As the importance of mental health increasing becomes less of a taboo subject and more people are starting to advocate for their own well-being, there is still plenty to do to help bring more awareness to this issue. For example, your employer can offer you mental health days but if you can’t recognize that you need that time off to recover, your mental health will continue suffer.
If you experience symptoms such as excessive worrying, lack of energy and social avoidance, these can be warning signs that something is not quite right and you may need a mental health check-up. It’s always good to keep in touch with your physician or mental health provider to find out if you need a simple mental health screening or any additional mental health treatment.
Here are 5 things you can do every day to help get your mental health back to a good place.
Fight Loneliness With Flow
One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it exacerbated our growing loneliness problem through isolation and anxieties about catching the virus. According to the American Psychological Association, the whole world experienced an increase in loneliness, which can have negative effects on long-term health and well-being, including depression and anxiety.
While we found ourselves with unexpected and excess amounts of free time, it seems we didn’t know what to do with it. New research released by Penn State suggests we can fight off those feelings of loneliness by actively engaging in activities that put us in a state of flow. These are meaningful activities that help “stop time” and require active engagement, such as playing music, painting, writing, learning, and even video games. These activities should have healthy balance of challenge vs. skill, giving you a sense of control and a loss of self-consciousness. Researchers believe as the time passes effortlessly, your sense of loneliness will decrease and you will feel more fulfilled, which boosts your well-being.
Sleep on a Schedule
If the world is giving you plenty of think about, staying up all night with excessive worry won’t help anything. Whatever it is, it will be there in the morning and you’ll have a fresh mind to tackle any problems you may face. There are no shortages of studies touting the many benefits of sleep and the harm from a lack of it, but according to research from the University of Michigan, if you have an irregular sleep schedule, you are actively contributing to your bad moods and even depression.
The key is to get into regular sleeping routines. That means the same sleep and wake times so your circadian rhythm will stay balanced. Making your sleep schedule a priority is not only good for your mental health, but your physical health too. To help you stay on track, there are plenty of apps on your phone or smart watch that will give you helpful reminders.
Mind-Boosting Benefits of Pets
We already know the many joys that pet companionship can bring into our lives, but it may also be good for your brain health, too. A new study released by the American Academy of Neurology suggests that long-term pet ownership, especially for five years or more, has been linked to slower decline in cognition as we age.
Our furry friends act as a buffer to stress and keep us physically active which increases those feel-good chemicals in your body that lowers our stress levels and reduces depressive symptoms. Not only is this good for our mental health but contributes to our physical health as well.
Practice Mindfulness Daily
Daily mindfulness practices, such as meditation, is great for reducing your daily stress and keeping you in a calmer state. This act of self-care gives you time to check in with yourself, find some mental clarity and help you regulate your emotions. The goal is to prevent your mind from ruminating on things of the past that may be wearing your down, but also keep from inventing future events that haven’t even happened. Staying in the present moment, even if just for 10 minutes, can give you a clearer picture about your day and help you make better decisions.
There are plenty of apps that offer guided practices of mindfulness, such as Headspace or Calm, but you can also take a moment out of your day to find some quiet time with breathing exercises. A good rule of thumb when you are feeling particularly anxious is to breath in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, then exhale for six seconds. Repeat these five to ten times and you’ll instantly feel the difference.
Prescribe a Nature Break
The correlation between nature and mental health has long been explored by science. Researchers contend that there are mental and physical benefits to spending time outdoors in nature, whether it’s forest bathing, strolling through a city park or backyard gardening. These short “green” respites help alleviate feelings of stress, boost our moods and give us the fresh air our bodies need to properly function.
According to Charles Hall, Ph.D., a professor and Ellison Chair in International Floriculture in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, one positive outcome from the global pandemic is the more people are turning their interest into “plant-related” hobbies, such as gardening and plant care. His research recently published in the Journal of Environmental Horticulture suggests that spending time with and nurturing plants can have multiple mental health benefits, including: improved happiness and well-being; enhanced memory retention; anxiety and stress reduction; increased creativity, productivity and attention; and enhanced self-esteem.
Good Mental Health Should be Practiced Every Day
With the proper tools in your mental health tool box, you can work on your mental health every day to help temper those negative feelings that add more stress and anxiety to your life. Just like with our physical health, mental health is not something we should ignore. Taking the proper care to nurture our state of well-being can improve our life satisfaction and cultivate more long-lasting happiness.