Anyone can make simple changes that have a huge impact on their mental health. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, here are 7 healthy practices that can be easily integrated into your daily life:
- Take Care of Yourself
Physical and mental health are closely linked; it's easier to feel good about life if your body feels good. That's why being active and eating well help maintain a healthy body. You don't have to go to the gym to exercise – gardening, vacuuming and dancing all count. Combine physical activity with a balanced diet to nourish your body and mind and keep you feeling good, inside and out.
- Surround Yourself With Good People
People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Make plans with supportive family members and friends, or seek out activities where you can meet new people, such as a club, class or support group.
- Rest And Refresh
Get plenty of sleep, and go to bed at a regular time each night. Sleep restores both your mind and body. Also, allow yourself some unfocused time each day to refresh. For example, daydream, let your mind wander, or watch the clouds go by. It's okay to do nothing for a little while!
- Let There be Light
Exposure to the full, broad-spectrum light found outdoors during the daytime helps you sleep better and wards off 'winter blues'. Even just getting short periods of strong daylight every day can improve your mood.
- Challenge Yourself
But set realistic goals. You could take on something different at work, commit to a fitness goal or learn to cook a new recipe. Simply decide what you want to achieve and write down the steps you need to realize your goals. Learning improves your mental fitness, and you'll enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress toward your goal.
- Deal With Stress
Like it or not, stress is a part of life. Practice good coping skills: relaxation breathing, yoga, taking a nature walk or playing with your pet are all effective stress reducers. Also, remember to see the humor in life. Laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and – you guessed it – reduce stress.
- Get Help When You Need It
Nobody is superhuman. We all get tired or overwhelmed sometimes. Asking for help is a sign of strength – not weakness. If things are getting to be too much for you and you feel you can't cope, ask for help.
El Camino Hospital offers extended Mental Health & Addiction Services. For a physician referral, call 800-216-5556. In an emergency, please go to your nearest emergency department or call 911.
Maintaining your overall mental health is a lot like staying physically fit: it requires a little effort each day. By devoting time to improve your mental health, you'll begin to feel rejuvenated and more confident, with a greater sense of well-being.
This article first appeared in the May 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.