According to the National Institute on Mental Health, healthy lifestyle activities lead to psychological well-being. With statistics showing one in 25 people still suffer from mental illnesses each year such as major depression, bipolar or schizophrenia, it is time we start implementing changes.
Lifestyle changes do not have to be drastic or traumatizing. Even small changes can make huge improvements in mental health.
Below is a list of lifestyle habits that contribute to mental health, whether good or bad.
How Much You Move
Living a sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous to your health, according to the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability.
Without physical activity, you make it hard for your body to maintain the strength it needs in its bones and muscles. Each becomes weaker the longer they just sit around. When you lose muscle and bone strength, accidents happen.
Without the proper workouts, your bones and muscles will not recover as quickly as they should.
John Hopkins Medicine also reports there are major health risks if you don’t start moving your body more, especially your mental health. Anxiety and depression are two common symptoms among those who are inactive.
Yes, having anxiety and depression make it hard for you to want to get up and exercise. But exercise has proven to be an antidote to both mental health issues. Force yourself to get some exercise. It will release endorphins in your brain, causing you to feel good.
How You Cope
You had a dreadful day at work, your car broke down on the way home and your mother-in-law is coming to stay this weekend. You are stressed out!
You stop at the local pub to relieve your stress. It takes multiple shots and a few beers but you are relaxed. Until the next morning, that is, when the stress is back, along with your hangover.
Choosing negative coping tools like getting drunk, smoking, using drugs, or cutting can make your situation even worse. The way you handle stress has a direct connection to your mental health. Alcohol and drugs play devious tricks on your brain chemicals. You feel good while using, but then feel ten times more depressed and anxious when you are not.
Choosing positive coping tools, however, leads to better mental health. Techniques such as meditation, yoga, exercising or even just talking to a friend or counselor, releases feel good chemicals in the brain.
Learning to cope is essential to good mental health.
How Much You Earn
This one is frustrating. Money and socio-economic status should not be a contributor to mental health status. Everyone at every financial level should be able to have positive mental health.
But the research shows just the opposite.
The American Psychological Association claims there is a direct link between mental illness and socioeconomic status. Let’s face it, money struggles are very stressful. That stress causes depression and anxiety.
Money stress can also tempt you to cope with negative tools like alcohol or drugs, leading to additional mental health issues.
Researchers say financial status has a negative correlation. Meaning, poor finances leads to poor health and mental health. The best solution? Find ways to improve your income so that you can improve your environment and lifestyle.
If only it were that simple.
How You Sleep
Sleeping is one of the most important things a person can do to improve mental health. Yes, so many of us are sleep deprived.
Harvard Health reports that out of all psychiatric patients, over fifty percent of them say they have sleeping problems. On a larger scale, one-third of Americans report having sleep disturbances. That is way too many people trying to function on too little sleep.
When you sleep, your brain takes this time to send messages to the rest of your body that it is time to recover from life’s daily mishaps and stressors.
Without proper sleep, you are clumsier and have more trouble focusing and concentrating. You are more temperamental and even tend to eat worse. You are just not at the top of your game when you don’t get enough restful sleep.
How You Socialize
Relationships can be stressful. Or, they can be stress relieving. It is up to you to maintain healthy relationships with others. In doing so, you can improve your mental health.
Making social connections has been shown to improve mental well-being, as well as having physical health benefits.
Connecting with others can make you feel as if you belong to a group. This gives you value and a sense of purpose. All of this can boost our self-esteem and lead to less depressed or anxious symptoms.
Isolating yourself has negative effects. Some reports even state that those who are isolated and lonely increase their risk of early death by 26%. Isolation is directly linked to feelings of depression, anger, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
Today there are many ways to get involved with other people. There are support groups, exchange clubs, auxiliaries, and volunteering. Even if you completely enjoy being alone, socialization is still beneficial for your mental health.
What to Do Next
After reading this, you may think you should quit your job, join a gym, join a club and sleep a lot. Well, that is not exactly true.
Your next steps can be small ones. Check out these tips on how to improve mental health from Mental Health America.
You do not have to implement all ideas at once to improve your mental health. In fact, just implementing one new thing a week can decrease depressive and anxious symptoms.
The first week you may want to focus on your sleep. Make time for more sleep. The second week you may want to call an old friend or meet someone for a quick coffee break. The third week you may want to seek counseling.
Sometimes talking to a stranger can be a terrific experience. Counselors have no judgments and are there to listen and make sure you feel heard. Counselors also have fantastic tool sets they can teach you to improve your mental health.
Start by making one change, one minor change. You are sure to see big results.