Did you set new year resolutions? If yes, many lists will include things like workout more, eat better, or quit a habit—but what about your mental health? We don’t need to tell you that the past two years have been a whirlwind of situations one after the other, and many of us are feeling the affects. We are encouraging everyone to add ‘value my mental health’ to their goal setting for this year. Make it a daily priority to do something to support your mental well-being.
What is Mental Health?
Everyone has mental health, just like we all have physical health. In the course of a lifetime, not all people will experience a mental illness, but everyone will struggle or have a challenge with their mental well-being, just like we all have challenges with our physical well-being from time to time.
Mental health is but one dimension—or marker—of overall health. This marker defines our mental well-being at any juncture in our lives: our emotions, thoughts and feelings, ability to solve problems and overcome difficulties, and our understanding and interpretation of the world around us. Mental health is fluid, ebbing and flowing with the events in our lives. It’s about knowing what makes you happy and strong, and how to use coping skills to resolve life’s daily tasks and trials. These daily habits are sure to help keep mental health on your to-do list for this year.
Fuel Your Mood
Your body needs to be nourished and this includes you brain and nervous system.
- Water! staying hydrated helps make all the chemical reactions in our bodies work more efficiently while helping rid the body of unwanted waste.
- Wild salmon offers a hefty serving of omega-3 fatty acids to support the production of our feel-good chemicals, dopamine and serotonin. Go fish!
- Walnuts are the top nut for brain health! These brain-shaped gems deliver the plant version of omega-3s and are touted for their ability to enhance mood and cognition.
- Leafy greens present a plethora of brain-boosting nutrients! There is suggestive evidence that daily rotations of raw and lightly-cooked greens can slow age-related cognitive decline.
- Berries are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients that boost brain function and may prevent age-related memory loss. Try blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries.
- Avocado is a revered superfood containing monounsaturated fats that contribute to healthy blood flow. Healthy blood flow means a healthy brain!
There are many products to help support our mental health. Some should become part of a daily prevention and some are used as needed when we need some extra support.
- Increase vitamin D – It’s used in the production of serotonin, so having adequate amounts is essential for supporting a stable mood.
- Omega-3 – Specifically, use a formula with a higher EPA to DHA ratio. It helps support brain function and mood.
- Probiotics – More and more research is showing a strong connection between gut and brain health.
- 5-HTP – Helps convert tryptophan into serotonin
- Holy Basil – Nourishes the mind and helps reduce the impact stress can have on the body
- SAME-e – Improves synthesis of neurotransmitters
Exercise helps increase the production of serotonin (the happy hormone) and it also improves blood flow to the brain to help with mental clarity and focus.
If you don’t know what kind of exercise to do or can’t make it to a gym, get out there and walk. Walk as quickly as you can to increase your heart rate, or even have a personal dance party in your living room. Any movement is good movement.
Take a Timeout
Meditation can sound like a daunting practice, but it is simply taking a moment to be in the moment. It teaches us to be more conscious of our thoughts before we get lost in them. Being aware of when you are thinking unproductive, negative thoughts will help you create space and hit the pause button. If you catch yourself thinking negatively, pause and start over to reframe a positive thought.
In just ten minutes of meditation your body has a chance to relax, reset, and find balance. Challenge yourself to set aside ten minutes a day for a mindfulness date.
Over time, as you start to notice how much impact mindfulness has in your day, you can increase your time or include more than one ten-minute break into your day.
Talk it Out
Connection and having a safe space to talk about our emotions is a basic human need. Working on increasing relationships with friends and family will help build a support system to fully enjoy life, reduce stress, and have a sounding board for whatever life may throw your way. If you are struggling with your mental health, be aware of your needs and reach out to a professional for help.
It’s always good practice to focus on the positives in your life, and now the research exists to back this up. All thoughts release chemicals in the brain. Negative thoughts tend to produce more negative thoughts, while positive thoughts release positive chemicals in the brain, like serotonin. So, expressing gratitude about the good in your life or simply thinking about something that makes you feel good can help increase serotonin in your brain.
Importantly, good mental health is not at all about being problem-free and happy-go-lucky all the time. This is not a realistic picture of what constitutes everyday life. Good mental health simply means that you’re living and coping well—to the best of your ability—despite your problems.