It is always a good idea to give yourself a mental tuneup to help ward off any blue moods. In honor of Mental Health Month, here are a few ideas to help you keep your mind motoring toward happiness.
1. Attitude matters
A bad attitude can have adverse effects on your physical health. According to the organization Mental Health of America, people with a positive attitude outlive their grumpy peers over a 30-year period. A few ways to stay optimistic: stop ruminating over the past, don’t worry so much about the future and express a lot of gratitude.
2. The less stress the better
3. Get out and move
Sedentary lifestyles can have real consequences on physical and mental health, including increased risks of stroke, heart attacks, cognitive decline and depressed moods. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, more than 80 percent of U.S. adults and adolescents do not meet the guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. If you can’t seem to part with electronic devices that keep you in your chair, find an app to help you get moving. A recent study from Duke Health found that the mobile game Pokémon Go encouraged millions to get up and walk. Participants were twice as likely to reach their 10,000-step goal when playing the game.
4. Good food is brain food
Eating healthier is a no-brainer when it comes to good physical health, but it is also great for your brain. According to a recent Gallup Poll, U.S. adults who reported eating healthy in the recent past are 34.1 percent less likely to have depression. Drew Ramsey, psychiatrist, farmer and author of Fifty Shades of Kale and The Happiness Diet says that eating the right foods, including nuts, beans and seafood, can actually boost your mood.
5. Forgive to flourish
“It is very difficult to be happy when one is complaining about the past. It is very hard to be happy when we experience ourselves as helpless victims of fate or another person. Forgiveness provides us the evidence that we can cope with life’s difficulties so we don’t have to live afraid and constricted.” —Fred Luskin, Ph.D.
6. Sleep your worries away
Improving sleep habits is a great way to care for your emotional and mental health. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that 35 percent of Americans aren’t getting quality sleep. Researchers from the University of Warwick in the U.K. say quality sleep is more important to improving health and happiness than the quantity of Z’s. They equate the feeling we get after a good night’s sleep to that of “winning the lottery.”
7. Laugh often
8. Be excellent to each other
Studies show that when people engage in acts of kindness, they experience positive emotions that lead to a release of oxytocin (the love hormone) in the body. Kindness has also been associated with a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
9. Don’t forget to love yourself
“Our mind state is constantly affecting the mind state of others. If we are grumpy and irritable, the people around us are grumpy and irritable. We feed on each other’s emotions. So when you start practicing self-compassion, other people pick up on that and the more you are in this calm, kind, connected place, the more the people around you feel that way, too.” —Kristin Neff, Ph.D, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.
10. Practice makes perfect
“Whatever we water and cultivate conscientiously thrives and blooms in a regular garden….Bring to mind gratitude and other positive emotions often, and soon they will grow and take over the garden of your heart.”—Joseph Emet, author of Finding the Blue Sky: A Mindful Approach to Choosing Happiness Here and Now.
11. Stay away from all work and no play
Danes take their free time very seriously. Malene Rydahl writes in Happy as a Dane: 10 Secrets of the Happiest People in the World, that the Danes dedicate nearly 70 percent of each day to personal activities and spending time with friends and family. It’s this kind of attitude that makes Denmark one of the happiest countries in the world, according to the World Happiness Reports.
12. Slow down
“In today’s busy world, our mind is continuously active, jumping from one item to the next at a dizzying speed. Not only is this behavior exhausting, but it can impair how well we attend to any of the tasks at hand. Indeed, much of what crosses our paths does not require our attention or care, but it nonetheless consumes space in our consciousness. Over time, the background noise becomes a normal state, and we lose track of it—falling deeper into a state of mental fatigue, in turn limiting our ability to process important events and emotions. To counteract the deleterious effects of the noise, we need to refocus our attention on a smaller number of subjects. The practice of mindfulness does just that.” —Dr. Michael Finkelstein, internal medicine and holistic physician and author of Slow Medicine: Hope and Healing for Chronic Illness.
13. Savor the flavor
“When we can fully engage with our lives, we are happier, less stressed and more grateful. In addition, we’re more likely to remember and recall the calm, peaceful and joyful times, which can help sustain us through the more difficult ones. We don’t have to wait for sunsets on the beach or fancy weddings; we can practice savoring the smaller moments that happen on a daily basis, such as drinking a hot cup of coffee, snuggling our children or eating dinner with a friend.” —Carla Naumburg, Ph.D., author of Ready, Set, Breathe: Practicing Mindfulness with Your Children for Fewer Meltdowns and a More Peaceful Family.
Chris Libby is the Section Editor for Live Happy magazine.