Mental health refers to our psychological and emotional well-being; an aspect we often tend to neglect and overlook. However, it matters deeply because you will find that all things are interconnected and when one part is in distress, other areas of our being are heavily impacted too.
These are not practices that apply to every single person but in order to see some benefit, one needs self-will and one needs to be consistent. My decade long battle with clinical depression has led to an interest in mental health– or rather, an interest in how to better it. Days can be hard and painful for us all and sometimes the will is simply not there but for yourself — push a little and try a thing or two. Here are my tips to help cater to your mental health.
1. Drink ENOUGH water.
It sounds so cliché and you may even find it ridiculous but there is something special about water that I find very fascinating. It may be that our bodies are made up of over 70 percent of it (this number varies depending on the source). Water refreshes, flushes and rejuvenates your body which in turn results in an array of positive effects. There’s a difference between drinking water here and there and then drinking enough water daily. Most of us probably don’t take in as much as we actually need and several factors play a role on the amount necessary. I’ve found that by looking at your activity level and weight, a better idea of how much water you need will emerge.
There was a study done that focused on women and it showed that 1.36% of fluid loss through either heat or exercise, led to an increase in the frequency of headaches, impaired mood and reduced concentration. Staying hydrated matters and it does influence a lot of key functions so go on, drink more water.
2. Engage in physical activity.
Now this is not to say you need to be an athlete or in the best shape of your life, all it means is you simply need to get moving. Being idle is not good for anyone, especially consistently. We no longer walk to our phones when they ring, as they are always glued to us and with everything being readily available through a few clicks, we aren’t up and about as much. In other words, it’s slowly becoming very easy to be inactive. Using your muscles and being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day is a good way to release certain endorphins that improve your mood and overall well-being. Research continues to teach us that the benefits go beyond the mental and can have long term advantages but this requires consistency as with anything else. Consider this a way to treat your body kindly by engaging in something that will challenge it and raise that heart beat just a little. Physical activity does not mean getting into fitness gear and exercising as they are two separate aspects. Physical activity is anything that engages the muscles and joints for a period of time, so keep it simple and fun. Garden, rearrange or clean your room or home, go for a walk and make it a daily or weekly occurrence. If you are a parent, playing with your child or children can be one way to find time to be physically active. Play your favorite songs and move to them. Instead of eating out or ordering food, try a new recipe and give yourself some time on your feet, bouncing around the kitchen. There are many, many ways to get moving.
Seriously, stretch it out. I can’t stress this enough but this is something I never would have appreciated or known if it wasn’t for a course in health I took in the winter of 2019. It was eye opening and quite inspiring so, here I am, taking what I’ve learned and trying to apply it to my real life. You may say that this goes in with physical activity and whilst it’s true, it’s a whole different aspect on its own. Stretching is such an important necessity that not a lot of us know about. Have you ever noticed how much professional athletes put into their stretches? Okay! If you haven’t — know it might just the most important part of what they do because it contributes to their recovery and performance (lowers the chances of obtaining an injury). Now, we’re not all professional athletes but what we are is human and our bodies require daily stretches because of some of the demands we put on it. This simple practice will help alleviate some of the days stress and allow you to relieve your muscles that may be tense and tight. This is not something to do for a few days and then ignore — this is something to do daily and for the rest of your life. Try it; first thing in the morning and right before you end your day. What I’ve noticed is that my joints are not as tight, I have less body aches and I sleep a lot better when I do some light stretches. It releases something wonderful that is not only relaxing but also very uplifting.
4. Take a break from social media.
So, why is this tip important for your mental health? I think the use of social media can contribute to a lot such as unproductivity, lower moods, overeating and a decrease in self-esteem. A study that was done on teenage boys and girls found that the frequency of social media use was a predicament for a decline in mental health. The study also found that not getting enough sleep was linked to a higher use of electronic devices to access social media. So, there are a lot of factors that can influence how often we use social media. It’s easy to get lost in a world that isn’t your own and sometimes social media exposes us to very negative and unhealthy things. It’s a world that exposes us to cyberbullies, violent images and videos that can leave us traumatized and the many people who aren’t the best for us. So, give yourself a timeline of when you won’t access social media at all and if you can, or if you want to — slowly increase the time you spend away from accessing such platforms, from a few hours a day to a few days or weeks. Build your way up to it if it’s difficult for you and know it’s okay if you find yourself a little more dependent than you expected. The point is, take a break, we all need one.
5. Focus MORE on the positive things about you.
There are things we do not like about ourselves and those things are emphasized even more when we fail at something or when something doesn't turn out the way we hoped. It's important to be able to acknowledge that there are good things to us as well. Why ignore those parts when they exist? Don't they matter? If you allow yourself to acknowledge something you've achieved or the milestones you've reached, it will enhance your well-being and self-perception. This is so hard to do because sometimes we don't see our own achievements and sometimes we don't even recognize all the milestones we've reached. It doesn't feel like a big deal or a great win to us but when you really think about some of the things in your life and maybe how many people wish they could achieve something you have or do what you've done - you may begin to appreicate these aspects within yourself. Maybe you let go of someone or something that was not good for you. It takes courage and strength and you did that. Perhaps you graduated or you passed a course you never thought you could. You got that promotion or managed to quit a job you were scared to leave. You finally stood up against someone or for something. Or perhaps you challenged yourself to try something new and step out of your comfort zone. There are a lot of parts to being human and whilst we aren't perfect, it doesn't mean we don't have precious and special parts to us. Look at yourself and see what you've done and how far you have come, even if it's not where you want to be. You're moving - your journey is still ongoing. Focus on yourself and all the positive that there is to you. Maybe someone can see the courage and the will you have. However, it's important you admire these things in yourself and embrace it all. It really does make a difference.
6. Fast from people.
My last tip is that it's a good thing to take a break from people. If you're anything like me then the mental capacity to socialize and interact on a daily basis is just not there. It's good to pull away for yourself and allow time to really look at and re-evaluate yourself even just for a moment. Now, I'm not saying stop communicating with people in your life but limit some interactions and know that if you want to get back to someone in a few days or weeks even, it's okay. That break is good and that break is for you. In my own experience, This helps by letting me direct my energy to me and I get to work on things surrounding myself. People can hinder this at times, you focus so much on everyone else, what they want from you and what is expected of you that you forget yourself. You time is neccessery, it cleans the mind in a way that I find very helpful. That time that I'm not communicating with people, I am listening to myself and my needs and wants. I am catering to myself and we should all do that as we owe it to no one else but ourselves.