Important lifestyle changes to enhance your mood and mental health
Even those who don’t have a mental health condition may still be looking for ways to further improve their mood, reduce stress, and manage their day-to-day mental health.
When someone is diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety, first line treatments usually include psychological therapies and medication. What’s not always discussed are the changeable lifestyle factors that influence our mental health.
It can be empowering to make positive life changes. While time restrictions and financial limitations may affect some people’s ability to make such changes, we all have the ability to make small meaningful changes.
Your mental health influences how you think, feel, and behave in daily life. It also affects your ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges, build relationships, and recover from life’s setbacks and hardships.
Strong mental health isn’t just the absence of mental health problems. Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental health refers to the presence of positive characteristics.
Looking to boost your mood, handle your emotions better, or build resilience? These life-changing strategies can show you how:
Prioritise rest and sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for helping a person maintain optimal health and well-being. When it comes to their health, sleep is as vital as regular exercise and eating a balanced diet.
Some people are genetically wired towards being more of a morning or evening person, so we need to ideally have some flexibility in this regard.
It’s also important not to force sleep – if you can’t get to sleep within around 20 minutes, it may be best to get up and focus the mind on an activity until you feel tired.
A balanced diet and simple exercise routine
A balanced diet is one that gives your body the nutrients it needs to function correctly. To get the proper nutrition from your diet, you should consume the majority of your daily calories in fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, nuts etc.
A balanced diet is important because your organs and tissues need proper nutrition to work effectively. Without good nutrition, your body is more prone to disease, infection, fatigue, and poor performance.
In terms exercise, many types of fitness activities are potentially beneficial – from swimming, to jogging, to lifting weights, or playing sports. Even just getting the body moving by taking a brisk walk or doing active housework is a positive step.
General exercise guidelines recommend getting at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days during the week. But even short bouts of activity can provide an immediate elevation of mood.
A fresh dose of nature
When the sun is shining, many of us seem to feel happier. Adequate exposure to sunshine helps levels of the mood-maintaining chemical serotonin.
It also boosts vitamin D levels, which also has an effect on mental health, and helps at the appropriate time to regulate our sleep-wake cycle.
The natural world is an incredible wonder that inspires us all. It underpins our economy, our society, indeed our very existence. Our forests, rivers, oceans and soils provide us with the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we irrigate our crops with. We also rely on them for numerous other goods and services we depend on for our health, happiness and prosperity.
We need to look at the value of nature in economic and social terms to help us better understand the full implications of the choices we make. An antidote to this can be simply spending time in nature. Studies show time in the wilderness can improve self-esteem and mood.
Reach out to loved ones
While many lifestyle changes can be positive, some changes (such as avoiding junk foods, alcohol, or giving up smoking) may be challenging if being used as a psychological crutch. They might need to be handled delicately, and with professional support.
When a loved one is suffering from a mental disorder, family members can help in any number of ways. First, love, empathy, and encouragement can work wonders for mental health sufferers. Understanding that they are not alone can provide sufferers with the strength they need to seek help. Yet support can take many different shapes.
However, family support is a cornerstone for mental health sufferers during their treatment and recovery process. Family can be an integral support for patients who suffer from various types of mental illnesses ranging from anxiety and depression to eating disorders and post traumatic stress disorder. By engaging with therapists during the treatment process, families can learn how to spot signs and symptoms of worsening mental disorders and how to support the patient as they work to manage their illness.
Reduce your vices
People with alcohol and drug problems have a greater likelihood than average of having a mental illness, and have far poorer health outcomes.
Some research has shown that a little alcohol consumption (in particular wine) may have beneficial effects on preventing depression. Other recent data, however, has revealed that light alcohol consumption does not provide any beneficial effects on brain function.
Stopping smoking is also an important step, as nicotine-addicted people are constantly at the mercy of a withdrawal-craving cycle, which profoundly affects mood. It may take time to address the initial symptoms of stopping nicotine, but the brain chemistry will adapt in time.
That being said, take a moment to reflect on and introspect how you feel mentally after a nutritious wholefood meal, a good night’s sleep (free of alcohol), or a walk in nature with yourself or a friend.