The link between mental health and physical health has become clearer over the years, and there’s no question that an unhealthy mind leads to an unhealthy body and vice versa. Mental health can affect your sleep patterns, your sex drive, your cardiovascular system, and more.
But it doesn’t have to be like this!
By improving your mental health through small lifestyle changes, you can also improve your physical health as well as your overall quality of life. Here are five simple ways to improve your mental health at home and at work today.
Do what makes you happy
Happiness is a state of mind, and how we feel day-to-day can be affected by our habits and routines. Doing what makes you happy won’t directly improve your mental health, but it can have an indirect effect on how you feel about yourself and your outlook.
For example, when we do things that make us happy—like playing with your pets or hanging out with friends—our blood pressure naturally drops, reducing stress and lowering levels of cortisol. As a result, our mood improves and we generally get along better with others because we’re not as irritable. After all, happiness is contagious!
Mental health and physical health are intertwined, so it’s not surprising that exercise can help improve your mental health.
In fact, according to a study in The Journal of Health Psychology, people who exercised once or twice a week had lower levels of depression and anxiety than those who didn’t work out at all.
Regular exercise helps reduce stress by releasing hormones called endorphins, which promote a feeling of euphoria and relaxation. Exercising regularly will also help you sleep better and lift your mood so you’re more likely to tackle tough issues head-on instead of avoiding them.
Don’t know how to exercise or what to do? Learn more with our course – How to build an effective workout program.
Get outside more often
The mental benefits of being outside are well documented: A dose of nature can lower stress, anxiety, and depression. Spending time in nature also helps us make better decisions.
According to a recent study in Psychological Science, people who gazed at nature for 30 seconds had significantly lower preference for immediate rewards (e.g., choosing $50 now over $100 in one month) than those who did not look at images of natural scenery beforehand. The benefits were greatest among those with low self-control and high impulsivity, suggesting that taking a few minutes to soak up some greenery could help keep our mind on track when we’re tempted by an impulsive decision—like ordering something unhealthy off a restaurant menu or grabbing more credit card debt by paying only part of your bill each month.
Staying positive is one of those things that seems easier said than done, but even adopting a positive outlook can make you feel better.
Research has shown that our brains actually become accustomed to positivity. For example, imagine getting used to an alarm clock going off at 7:00 AM each morning; eventually, your brain will adjust and you’ll wake up at around 6:45 AM every day (roughly). This works in reverse too—if you have a tendency towards negativity or pessimism, forcing yourself into a positive mindset can help change your outlook over time.
There are other habits that can influence mental health as well—you don’t have to be diagnosed with a condition like anxiety or depression for simple changes like exercise or meditation to make a difference.
Take care of yourself
To get a good night’s sleep and avoid stress, focus on self-care. It might sound cliché, but when you take care of yourself—by eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and reducing stress—you feel better physically and mentally. And when you feel better, you make healthier choices.
In other words: Caring for yourself leads to good health habits that also help your mental health. Make sure you take time each day for self-care. Give it as much attention as anything else in your life—more if necessary!
If you’re struggling with mental health, please know that you are not alone. There is help available and you should seek it out. Do it for yourself or a loved one. In time, things will get better. To get started on your journey toward better mental health, begin by accepting that mental illness is common and that there are ways to manage it effectively (and side effects from medications are usually minor).
Start making changes with these 5 simple steps. Let us know in the comments if you have any more questions.