finding something you enjoy can make the “chore” of exercising fun! Walking, hiking, swimming, jogging, volleyball, house or yard work, dancing, weight lifting, yoga, even jazzercise – when you find something you enjoy, you are more likely to stay with the activity.
- Secure Your Own Oxygen Mask. Most people know that the first rule of safety on an airplane is “put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others to put on theirs.” To successfully fulfill your life roles and positively contribute to the lives of others, you need to make sure you have things in place for your own mental health and well-being. What healthy activities do you do just for yourself? Examples might include: yoga, painting, photography, reconnecting with nature by hiking, playing an instrument or singing, prayer, socializing, meditation, knitting, bicycling, and the list goes on!
- Call A Professional. See a therapist! There is no shame is seeking professional help. There are lots of therapists with various specialties throughout the ADAMH Network of Care. A short series of therapy sessions may be just what is needed to re-establish your sense of well-being. Sometimes a combination of therapy and medication is required. Professional counseling, and medication if needed, can dramatically impact the well-being of a person struggling with a mental health disorder.