Mental health is critical to living a happy life and yet many people ignore this simple fact. They assume that mental health problems are something that affect other people but with an average 1 in 4 adults suffering from mental health problems during the course of their life it’s fair to say that whether you suffer with mental health issues or not maintaining your mental health is critical!
Below I’ve pulled together a few areas to concentrate on to help maintain or improve your mental well-being. Over the weeks and months I will blog in more detail about each one of these tips but I wanted to give you all a good starting place! Some of these will seem obvious, others less so but they’re all critical to maintaining your mental health.
1. Get a good nights sleep.
Physically sleep helps with the following:
- Healing damaged cells
- Boosting your immune system
- Recovering from the day’s activities
- Recharging your heart and cardiovascular system for the next day
Mentally getting enough sleep also helps reduce the following:
- Low self-esteem
- Low mood
I will cover more about the benefits of sleep in future blogs and tips to help with improving sleep quality.
2. Exercise regularly.
As well as improving your physical health and stamina doing regular exercise also has the following benefits:
- Releasing endorphins which act as a natural relief for the effects of depression and improve low mood.
- Increases concentration of a chemical called norepinephrine a chemical which helps moderate the brain’s reponse to stress.
- Improve self-confidence and self-esteem. Sad as it is society (and ourselves) often judges people by our physical appearance. Exercise can help people feel that they are taking steps to improve their appearance thus boosting their confidence and self-esteem.
- Exercise also helps prevent the deterioration of the hippo-campus which is vital in preventing Alzheimer’s in later life.
- Help combat addiction. Exercise also releases the chemical dopamine which is the same chemical released in response to other acts of pleasure e.g. eating, alcohol and drugs without the harmful side effects.
3. Improve your diet.
Recent studies have shown three main benefits that having a good and well balanced diet can have:
- Good diet is crucial for brain development throughout our lives. Eating real food that helps nourish us become the protein-building blocks, enzymes, brain tissue, and neurotransmitters that transfer information and signals between various parts of the brain and body. A degradation in these can lead to us feeling worse.
- It helps the brain to grow as certain nutrients and dietary patterns are linked to changes in a brain protein that helps increase connections between brain cells. A diet rich in nutrients like omega-3s and zinc boosts levels of this substance. Conversely a diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars has a very potent negative impact on brain proteins.
- It fills the gut with healthy bacteria. Trillions of good bacteria live in the gut. They fend off bad germs and keep your immune system in check, which means they help tame inflammation in the body. Some gut germs even help make brain-powering B vitamins. A high sugar diet can have the opposite effect and can even worsen the effects of schizophrenia if you suffer from that.
4. Get more sunlight.
Believe it or not the sun plays a critical part in our mental health. Sunlight is a crucial source of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps with:
- Reducing depression
- Reducing anxiety
- Increasing levels of serotonin which helps combat the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
As well as these mental benefits there’s also increasing amounts of evidence that exposure to sunlight can help prevent certain types of cancer such as colon cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.
5. Socialise more.
I know this is a hard thing to do for many people, particularly if like me you suffer with social anxiety. However, increased levels of socialisation with others has been shown to have the following benefits:
- You may live longer. People with more social support tend to live longer than those who are more isolated, and this is true even after accounting for your overall level of health
- Better physical health. Social engagement is associated with a stronger immune system, especially for older adults. This means that you are better able to fight off colds, the flu, and even some types of cancer.
- Better mental health. Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression. Research has shown that one sure way of improving your mood is to work on building social connections.
- Helps lowers the risk of dementia. Recent research has demonstrated that socialising is good for your brain health. People who connect with others perform better on tests of memory and other cognitive skills.
So there you have it. 5 key areas to focus on improving to make you feel happier! I will explore each one of these areas in detail over the coming weeks and months but I’d suggest focusing on improving one area at a time to give yourself the best chance 🙂