The 7 (Proven) Keys to Improving Your Mental Health!

In honor of World Mental Health Day!!

THE 7 (PROVEN) KEYS TO IMPROVING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Taken from Melli O’Brien’s blog, with permission from Melli ~ one of my FAVORITE mindfulness teachers! 

AddictionAnxietyArticlesBrain HealthDepressionHappinessHealthHelpful Habits, Mindfulness, Research, Stress

Did you know that one in five people these days are affected by mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression? These days many of us are also struggling with stress and overwhelm as the pace and demands of life increase.

I believe now more than ever we all need to commit to making our mental health a priority.

In honour of World Mental Health Day, here are seven proven tips that will improve your mental health and boost your well being.

1.  EXERCISE REGULARLY

It’s well known that exercise is important for keeping our bodies healthy, but did you know that exercise is also vital for good mental health? Research shows that people who exercise regularly have better mental health, reduced risk of developing mental illness and greater emotional well being too.

 HOW EXERCISE BOOSTS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

  • Exercise increases your energy levels both mentally and physically.
  • Exercise helps you sleep better, and good sleep helps regulate your emotions.
  • Exercise can improve confidence and self-esteem as you achieve a healthy goal and take care of yourself.
  • Exercise changes hormones and chemicals in the brain in mood boosting ways including an ‘endorphin rush’ that increases feelings of calm and happiness as well as improving focus and memory.
  • Physical activity can be an outlet for irritation, frustration and bad moods.
  • Exercise is a powerful way to alleviate the symptoms of mental illness. For example research suggests exercise can be as effective as medication or speaking to a psychologist for overcoming mild depression.

 THINK ABOUT STARTING SMALL

Keeping physically active doesn’t have to mean working out at the gym, it can be simply going for a walk in the park. Experts advise that at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week is ideal. If you’re not currently exercising why not start small with a goal that feels immediately achievable – like just 5 to 10 minutes a day. Start small and you can build up from there. This is often the best way to form new habits.

2.  PRACTICE MINDFULNESS

Mindfulness (a form of meditative awareness) involves training our attention and learning to have a more wise and skillful relationship with our own minds. Mindfulness teaches us to unhook from unhelpful and unproductive thought patterns and behaviours. It involves learning to steady our awareness in the present moment rather than getting lost in our heads worrying, ruminating about problems or locked into self-criticism or negative judgements.

 RESEARCH SHOWS THAT MINDFULNESS…

  • Reduces stress, depression and anxiety
  • Increases stress resilience
  • Brings feelings of peace and inner calm
  • Improves relationships
  • Improves overall sense of well being and life satisfaction

3.  EAT A HEALTHY DIET

What we eat affects how we feel. If you’ve ever watched how quickly sugar can have an effect on the mood of small children (and adults too) or if you’ve ever felt dull and tired after a heavy lunch of carbs you’ll have seen and felt the effects that foods we choose to eat can have.

But it’s not just sugar and heavy carbs. All kinds of foods can also have short-term as well as long-lasting effects on your mental health. Your body needs a mix of nutrients and minerals to function well, so making sure you’re eating a good diet is truly vital for mental health.

A HEALTHY DIET INCLUDES

  • A variety of fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • A good source of protein, from either fish meats (from good sources) or plant-based
  • Regular water consumption 6- 8 glasses per day
  • Potentially dairy, grains and complex carbohydrates like beans, lentils, pumpkin etc

               TRY TO LIMIT

  • How much caffeine you drink
  • How much sugar is in your diet
  • Taking in a lot of intoxicants
  • Things you are intolerant or allergic to

4.  DRINK IN MODERATION

Many people who overindulge in drinking alcohol (or other substances) commonly do it to change their mood. Although it may numb or overcome a difficult feeling for a while, the effects are short-lived. Alcohol doesn’t deal with the causes of difficult feelings or solve our problems. It makes them worse. There are much healthier ways of dealing with difficult feelings including the other ones listed in this post.

Occasional drinking in moderation is quite healthy and enjoyable for most people. As a useful guide to drinking in moderation, keep in mind that the daily alcohol limit recommended by alcohol.gov.au is no more than two standard drinks per day. 

5.  PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION

Do you have a harsh inner critic? It’s common to beat ourselves up and berate ourselves but research shows this habit of self-criticism comes at a price: It makes us lose confidence, feel unhappy with our lives and even leads to depression and anxiety.

Self-compassion is a way of relating to ourselves more kindly and studies show it makes us happier and gives us better overall emotional well being (as well as a whole host of other benefits too).

In a report published by three German psychologists, which examined 79 studies on the link between self-compassion and well-being, they reached this conclusion: People who are kinder to themselves tend to be happier.

Kristin Neff, who has been a pioneer in the study of self-compassion says, “With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.”

You can try some exercises to learn greater self-compassion as well as some guided meditations here. 

