5 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health and Wellbeing
Do you exercise daily and eat nutritionally dense and health-enhancing food? Are you committed to living your healthiest and happiest life? What about your mental health? What do you do to ensure that you’re fighting fit emotionally, too?
We all know the importance of maintaining our physical health. If we forget for one second, we’re bombarded with ads and posts telling us to “eat this for drastic weight loss” or “use this expensive cream for glowing skin”. There's nothing immediately wrong with that — aside from potential false claims — but bodily wellness is only a small part of your health.
Your mental health and emotional state are integral to your overall health and wellbeing. But despite the overwhelming focus on the importance of mental health in recent years, it's still often considered a taboo subject, overlooked by health professionals and magazines.
In this post, we look at our top five ways to improve your mental health and wellbeing and show you some tips and tricks for strengthening both so you can enjoy full health.
1.Keep Your Gut Happy
A happy gut means a happy body — and mind. New research suggests that improving your gut health might be one of the most important ways you can improve your mental health. It seems the bacteria in your gut affects the state of your brain — as well as your stomach and intestines. A study on lab mice has shown that any disruption in natural gut bacteria can result in symptoms of mental illness. Changes to the mice’s normal gut flora led to both behavioural and cognitive changes, making them less timid and more adventurous. The mice also began to show symptoms similar to ADHD in children — and started to misbehave very abruptly.
Many people often ignore the benefits of probiotics to mental health. But to restore the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut, you need to replenish your good bacteria — which is where probiotics come in. You can introduce probiotics through natural foods, such as fermented foods like sauerkraut, tempeh, miso or kefir — all rich sources of probiotic bacteria. If you find consuming these foods a challenge, you could try supplements. But beware — many supplements either contain toxic fillers or do not reach the gut due to improper capsule production. If you opt for this route, choose a supplement that’s filler-free and will make it through the stomach acid into the gut, such as Latero-Flora.
2. Talk It Out
No matter who you have in your life — whether you are part of a huge family or have just one best friend — make sure you communicate often. The more you talk about your feelings and emotions, the easier it is to identify any potentially troubling signs. Keep your relationships intact and use them to your best advantage.
Personal finance is also a huge factor in mental health. If you’ve been struggling to make ends meet of late, it can be all too easy to fall into a state of depression, dissatisfaction or general discontent.
Do everything you can to strengthen your financial picture. Draw up a budget and control and reduce your expenses. You could also consider brainstorming ways of earning some extra money on the side. Being proactive about your finances can have a considerable impact on your mental health, so it's important to start early.
3. Write a Diary
Keeping a diary can do a world of good for your mental wellbeing. Sometimes the simple act of writing out your feelings and reactions to life’s events can crystallise issues you didn’t consciously recognise.
To get started, pick up an inexpensive diary or notebook at your local office supply retailer and start writing down a few notes each day. These notes could include your reaction to the events of the day or your aspirations. If you're struggling with what to write, you could try free association writing and letting your subconscious loose on the page. This kind of uncensored writing can help you manage stress and reduce anxiety.
4. Recentre with Meditation
Most people no longer view meditation as one of the trappings of a hippy lifestyle. Instead, it’s part of mainstream modern life, helping to calm the mind and soothe the nerves. All you need are a few minutes each day to empty your mind of its worries and focus on the moment. As a result, meditating can also improve your physical health — helping you sleep better and boosting your immunity.
You can practice meditation anytime, anywhere. You could take time out of your week to join a meditation class and practice as part of a group, or, if you prefer to be more solitary, you could try out one of the many smartphone meditation apps available, which let you break off and meditate whenever you want — or need to.
Mindfulness meditation is a particular type of meditation recommended by doctors to patients suffering from depression and anxiety as an alternative to medication. Mindfulness meditation simply requires us to be present in the moment — wherever we are and whatever we are doing. A simple practice involves sitting and focusing on the breath for a few minutes. It’s that simple.
5. Practice Yoga Daily
You might think of yoga as the exercise of choice for pro-athletes and contortionists. But yoga is a 5,000-year-old holistic practice that taps into the mind, body and spirit to strengthen the connections between them. Not only does yoga help to keep your body limber, supple, toned and flexible, but it also works wonders for your mental health by calming the nerves, increasing self-confidence and improving your essential relationship with yourself.
There are hundreds of different yoga classes out there, ranging from Ashtanga and Hatha Yoga to Yin and Vinyasa. Just 30 minutes a day of stretching can have a profound effect on your mental wellbeing. The deep breathing associated with yoga exercises helps calm the nervous system; it switches you from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, taking you from fight or flight to rest and relax.
Explore ways to improve your mental health with our range of therapists and clinics.