Whether you’re a Millennial, part of Gen Z, Gen X, or even a Baby Boomer, one thing is clear: our needs have shifted.
We are now aspiring to be happy and at peace over everything else. Rather than having complete financial security, some of us are more interested in fighting global warming, helping out our communities, promoting mental health and traveling the world. We prefer collecting memories instead of things. We feel the need to declutter our spaces, but enjoy filling up our lives with amazing experiences. We can accept paying rent for the rest of our lives instead of owning a home, as long as we’re happy and creating meaningful relationships.
However, everyday stress can easily disrupt our fairytale. We can easily find ourselves stuck in the same routine, isolated or unmotivated - all things that can seriously harm our mental well-being in the long run.
Wondering how to improve mental health? If you are looking to start your journey towards improving your overall mental welfare, read the six steps listed below:
What is mental health?
Mental health represents the emotional, mental, and social well-being. It affects the way we think, feel and act. It also helps in the way we manage stress, relate to others, and make choices. When we feel good mentally, we can work productively, enjoy our free time, and can actively contribute to the community we belong to.
Mental health is vital at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence to adulthood. If a person faces a mental health problem, their thinking, mood, and behavior can be affected. Mental disorders are common, but there are effective ways to treat them. People with mental health problems can be entirely cured, or their symptoms can be significantly improved.
World Health Organization describes mental health as a “state of well-being in which each person realizes his/her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
How to take care of your mental health?
1. Be active
We get that, when feeling low, you’d rather master being a couch potato than being active. But it’s often when you least feel like it is when you most need it.
Regular exercise is known to provide various health benefits. While it plays an important role in controlling your weight and overall physical condition, being active also helps you maintain a healthy headspace.
The key to improving cognitive function is regular physical activity, which is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Fitness relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. It can also ease feelings of low self-esteem which can lead to social withdrawal.
What if we told you that the secret to a longer life is as simple as socializing?
Yes, while socializing can improve mental and emotional health, it may also help you live (and love) longer. Studies show being social decreases depression, reduces feelings of loneliness, helps sharpen memory and cognitive skills, and increases your sense of happiness.
And don’t forget to give back to your community. This can promote a sense of purpose and help us feel useful. Participation in social and community life has attracted a lot of attention in the field of well-being research because individuals who reported a greater interest in helping others were more likely to rate themselves as being happy.
3. Be aware of the things around you
Do you feel as if you’re always on the go without a chance to stop and notice everything that goes on around you? The first step into achieving mindfulness is being aware of your surroundings. Sights, smells, sounds, tastes, thoughts, feelings, and sensations - all can enhance your well-being and help reaffirm your life priorities.
Heightened awareness also enhances your self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices based on your values and motivations. Start small by taking different routes to work, paying attention to your colleagues, or even getting a plant. You’ll notice valuable improvements in your daily life.
4. Relax. Take a break
Breaks play an important role in helping us recover from stress, while also giving us a chance to refocus. In turn, this can improve your performance and boost your creativity. As basic as this may sound, take a five-minute break to breathe, change your scenery, or do something else. A change of pace in an otherwise redundant routine is good for your mental health.
5. Celebrate every little success
Here’s a secret to keep yourself excited about everything life has to offer: have something to look forward to.
Break down all your activities and set objectives throughout your journey. Focusing your energy towards achieving a goal breaks routine, boosts energy, and reinforces a positive attitude and behavior.
Don’t forget to celebrate every little success! Celebrating success is a very powerful motivator as it validates the purpose behind all that hard work and shows appreciation for achievements. This improves your self-esteem and motivates you to take the next step towards achieving your next milestone
6. Get quality sleep
Sleep is one of the least taken into account factors when it comes to health. A good and long sleep (7-9 hours) is essential for your mind and body. If you have trouble sleeping, try to make a few small changes in your lifestyle. Prepare a relaxing environment in the room and avoid eating food before bedtime. You can also try meditation techniques before going to sleep as well as in the morning.
7. Eat healthily
A balanced diet influences the way we feel both physically and emotionally. That’s why it’s important to include healthy amounts of protein, fatty acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water in your daily routine.
8. Stay connected with other people
Friends and family make you feel loved, so surround yourself with people who provide you emotional support. Try to visit them regularly, arrange a day out with friends you haven’t seen for a while, fix a day a week to eat dinner together, or at least talk to them on the phone.
If you feel that someone's presence is negatively affecting your mental health, don't be afraid to detach yourself from them. Get rid of toxic people and focus on relationships that bring you joy and positive feelings.
9. Disconnect from virtual life
Nowadays, it seems impossible to live without a smartphone. But it’s not. All those messages, emails, and notifications on social media can distract your attention and increase your stress level. Studies have shown that frequent use of social networks contributes to impaired mental health, especially in adults and young people. Try to disconnect from social media for at least 2 hours a day and enjoy real life.
10. Set realistic goals
Decide what you want to achieve academically, professionally, and personally, and set the steps you need to achieve your goals. Aim high, but be realistic, and don't overwork yourself. You will have an extraordinary sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress in your project.
11. Supplements - the ace up your sleeve
Maybe you’ve already tried all the tricks in the book and nothing has really worked. Supplements that are rich in vitamins and minerals can truly make a difference.
A full complex of supplements can ensure you’re getting the proper intake you need to strengthen your overall mental well-being. For instance, though it’s widely known that vitamin C acts as an immune-boosting agent, it also has a potentially preventive and therapeutic effect on mental illness. Furthermore, B vitamins ensure healthy brain function, support feelings of calm and stability, prevent stress, depression, chronic fatigue, and other afflictions. Another essential nutrient, zinc, can help reduce oxidative stress. Vitamin B12, which supports the brain and nervous system, regulates mood, learning, memory, and other numerous physiological processes.
What foods help mental health?
- Fatty fish rich in Omega-3s such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna.
- Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts.
- Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, Brussel’s sprouts.
- Fresh fruit such as blueberries.
What foods can affect your state of mind?
- Trans fats or anything with “partially hydrogenated” oil.
- Foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones.
- Sugary snacks.
- Refined carbs (such as white rice or white flour).
- Fried food.
When to seek professional help?
When you experience one or more of the following conditions or behaviors, it may be an early
warning sign of a mental health problem. Don’t wait until your symptoms are overwhelming and seek immediately professional help if:
- You think you have no sense and you feel strong feelings of guilt.
- You feel helpless or hopeless.
- You feel that nothing matters to you anymore, you are indifferent.
- You have lost interest in hobbies or other enjoyable activities.
- You cry a lot, for no particular reason.
- You begin to isolate yourself from others.
- You feel a state of confusion, you often forget, you feel as if you are at the limit.
- You have very little energy.
- You feel a very strong state of worry, panic, or fear.
- You have too much energy, you can't concentrate and you have difficulty following a plan.
- Suddenly you move from one mood to another, which causes relationship problems.
- You feel unable to cope with daily problems and activities.
- There have been significant changes in eating and sleeping habits.
There are many roads that lead to the mountaintop, but the road to improving mental health is one worth taking. Getting regular exercise, making sleep a priority, having a balanced diet, taking time for yourself, practicing mindfulness, and last but not least, treating yourself with kindness and respect are habits that will help you handle your emotions better and maintain your mental welfare.