Make 2023 the year you focus on your mental health. Forget short-lived New Year’s resolutions and rigid goal setting, instead commit to adopting some simple habits to boost your mental fitness now and well into the future.
You may already realise that your mental health forms the basis for everything you do, including shaping your social and emotional well-being. It can impact every aspect of your life.
Being intentional about valuing and improving your mental health can help you connect better with others, reduce anxiety and boost your confidence.
Making some changes to your routines and adopting some simple habits that you can stick with can have the power to improve your life.
Get started on making a positive change with these simple daily habits.
Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It helps you become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings and improves your overall sense of well-being.
Studies also suggest mindful meditation can help with managing stress and anxiety.
Being mindful is about paying attention to what’s going on around you. By being aware of your own thoughts, as well as how they relate to the world around you, you’re pulling yourself out of your own head and into the moment. Mindfulness can help you get perspective on your problems, clear your mind of negative thoughts, and generally make you more present.
There are several ways you can practice mindfulness:
Mindfulness meditation can be an easy strategy to build into a routine. If you’re not sure where to start, try some of the meditation apps available on your smartphone or tablet.
Get Enough Sleep
Your mental health is directly affected by the amount of sleep you get.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain doesn’t have the chance to rest and recover. Sleep deprivation makes it harder to regulate your emotions and cope with stress, which can amplify the symptoms of existing mental illnesses.
Around 8 hours is generally the amount of sleep average adults need for their body and mind to fully rest, however this can vary depending on the individual.
Aiming to get enough quality sleep time is a simple way to value your mental health.
Tips for better sleep:
- Limit naps during the day
- Establish a nightly routine to unwind in preparation for sleep
- Avoid caffeine or stimulants too close to bedtime
- Stop using electronic devices 30 minutes before bed
People who are physically fit have a better sense of well-being than those who are less fit. That’s because physical activity increases the flow of oxygen to the brain. It also increases endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ chemicals, in your brain. These chemicals can increase your overall sense of happiness and well-being.
Engaging in a vigorous physical workout can help you battle depression and gain a more positive outlook on life. It’s also a great way to beat stress, which can harm you mentally and physically.
However, any level of exercise that gets you moving can be beneficial and you’ll start to feel the benefits straight away.
Studies have shown that as little as one hour of exercise per week, regardless of intensity, can help prevent depression and boost mood.
The best way to start is:
- Choose something you enjoy – Whether you like walking, swimming at the beach or playing a physical team sport, picking something you find fun means you will stick with it.
- Start small – No need to start with a marathon, set small targets such as walking around the block or taking your dog for a walk and then build up over time as you gain fitness and find activities easier. This will help you feel motivated to keep going.
- Make time, even if you’re busy – Commit to being active and plan some exercise time despite your busy schedule. Keeping active during busy times can help you better manage tough times.
- Create a routine – Plan ahead to add activity to your routines. Set out your workout clothes the night before and set an alarm to get up and get after it. Setting your intent through habit will keep you on the path to better health.
Eat a Healthy Diet
What you eat can have a significant impact on your mental health. A healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help improve mood and reduce the risk of mental health issues.
Research suggests that healthy food choices can be a long-term investment in beneficial physical and mental health outcomes.
According to science, foods (in moderation) such as dark chocolate, bananas, coconut and berries, among others, can boost mental well-being and happiness.
On the other hand, a diet high in processed and sugary foods can contribute to feelings of low mood and irritability.
Giving your body the nutrients and hydration needed to function well is an essential part of building good mental health habits.
To get started eating for better mental health, consider making small changes to your diet that are easy to stick to. For example, start by swapping processed afternoon snacks for your favourite fruit.
Relax and See the Funny Side
Stress is a normal part of life, but constant elevated stress levels can have negative effects on your mental and physical health.
Adopting healthy ways to manage stress such as through relaxation techniques and doing things that make you laugh can give your mood a boost and benefit your overall mental health.
Find time to relax each day (try meditation, deep breathing, or a favourite hobby) and try to spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself.
Making time for self-care and just being silly and laughing out loud can add joy to your life, ease tension and anxiety, relieve stress, improve mood and strengthen resilience.
Laughter is a proven way to increase dopamine and endorphins, chemicals that elevate mood. It also oxygenates your body and cools down your stress-response systems, producing an overall calm, happy feeling.
Tips to laugh more:
- Reflect on the positive aspects of your life (don’t dwell on the negative)
- Spend time with funny people
- Watch a funny movie, read funny media or try a ‘laughter yoga’ class
Ask For Help
You may not think you need help. But if you feel like you’re going through a tough time, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Mental health challenges can increase the urge to isolate but being able to talk about your feelings can help you understand and address any issues.
Whether you’re trying to build a new habit or break an old one, our psychologists can offer professional guidance and support.
If you are struggling with your mental health, or feel you may benefit from talking to a professional, contact the team at Psychological Health Care.