We often find ourselves ignoring the fundamentals like our health, family, occupations, friends, community etc. All that neglect causes dysfunction in our lives. We try desperately to fix the problem only once it becomes a significant issue. In other words, we only attempt to reverse the damage once it has already become a disorder.
Mental health is much more than a diagnosis. It's overall psychological well-being- how you feel about yourself and others. It is seen as the ability to manage your feelings and also how you deal with everyday difficulties. It also takes into account the steps you take to improve your emotional health on your own. Making these changes will pay off in all aspects of your life.
Here are a few simple strategies to incorporate into the day-to-day routine to lay a healthy foundation and maintain mental wellbeing.
Protect your sleep
This is perhaps the most important intervention to our mental upkeep and also the most essential thing to do. In 2010, the American Medical Association along with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine saw and recognized insufficient sleep as a serious health risk amongst adolescents.
It is common to see that sleep issues in our teen years can persist into adulthood. The brain is very favorable towards patterns, repetition and routine. If it receives signals regularly, even unhealthy ones, it will lock into that pattern. Good sleep hygiene and a routine are essential in preventing sleep disorders which can lead to other comorbid psychiatric illnesses.
Maintain a balanced diet
Eating habits can play a large role in our mood regulation throughout the day.
Big carb-loaded meals can lead to big carb crashes which can cause fatigue, concentration issues and irritability, symptoms that are also very common to see in depression. Even the loading of caffeine or energy drinks leads to energy spikes and also sometimes leads to the development of insulin resistance. Protein, healthy non-saturated fats, fiber and some simple carbohydrates should all be represented in our meals.
Focus on exercise & meditation
Any activity that induces our heart rate to increase is considered exercise. For substantial health benefits, adults should consider and workout for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, which equates to about 20 to 30 minutes a day. A human body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting endorphins when you indulge in exercise. You should look for small ways to add activity to your day, opt for alternate options like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, and try to do it outdoors. We all have very busy lives, but we can all find a way to carve out a few minutes for ourselves to keep ourselves healthy.
Meditation helps you in becoming mindful or simply makes you aware of your thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness achieved through meditation helps you in many ways like helping you in staying at the present moment, being more grounded, etc. Proper meditation is something that is learned by time, practice and patience. No one starts it perfectly.
Indulge yourself in some hobby
Finding an enjoyable activity is seen as a preventative role in combating the onset of any kind of mental disorder as it can be seen as a healthy outlet at the end of stressful events. It acts as a positive distraction from any negative thoughts.
Engaging in activity would please us and also provide a physiologic effect on our brains. It would trigger the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin which will help in fighting against mental disorders. Hobbies such as crafting, arts, boxing, reading, gardening and many others will also lead to emphasizing the importance of socializing and being around others rather than being isolated.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings on paper can clear your mind and help you to understand yourself better. During stressful times, writing down your emotions and thoughts, not only helps in understanding the root cause of why you feel a certain way but also helps in finding the solution to the problem. It acts as a venting out activity and helps to put things in perspective.
Connect with nature
Being surrounded by nature, connecting with it, is really good for you and definitely for your mental health. Research says that a person who is connected with nature is significantly happier and less prone to depression.
It is easy to take things for granted, and we do that. It is also easy to forget to appreciate the little things we have. You may feel thankful or express it only after a big achievement that you have been waiting for. But there is always something to be grateful for, irrespective of big or small achievements, sad times. Making a habit to practice being grateful has a significantly positive effect on mental health.
You have the strength to take positive steps right now to improve your resilience and emotional health. Including these fundamental activities in your day-to-day life will transform your life for the better. Your positivity will also begin to affect everyone around you.
Don’t wait until you're in a mental health crisis to make your mental health a priority. It is easier to form new habits and also then implement those habits when you need them in times of crisis. Slowly putting things in place, routines, habits, and regular patterns will help you feel gradually better through change.