Most of us acknowledge the importance of taking the time to invest in our physical health and/or fitness. Unfortunately, when it comes to mental health, this is often not the case as most of us believe that “if we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist”.
When we do not take care of our physical health, most of us understand that we’ll be putting ourselves in a position where we become susceptible to diseases or ailments. These physical symptoms and effects are very much visible to us and therefore harder to dismiss.
Whereas when it comes to mental health, when one falls victim to a mental health conditions such as depression, the symptoms and effects can easily be ignored or misdiagnosed as just a phase of bad mood.
That said, due to the isolating nature of the Covid-19 situation, more and more people are finally realizing just how crucial it is for us to pay as much attention to (if not more) to the state of our mental health.
Years ago, I had the opportunity to work for and as well as sat on the board of non-profit organizations focusing on providing mental health support.
Through these priceless experiences, I learned firsthand that when it comes to mental health illnesses, prevention is certainly better than cure as they can be difficult and very costly to treat.
More importantly, having good level of mental health not only prevents us from developing severe mental health issues, it also enhances our ability to live our very best lives.
Studies show that those who are emotionally healthy tend to be more resilient, confident and able to handle life’s challenges with a more positive attitude.
In this article, you’ll find 5 practical things you can do consistently that may help to better care of your mental health.
Disclaimer: Note that the tips below are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you suspect that you’re suffering from mental health ailments or conditions, please consult your physician and/or mental health professionals.
1. Set aside some “me” time
With so much on our plate, we often find ourselves ended up putting our own needs on the back burner.
If you’re looking to become more mentally healthy, you’ll need to start by making a commitment to do something you enjoy to do at least a few times a week.
This is important as if you don’t tend to your own needs before you tend to others, you’ll most likely burn out and end up feeling resentful towards the people and/or things that you focus your time and energy on.
Whether it’s taking a leisurely walk in the park, having bubble baths, watching movies, reading a book or playing with your pet, dedicating a block of time to indulge on something you enjoy is a must to maintain a good emotional health & overall wellbeing.
If you’d like to take it a step further, these days, there’s a vast selection of mental health retreats where you’ll get to learn various activities and tools to improve & maintain a good state of mental health.
2. Let it out
When we are going through challenging times, it is crucial that you are able to communicate your experience with someone you trust (best friend, spouse/ significant other, family member, etc).
Many of us feel that we are not able to talk about our hardships because it makes us appear weak or makes us feel as if we are ‘burdening’ others with our issues or problems.
Keep in mind that everyone has experienced hardships at least once in their lives and they may just be able to relate better than you think!
More importantly, sharing our feelings with someone we care about acknowledges that we trust them enough to be vulnerable with them and may potentially bring the relationship even closer.
If you find yourself unable to divulge your feelings and emotions to someone you know and would be more comfortable to talk to a third party, seek out and make an appointment with a mental health professional (A counselor, therapist, psychologist etc.).
Alternatively, you can call a mental health support hotline available in your area.
Either way, sharing your story will enable you to feel that you are, in fact, not alone.
3. Express Gratitude
Acknowledging our appreciation for the things that we already have enabled us to focus on the good that already exists in our lives and this creates feelings of joy.
Appreciation is potent to fighting off anxiety and worry because when we feel joy, we feel more excitement and optimism for life.
We can express our gratitude by saying our list of “Thank You’s” verbally before starting out our day every morning, writing it on a gratitude journal or simply by quietly expressing gratitude for things & people we are thankful for as we go about our day.
4. Get Adequate Sleep
Countless research found that we are able to best perform and are most energized when we get enough sleep on a daily basis.
Though the amount of sleep needed to differ from one person another, on average adults need about 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night to function optimally and be in a prime state of mind to make important decisions.
For those who are used to getting about half of the required amount of sleep, it’s helpful to start by adding 30 minutes more to your normal sleep pattern and then gradually increase it.
Soon enough, you’ll find that you’ll have more energy and be more ready to tackle whatever life throws at you.
5. Get Moving
Making time for physical exercise is considered a “double whammy” as it is not only able to benefit our physical health, it also has the ability to improve our emotional health and overall wellbeing.
Amazing right? Be sure to get your heart and lungs pumping for at least 30 minutes 4-5 times a week to reap these benefits.
Personally, as I get bored quite easily, I have a mix of activities that I alternate which allow me to stay physically active and have fun at the same time. I particularly enjoy activities that aren’t too structured, so it feels different each time.
One example of such an activity is the “Freedom in Motion” virtual sessions I’ve been joining during the pandemic.
Accompanied by curated music & conscious breathing, this unique “Primal Dance” is a powerful free-flowing dance that allows me to not only get my cardio on and have fun, it’s also an effective way to release emotional tension and mental blockages that I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of.
Alternatively, in times where you may not have time to spare for exercise, make simple yet meaningful changes throughout your day such as opting for the stairs rather than the elevator or taking a short walk after lunch or dinner.
Whatever your choice of exercise is, get (and stay) physically active. The endorphins that exercise releases will help not only to energize and to lift our moods, they may even serve as powerful antidotes to prevent various mental health illness.