May is Mental Health Awareness month and during this time many focus on the education and prevention of Mental Illness. A less popular topic during the month is discussing how to maintain good mental health and wellness for oneself in order to avoid those common disorders. It is very important to recognize that there are many who are effected by mental illnesses that alter or debilitate their everyday activities; however, it is equally important to make sure that you are doing everything you can to maintain good mental health.
There are many disorders that affect different areas of mental health and there is no finite treatment or prevention plan to cover all of them equally. However, you can take steps to improve the health and resiliency of your brain. Here is an overarching strategy for how you can create a healthier mind.
Humans are social beings that have emotional needs and our brains were not created for isolation. By sharing and interacting with others, something within the brain becomes satisfied and fulfilled. We not only encourage you to find people to connect with socially, but we would stress to make these interactions face to face. In a time where social media is so popular, many resort to online communication; but the in-person interaction is what has the power to relieve stress and improve your overall mood.
We would encourage you to find someone that is a good listener and supporter. Although it may feel like sharing your thoughts and feelings is a burden to someone, it often times is welcomed by that person because they will feel good that you have trusted them enough to reach out. The better the support system you have the more likely you are to maintain a healthy mindset.
Your mind and body work together as a unit so it is important that you are taking care of both. Many forms of exercise are proven to improve your mental state through the release of endorphins, which are chemicals that boost your mood. We understand that exercise is not favorable for everyone so we want to stress that there is no need for intense activities such as running and lifting heavy weights. Walking, window shopping, playing activity based video games, and dancing are just some other options to choose from.
We would suggest that you try to get 30 minutes of activity in each day. Try to take part in activities that engage both your arms and legs. And finally, use this time to really focus on your body and breathing so that you can give your mind a break.
Stress is an inevitable part of life but there are healthy ways to manage it. Every person is different so we would encourage that you take time to determine what works best for you. A few suggestions on how to manage stress include interacting with friends or family, music therapy, taking time off or away from stressful situations, or meditation practices. Each of these examples are opportunities for you to break down the stress you are feeling and improve your mind and body. Without proper management, stress can often overwhelm someone and become more dangerous to their health. The sooner you are able to learn your management preference, the better off you will be.
In order for your brain to be healthy you need to be feeding it right. Unhealthy diets can disturb sleep, weaken your immune system and make you tired which all effect your brain function. People react differently to foods so figure out what works best for you, but here are some options.
Good brain food:
- 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
Bad brain food:
- 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
Getting enough sleep is a necessity for your mental health. Your brain works harder and longer than any other part of your body and this is your opportunity to rest and recover for the following day. In a time where television, texting and social media are popular evening activities you may notice that it is harder to shut down for the evening. We would suggest to eliminate technology use in the hour leading up to bed and switch your focus to some relaxation techniques. By doing this you are pushing away from the worrying, problem solving, and stressful functions of your brain and switching to a more restful and relaxing state which is prime for sleep.
Find your Purpose
The last piece of this strategy for Mental Health and Wellness is finding a purpose and meaning for your life. This purpose could be family related, work related or even community related. Having a reason to get out of bed each day is an important factor in you feeling good about yourself every day. Having a purpose is actually quite good for your brain as well because it can create new cells and neural pathways. If you are unsure on how to discover this purpose here are some suggestions.
- Engage in work and life activities that are meaningful to you and others
- Volunteer or care for others in order to develop a spirit of giving
- Spend time with like-minded people and groups to build closer relationships
For more information and guidance, or for help managing active mental illness, please contact us today!