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Mental Health and Lifestyle Choices

Just as your physical health and mental health are closely intertwined, your lifestyle can impact the way you think, act, and feel.

According to NIMH (the National Institute of Mental Health), 52.9 million adults in the United States experienced a mental illness in 2020, translating to one in five people grappling with mental health issues.

Now, while medication and/or psychological are the typical first-line treatments for conditions like major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder, NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) advises that paying attention to lifestyle choices can help improve mood and overall mental health.

7 Simple Lifestyle Tweaks to Improve Mental Health 

  1. Moderate or eliminate substance use
  2. Focus on the quality and quantity of sleep you get
  3. Remedy unhealthy eating habits to notice an uptick in your mental health 4. Get moving more to boost your mood
  4. Practice mindfulness
  5. Surround yourself with a strong and healthy social support network
  6. Disconnect from the virtual world now and again

1) Moderate or eliminate substance use 

Perhaps the most impactful lifestyle change you can make for improved mental health is to drink alcohol only in moderation and to abstain from illicit drugs.

Research shows a correlation between those abusing alcohol and drugs and mental health issues. Abusing substances also typically leads to adverse health outcomes, both short-term and long-term. Address any problematic substance use before you end up in a Huntington Beach rehab.

SAMHSA’s most recent data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health – NSDUH 2020 – shows a pronounced increase in major depressive episodes across all age groups. When substance abuse and mental health issues co-occur, this is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Many people with dual diagnoses self-medicate the symptoms with substances, achieving fleeting relief at the expense of symptoms worsening over time.

If you smoke, quitting can help reduce anxiety and improve mood, according to this meta-analysis of studies.

2) Focus on the quality and quantity of sleep you get 

Harnessing sleep hygiene techniques can help you combat any issues with insomnia you experience, and can also strengthen the quality of your sleep. Simple tips include:

  • Adjusting caffeine consumption
  • Adhering to a regular bedtime
  • Getting up at the same time each day
  • Limiting exposure to your bed
  • Reducing exposure to electronic devices before bed
  • Engage in physical activity every day

If you find yourself struggling to sleep, do not force the issue. Instead, get up and focus your mind on a light activity until you feel tired. Be careful not to overstimulate yourself, and don’t turn the lights up.

3) Remedy unhealthy eating habits to notice an uptick in your mental health Unhealthy eating habits can bring about negative outcomes on your physical and mental health.

Fortunately, it’s easy to make some basic changes that will make you feel better, as well as more virtuous. Consider the following:

  • Eat as many whole foods as possible: Studies show that leafy greens, whole grains, lean red meats, and seafood all contain nutrients beneficial for healthy brain function. These vital nutrients include fatty acids, zinc, and folate.
  • Eat as few processed foods as possible: Eating junk food might give you a temporary mental boost, but the benefits are short-lived and outweighed by the drawbacks. Processed foods are strongly implicated in depression.

4) Get moving more to boost your mood 

The American College of Sports Medicine offers the following exercise guidelines:

Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days

Try to exercise for at least 150 minutes per week

There is a strong evidence base for exercise causing immediate benefits to mood. Whether you walk, jog, run, or lift weights, find a form of exercise you enjoy and in line with your fitness levels and get a natural high.

5) Practice mindfulness 

Mindfulness is a process involving a sharp focus on what your body and mind are feeling in the moment.

Practicing mindfulness has many proven benefits associated with improved mental health, including:

  • Relieving stress
  • Improving sleep
  • Alleviating blood pressure issues
  • Strengthen processing of emotions

6) Surround yourself with a strong and healthy social support network 

If you have found yourself becoming isolated or withdrawn socially, simply spending more time with your nearest and dearest can make you feel more content and happier in general.

For anyone with a slender social network, expanding your circle of friends and connecting with new people can help you stay mentally refreshed and stimulated instead of stagnating in a room alone.

7) Disconnect from the virtual world now and again 

We live in an always-on world, and it can seem challenging to take a break from all screens and devices. Even if you have a hectic online schedule, you should still unplug from time to time.

By spending time in the great outdoors, or by reflecting on your goals and dreams indoors, taking some virtual time out can help clear and refocus your mind.

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