Fuzzy thinking, confusion, procrastination and a general lack of motivation can all be indications that your mental health is not where it should be. We live in a world where we are bombarded with negative images and stories – COVID, droughts, floods, fires and wars (or talk of war) are just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s easy to let worry start to dominate our thinking.
Of course, we all get ‘down in the dumps’ occasionally. We’re only human! But if you (or perhaps someone you know) are flat, overly-stressed or just plain worried for extended periods, it’s probably time to give yourself a dose of self-care..
It requires an active decision to change your mindset from one dominated by fear, doubt and uncertainty to one filled with positivity. It requires effort and time but you can make very real changes that will improve your outlook on life. As Buddha wrote 2,500 years ago:
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.Buddha
Here are 7 tips you can use to start improving your mental health today!
1. Identify your tribe.
It is scientifically proven that being a part of a group and interacting with people makes you feel better about yourself. Giving your life more significance can be as simple as feeling like you’re part of something larger than yourself.
There are groups that meet for just about everything under the sun – walking, sewing, making, helping and even groups that help you to laugh out load… really loud! What interests you? Do a search. Put out a call on your local community site.
Remember that your family might be your closest tribe. If you can’t visit, keep in touch with regular Zoom calls, Facetime or one of the many other apps that offer free video meetings.
2. Get to know your own body.
A wonderful way to relieve stress is to engage in regular physical activity. This has the added benefit of improving your mood. Workout releases feel-good endorphins while increasing blood flow to the brain, which then improves mood and cognition.
One of the safest ways to improve health is through exercise. Older persons may benefit from exercise more than the young due to the natural physical decline brought on by aging and age-related diseases.
Even if you start exercising later in life, you can still reap enormous physical and mental benefits. Simple, modest strength training is beneficial for everyone but especially the elderly as it makes their day-to-day activities easier.
If you have any underlying health conditions, it’s a good idea to get a medical check-up before starting an exercise program. Many elderly people may also require assistance in developing a regular exercise routine that is both safe and effective. Patients who have been sedentary for a long time may see the greatest improvements in their health when they begin regular exercise, particularly aerobic exercise.
As we get older, it’s easy to become more sedentary. This leads to our strength diminishing. In turn, this can often have a negative impact on our daily lives. By increasing leg muscle strength we improve our walking speed and stair climbing ability while reducing cardiovascular exertion.
As an aside, research shows conclusively that elderly adults with more muscle mass who are institutionalized tend to have a better nitrogen balance, less deconditioning, and a better prognosis when they are critically ill.
3. We are what we eat!
A healthy diet can have a significant impact on both your physical and mental well-being. A healthy diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein has been shown to improve your mood, increase your energy, and improve your ability to concentrate.
The building of new proteins, cells, and tissues in your brain and nervous system is entirely dependent on the nutrients you consume. Your body needs a variety of carbohydrates, proteins, and minerals in order to function properly. You can receive all of your brain-boosting nutrients by eating meals and snacks that are made from a mix of foods.
Eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet can lift your spirits, give you more energy, and improve your mental clarity. From the amount of carbs in your diet to the effect of vitamin and mineral shortages on mental health, there are several factors at play here.
4. Take some time to relax.
A good night’s sleep can have a major impact on one’s mental health. Rejuvenation can be achieved by getting enough sleep. You’ll be better able to cope with the stresses of daily life, and you’ll have better relationships with the people in your life. Practice good sleep habits, such as going to sleep at the same time every night. And put that phone on ‘airplane’ mode!
5. Maintain your composure.
Stress can have a variety of effects on people. Even though it’s normal to feel anxious, prolonged and severe stress can have a negative impact not just on your mental health, but also on those you interact with. Do you find yourself lacking patience? Are you short with your partner, kids or co-workers?
Unfortunately, when we we speak in haste, we typically beat up on ourselves after the event. That leads to a reinforcement of a negative feeling about yourself. Instead of ‘reacting’, try to think proactively before speaking. Ask yourself ‘how do I want this person to feel after I speak’.
Make time for yourself
You’ll be able to recharge your batteries if you schedule a few minutes of ‘me time’ each day. Reflect, meditate, or do something unique for yourself to keep your mind healthy during this ‘down time.’
There is a correlation between gratitude and happiness, positive mental health, and a better quality of life overall. At the conclusion of each day, take a moment to reflect on three things you’re grateful for.
Do whatever it is that makes you happy
At the very least, you should do something that brings you joy every day. This might also serve as a distraction from whatever is bothering you. Make time for hobbies like listening to music, reading, gardening, or spending time with family and friends..
Maintain control of your workload
When it comes to stress, the workplace can play a significant influence in our lives. If your job is making you anxious, you should avoid working excessive hours or taking on too many extra duties. Is it time to learn how to say ‘No’? It can be hard but over-loading yourself is not helping anyone – especially you! A healthy work-life balance is essential for your mental well-being.
Take control of inter-personal conflicts
Anxiety and sadness can be exacerbated by stress in personal relationships. Keeping a clear head is easier when you know how to communicate honestly and deal with issues as they arise. Counselors and psychologists can help if you’re having relationship difficulties.
Breathing and muscular relaxation techniques can have a positive impact on your mental and physical health. Inhaling slowly and deeply can help you relax and reduce your heart rate. My son learned a technique where he imagined himself as a tree. As he breathed in deeply, he would lift his arms above his head and imagine he was a tree.
6. Be observant of your surroundings.
The practice of mindfulness entails keeping one’s attention on the here and now. Awareness of your thoughts and the ability to direct your attention where you want it are the two key components. It is possible to minimize stress and improve your physical and mental well-being by practicing mindfulness in your daily life. On your morning commute, why not listen to a podcast about mindfulness?
7. Seek out professional assistance.
Help from a professional should be sought as soon as possible if emotional or behavioural issues are causing major challenges in your life or the life of a loved one. It’s possible you or they have or are developing a serious mental health condition.
Everyone’s symptoms of mental illness are unique, however these are some of the more typical ones that can be picked up early on:
• Feelings of anxiety and tension that are out of proportion to your normal state of mind, such as feeling melancholy, irritable, or angry most of the time.
• A nagging suspicion that something isn’t quite right
• Losing friends because of a lack of social activity
• Lack of interest or enjoyment in activities that you would typically find pleasurable
• Sobbing uncontrollably or experiencing emotional outbursts for no apparent reason
• Unable to function normally without the use of intoxicating drugs or alcohol,
• Feelings of shame or worthlessness, distressing, weird or unexpected thoughts, and a lack of self-care are all symptoms.
The bottom line…
Our emotional, psychological, and social well-being are all part of our mental wellness. They influence our thoughts, feelings, and our behaviour. Additionally, our mental health influences how we deal with pressure, interact with others, and make decisions. From childhood and youth through maturity, mental health is critical.
In order to be in good mental health, one needs to understand and acknowledge one’s own skills, be able to deal with the usual stressors of life, be able to work well, and be able to give back to the community. Your ability to think, feel, express yourself, communicate with others, work, and have a good time in life is directly correlated to your mental health. Are you looking after yours?
No matter where in the world you live, there are excellent online resources and services that can guide you to better mental wellness. Here are some that are based in Australia:
Black Dog Institute