6.  KEEP IN TOUCH

We humans are social animals. We crave to feel connected and supported and to feel valued by others. Studies have shown that social connection is a vital key to good mental health.

Good social connection has even been linked to having a longer life. In one study on an elderly population people with strong social and community ties were two to three times less likely to die during the nine-year study.

Sometimes social connection can be a heart-to-heart talk over coffee but sometimes it can be a short phone call, or an email or message. Make sure to make time to connect with the loved ones in your life on a regular basis.

If you feel your current social life isn’t giving you enough connection, you can take steps to form new ones such as

  • Enroll in a class or hobby that interests you. You’ll be able to connect with others who share a common interest as well as getting out there and trying something new.
  • Join a book club, hiking club or other group such a knitting, meditation groups, fitness groups, community gardens or mothers groups.
  • Try volunteer work. Not only will you bond with other volunteers and recipients but helping others gives you that warm fuzzy feeling too.
  • Reach out and connect to people. Ask people out for coffees, dinners or to events like movies or bands. Try to get out and meet new people.

7.  DO SOMETHING YOU LOVE

What activities do you love doing just for the fun of it? You know the ones you really lose yourself in? Take some time each day to do things you love and just enjoy yourself.

It could be engaging in a hobby like music, art, gardening or going hiking or riding and bike. It could be just having a cup of tea in the sun. Take some each week (or even each day) to just enjoy life and let go of all your cares and worries for a while. Research also shows that it improves confidence and self esteem as well as improving our overall sense of well being.

Anxiety and Mindfulness

Another great blog post written by Melli O’Brien

AKA Mrs. Mindfulness

 Busy & Stressed?

3 Tips to Make Your Day More Mindful

 I just came back from teaching my four-day retreat ‘the art of mindful living’ to forty wonderful people.

Throughout the course of those four days it became apparent that a common challenge in most of their lives was stress. They are not alone.

According to WebMD, currently 75% to 90% of doctor visits are due to complaints and illnesses related to stress (1) and Psychology Today refers to stress not just as an epidemic, but as a pandemic now (2). Stress is rampant and on the rise, especially in the west.

Trying to do too much can certainly be one factor involved in the emotional state of stress but busyness does not necessarily mean stress.

multitasking

In my life right now I am the busiest I have been in years. There are many things that need doing during the day. My man and I are juggling preparing our house for sale, running two businesses and getting ready to move.

When my schedule is very full like this I employ some tricks and ‘cheats’ to maintain mindfulness during my workday. I am going to share the three here that I find the most potent and easy to introduce to your daily routine.

1. Mindfulness Bells

In France there is a famous ‘mindfulness monastery’ called Plum Village. At random intervals during each day the sound of a ‘mindfulness bell’ echoes through the village. Upon hearing the sound every person stops whatever they are doing and takes a moment to simply be.

These pauses in the day are an opportunity for people connect deeply with themselves and to the present moment.

You may not be at a monastery but you can introduce mindfulness bells into your day. I use an awesome iPhone app called ZAZEN.

The free version that I use has two settings. One is a meditation timer but the other is a mindfulness bell which you can set to go off at intervals during the day – either 15, 30 or 60 minutes.

When you hear the sound of the bell take a brief pause from whatever you’re doing and take a deep slow conscious breath.

If you don’t have an iPhone you can get creative and set up another kind of mindfulness bell into your day.

2.Mindful Transitions

Many of us have a habit of rushing through our days as if there were a finish line we’re trying to get to. Instead of rushing from task to task practice mindful transitions.

This simply means that when you have completed a task – like say making breakfast – pause for a moment before moving to the next thing (which in this case might be walking to the dining table) and take one of those deep slow conscious breaths mentioned above.

This brings you back into the moment and therefore is a natural antidote to stress (it’s almost impossible to be fully present in the moment and stressed at the same time!).

One of the most potent places to practice a mindful transition is in the car. Once you sit in the drivers seat stop, breathe and connect – then move.

3.One Thing At A Time

Studies show multitasking is a less efficient way to do things (3). To be more accurate, what these studies show is that multitasking is a myth.

What most people think of as multitasking is actually a very quick shifting of attention from back and forth from task to task – and this rapid shifting of attention leaves you vulnerable to stress.

Being that multitasking is less efficient and also potentially harmful there is no reason to do it. Kick the habit!

Keep your focus on one thing at a time. Be fully present in the moment for each task as you do it (after all this is your life!). Not only will you be more efficient and make less mistakes but you will also be happier and notice a natural sense of peace arising as you go about your day.

Try these 3 tips out and let me know how they go for you in the comments section below. Do you have your own mindfulness tips to counter stress? Share them too!

Love Melli

  1. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/effects-of-stress-on-your-body
  2. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mind-wellness-awareness/201207/the-stress-pandemic

3) http://www.psych.utah.edu/lab/appliedcognition/publications/supertaskers.pdf

 

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