Despite the hectic nature of modern lives, most of us recognize the importance of taking the time to invest in our physical health and/or fitness. Unfortunately, this is often not the case when it comes to mental health. This is understandably so because most of us live in skeptical societies that believe “seeing is believing” or that “if we don’t see it, it doesn’t exist”.
When we do not take care of our physical health, most of us understand we’ll be putting ourselves in a position where we become susceptible to diseases or ailments which symptoms and effects are very much visible to us and therefore hard to dismiss. Whereas with mental health, when one falls victim to a mental health illness such as depression, the symptoms and effects can easily be ignored and misdiagnosed as simply as experiencing negative feelings or merely having a bad mood.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work for a non profit organization which focuses on providing mental health support and learned firsthand of how crucial it is to maintain a good state of mental health. When it comes to mental health illnesses, prevention is certainly better than cure as they can be difficult and costly to treat. More importantly, having good mental health not only prevents us from developing mental health issues, it also enhances our ability to live our very best lives. Those who are emotionally healthy tend to be more resilient, confident and able to handle life’s challenges with a more positive attitude.
Luckily, taking care of and improving our mental health can be easy, however, it requires us to commit to making time and effort on a regular basis. Here’s some simple tips that I’ve personally found to be helpful in improving one’s overall psychological health and well being:
1. Set aside some “me” time
With so much on our plate, we often find ourselves ended up putting our own needs in the back burner. Start to make a commitment to do something you enjoy to do a couple times a week. Whether it’s taking a leisurely walk in the park, having bubble baths, watching movies, reading a book or playing with your pet, dedicating time to indulge on something you enjoy is a must to maintain a good emotional health and well being.
2. Share your story
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. Please keep in mind that everyone have experienced hardships at least once in their lives and they may be able to relate. More importantly, sharing our feelings to someone we care about acknowledges that we trust them enough to be vulnerable around 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, do seek out and make an appointment with a mental health professional (counsellor, therapist, psychologist etc.) or call up 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 enable 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 Yous” verbally before starting out our day every morning, writing it on a gratitude journal or simply by quietly expressing gratitude for things and 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 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!
Regular exercise is 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 well being. Get your heart and lungs pumping for at least 30 minutes 4-5 times a week. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to make time for yoga classes or sessions at the gym, make simple yet meaningful changes throughout your day such as opting for the stairs rather than the elevator or taking a walk than driving when traveling short distances. Whatever your choice of exersice is, get active. The endorphins that exercise releases will help not only to energize and to lift our moods, they can also be powerful antidotes to various mental health illnesses.