The first-line treatments are usually psychological therapies and medication when a person is diagnosed with a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety.
What isn’t frequently talked about are the variable lifestyle elements that influence our mental health.
Even those who do not have a mental health illness may be looking for strategies to enhance their mood, reduce stress, and manage their mental health on a daily basis.
Making positive life changes can be empowering.
While time and financial constraints may limit some people’s ability to make such adjustments, we all have the power to make little but significant improvements.
To get you started, here are five lifestyle modifications to consider:
- Start moving and improve your diet.
Whole foods including leafy green vegetables, legumes, whole grains, lean red meat, and seafood include nutrients that are essential for brain function.
Magnesium, folate, zinc, and vital fatty acids are all found in these meals.
Polyphenol-rich foods, such as berries, tea, dark chocolate, wine, and certain plants, are also beneficial for brain function.
Swimming, running, lifting weights, and participating in sports are all examples of potentially helpful fitness activities.
Getting the body moving by going for a brisk walk or performing active chores is a good start.
Activities that include social interaction and exposure to the outdoors have the potential to improve mental health.
Most days of the week, general exercise standards encourage at least 30 minutes of moderate activity (about 150 minutes total over the week).
However, even brief bursts of movement can produce an immediate mood boost.
- Limit your vices
An obvious health tip is to manage problems with drinking or substance abuse.
People with alcohol and drug issues are more likely than the general population to suffer from a mental disorder, and their health outcomes are significantly worse.
Some studies suggest that a small amount of alcohol (particularly wine) may be good in preventing depression.
However, other recent research has found that moderate alcohol use has no favorable benefits on brain function.
Stopping smoking is also a crucial step because nicotine addicts are constantly subjected to a withdrawal-craving cycle, which has a tremendous effect on their mood.
It may take some time to resolve the early withdrawal symptoms, but the brain chemistry will adapt with time.
Quitting smoking has been linked to improved mood and reduced anxiety.
- Make rest and sleep a priority.
Sleep hygiene approaches attempt to improve sleep quality and assist in the treatment of insomnia.
They include lowering your coffee intake, minimizing your exposure to the bed (controlling your sleep time and having a restricted time to sleep), and ensuring you get up at the same time every morning.
Some people are genetically predisposed to prefer the morning or evening, thus we should ideally have some flexibility in this regard (especially with work schedules).
It’s also vital not to force sleep – if you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and focus your attention on an activity (with limited light and stimulus) until you feel exhausted.
Another key component of healthier sleep is limiting pre-sleep exposure to light, particularly blue light from laptops and smartphones.
This increases the secretion of melatonin, which aids in sleep.
It is critical to schedule time for relaxation and leisure activities in order to manage stress.
Hobbies can also improve mental health, especially if they include physical activity.
- Get some fresh air
Many of us appear to be happy when the sun shines.
Adequate sunlight exposure boosts levels of the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin.
It also increases vitamin D levels, which has an effect on mental health and helps to balance our sleep-wake cycle at the optimum time.
The advantages of sun exposure must be balanced against the risk of skin cancer, thus consider the sun exposure recommendations based on the time of day/year and your skin color.
You should also think about limiting your exposure to environmental toxins, chemicals, and pollutants, including “noise” pollution, and reducing your usage of mobile phones, computers, and television.
Spending time in nature can be a cure to this.
According to research, spending time in the outdoors might boost one’s self-esteem and attitude.
Spending time in a forest (known as forest bathing) is regarded a mental health prescription in various parts of Asia.
The beneficial effect that animals have on us is a natural extension of spending time in the plants.
According to research, keeping a pet has numerous benefits, and animal-assisted therapy (with horses, cats, dogs, and even dolphins) may help improve feelings of well-being.
- Reach out when you need assistance.
Positive lifestyle changes are not a replacement for medication or psychological therapy, but rather something that people may do on their own in addition to their treatment.
While many lifestyle changes might be beneficial, others (such as avoiding junk food, alcohol, or quitting smoking) can be difficult if used as a psychological crutch.
They may require sensitive handling and professional assistance.
Strict advice urging abstinence, or a rigorous diet or fitness regimen may bring further anguish and shame if you are unable to satisfy these expectations.
So be gentle with yourself.
That being said, consider how you feel mentally after a nutritious whole food dinner, a good night’s sleep (free of alcohol), or a walk-in nature with a buddy.