“If you’re happy, if you’re feeling good, then nothing else matters.” – Robin Wright
Everyone’s familiar with the concept of a makeover. From hairstyles to cosmetics to wardrobes and home décor, makeovers convey a sense of self-empowerment, accomplishment and doing something positive for yourself and/or your environment. What about a mental health makeover?
Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that one in four people have mental health problems at some time in their lives, yet two out of three never get treatment. Even those of us who are relatively healthy occasionally have emotional issues to deal with and can use some assistance in healthy coping. Here, then, are some quick tips that are easy to do to help improve your state of mind.
Get more sleep.
Mental health is closely connected with the quality and duration of sleep you get each night, reports Harvard Health Publishing. Insufficient or poor sleep also affects physical health. The recommendation for nightly sleep is 7-1/2 to 8 hours for adults. While millions of Americans are sleep-deprived, among those with psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep problems are common (between 50-80 percent). In adults with major depression, 65-90 percent have sleep problems. Clinicians treating patients with mental health conditions view insomnia and other sleep problems as symptoms, while there’s also evidence that poor or insufficient sleep may increase the risk or contribute to the development of psychiatric problems. The authors of a Japanese study published in De Gruyter’s Open Medicine sought to establish a link between insomnia and depression.
Research published in Trends in Cognitive Science looked at the interplay between rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep stages and found that the complex interweaving between them may promote complex problem solving.
Other research found that synapses, the junctions between nerve cells, grow during daytime stimulation and shrink about 20 percent during sleep. This creates room in the brain for more growth and learning the next day.
What you can do: Make it a point to get sufficient sleep each night. If something’s bothering you, try to determine the cause so you can find a workable solution. If quality sleep continues to elude you, seek medical or professional help to get back to getting restful sleep.
Start a yoga or meditation practice.
The mental health benefits of yoga and meditation are solidly backed by research. Yoga, for example, has been shown to fight age-related cognitive decline. Research suggests that yoga may counteract anxiety, depression and ADHD symptoms. In an extensive study published in Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, researchers found that meditation may improve attention span and other cognitive abilities in old age. The key, say researchers, is to maintain the meditation practice over a lifetime.
Before you say you don’t have the money to take weekly yoga or meditation classes, that’s no reason to disregard these popular methods for boosting well-being. Information is available online for no charge and there are inexpensive books and tapes to help you begin simple techniques for each discipline.
Take a trip.
It’s easy for boredom to set in when you do the same thing day after day. Tedious and/or exacting work also extracts a toll on your mental health and well-being. One time-proven solution is to plan and take a trip. This gives you something to look forward to, reduces stress, exposes you to new experiences and provides a well-needed break. While you’re away, seeing and doing something new and different, being in a different environment helps rewire the brain, add to self-confidence and resiliency.
Don’t have the time for a lengthy journey? Even a day trip, overnight or weekend getaway can produce dramatic results. The less time you dwell on work-home-school-relationship-financial or other problems – and you’re less likely to do so when you’re enjoying yourself elsewhere – the more your state of mind improves. Case in point and a common scenario across America each summer: a family takes a day trip to the beach. After a long day of sunning, swimming, paddle-boarding and other beach activities, they return home somewhat exhausted but filled with the satisfaction of time well-spent.
Cultivate a new hobby.
If you want to take your mind off your problems, make it a daily habit to learn something new. Take up a hobby as a way to jumpstart the learning process. While you’re so engaged, you may find that you’ve discovered a passion, even a sense of purpose. You’ll also likely make new friends, always a helpful strategy in feeling good about yourself and enjoying time with others doing something productive, interesting and useful.
Journal – Write your heart out.
It’s well-known that addiction relapse is strongly associated with toxic emotions such as anxiety and depression. A proactive way to deal with them is keeping a journal. When you write down what’s bothering you, what didn’t go as planned today, minor or major setbacks and disappointments, you’re venting in a healthy manner. Journaling has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress and depression, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Capturing your thoughts on paper help those in recovery from addiction identify stress triggers and negative emotions like anxiety and depression that may precipitate relapse. Besides, your journal is only for your eyes. If it makes you feel more secure, shred your journal entry after you’ve written your heart out. You’ve already gotten the benefit from writing everything down. On the other hand, if you have a place to safeguard your journal, referring back to it in the days, weeks and months ahead can further help you recognize patterns of behavior and pinpoint strategies and techniques that worked in improving your mental health and overall state of mind.
Physical exercise is a terrific way to boost your state of mind and overall mental and physical health. Researchers have long touted exercise as a convenient method most everyone can use to prevent or cure negative mental health conditions, yet a new review of studies shows physical activity is also beneficial in increasing positive mental health in the areas of happiness and contentment. Indeed, researchers said, “even a small change in physical activity (although not determined as causation) makes a difference in happiness.” Frequency and volume of physical activity are most associated with boosts in positive mental health.
New practice guidelines published in Neurology for persons with mild cognitive impairment state that six months of exercise training “is likely to improve cognitive measures.”