Nearly everyone knows that protecting their mental health should be a priority, yet so few take steps to protect it. Your health should always come first. As such, you have to develop self-care strategies to help protect both your physical and mental health.
In a world where so many things that can harm your mental health happen every minute, it is vital to know what to do to keep yourself sane when things get too heavy. Having better mental health will benefit not only you but also those around you. You will be a better daughter/son, parent, spouse, friend, and colleague.
Here are 10 habits you should adopt to protect your mental health and live a happier life.
1. Eating a healthy diet
Healthy eating habits are often associated with better physical health. What most people don’t realize is that what you eat also affects your mental health. Starting today, avoid processed/junk foods and instead adopt eating habits that are good for your mental health. Include foods such as whole grains, seeds, nuts, berries, fish oil, olive oil, lean proteins, fruits, and green leafy vegetables in your diet.
Embrace healthier eating habits such as mindful eating, not eating alone, while distracted, or in the dark, avoiding monotonous diets, buying healthy snacks, and choose the right dining partners. Also, quit drinking alcohol because it can lead to mental health issues or worsen existing ones, such as depression and anxiety.
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2. Regular physical exercise
Everyone knows the benefits of exercise to their physical health, especially when it comes to weight loss and fitness. However, workouts are not just about helping you get to your ideal body size; they also benefit your mental health. Have you ever noticed how good your mood becomes if you exercise first thing in the morning? Even if you are not a morning person, working out can raise your spirits.
Exercise increases serotonin levels in your brain, hence improving your mood and overall sense of wellbeing. When you finish a workout, you feel a lot better about yourself, thereby boosting your self-esteem. Furthermore, regular exercise helps to increase alertness, improve your memory and sleeping habits.
3. Practice mindfulness meditation and yoga
When feeling anxious or nervous, your body is in a state of overdrive with thoughts racing in your mind. It can affect your ability to do your work, thus reducing your productivity and performance. Staying calm is one way to combat anxiety. Practice mindfulness meditation or yoga to help calm your mind hence manage stress and anxiety. The two activities help to clear your mind, relax, and let go of negativity.
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4. Reduce screen time
We live in a digital world today where we do almost everything online or are constantly staring at a screen. For instance, we use our phones for social media, laptops for work, and TV for entertainment. Unfortunately, using these platforms, especially social media, is not always a pleasant experience and can affect your mental health. They could cause addiction, expose you to inappropriate content, make you develop body dissatisfaction, allow you to engage in social comparison, and eventually result in feelings of inadequacy, along with many other harmful effects.
To protect your mental health, decrease your consumption of social media and TV by reducing your screen time, thereby lessening your exposure to triggering content. You can do this by timing yourself, tracking time spent on these media, or in the case of social media, deleting the apps and logging out of the websites completely.
5. Get enough sleep
Sleep is vital for your physical and mental wellbeing. As much as possible, one should always try to get a good night’s sleep of 8-10 hours. It is through it that the body recovers from physical, emotional, and psychological exertion. When you are sleep deprived, you feel tired, irritable, and easily stressed by everything because you don’t have the energy to cope or deal with them. Also, insomnia worsens mental health issues in those already struggling with bipolar disorder, ADHD, anxiety, and depression.
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6. Maintain your relationships
Modern-day living is so fast-paced that people forget their priorities. We are too busy with work or doing other things and spare too little time for family and friends. This could lead to social isolation, which then results in loneliness and depression.
Find ways to reduce your workload or time spent on unnecessary things, and instead spend more time with your family and friends. If you can’t meet them physically, stay in touch with them via calls and messages.
While you might relate work to stress and anxiety, you associate family and friends with love, happiness, and comfort. Surrounding yourself with the right kind of people can go a long way in making you healthier. They are your support network and are the people with whom you can be your authentic self without fear of judgment. They accept you the way you are and bring out the best in you. They don’t body shame you, drag you down, or send you content they know will affect your mental health because they know you well. Cut off those who make you feel bad about yourself or use you.
7. Take a break when overwhelmed
Even machines need some downtime, otherwise they will overheat or break down. You will be in a better place mentally and professionally if you aren’t experiencing burnout, feeling stressed, or fatigue. Don’t hesitate to take a mental health day off when you feel overwhelmed by things at work. On that day, spend time on things that relieve stress, such as; self-reflection, family, exercise, sleep, a spa appointment, decluttering your home, dealing with any emotional baggage, or doing the things you have been procrastinating to do.
8. Change your mindset
Society plays a significant role in how people think and behave. It puts pressure on people requiring them to look or act in a particular way, which results in negative body image and self-esteem issues for those who do not fit the mold of what is considered acceptable.
Stop trying to conform to societal expectations and instead, embrace being unapologetically yourself. Acknowledge that society will always have something to say, and you have no control over that. However, realize that you have control over what you feel and think about yourself. Accept yourself the way you are and do the things that make you happy – no matter what anyone else thinks. Finally, value yourself more by knowing your self-worth and learning to say no to things you don’t stand for.
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9. Find an alternative coping mechanism
We all have emotions, and sometimes these emotions are negative depending on the situation. And that is completely normal! The difference is in how we choose to cope with them. If you find yourself eating or acting out to cope with your feelings, it is time to find an alternative way to deal with the emotions. For instance, you could tap into your creative side and make music, draw, or paint, try boxing, journaling, reading, taking a nature walk, hiking, cleaning the house, screaming out your frustrations, or do anything else that helps clear your mind.
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10. Ask for help
A problem shared is a problem half-solved. If you notice you are developing habits that you recognize as symptoms of a mental illness or poor mental health, such as negative thinking patterns, feeling tense and restless, emotional eating, internet addiction, among others, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Admitting that you need help is not a sign of weakness. It is part of you taking control of your health and protecting it. Talk about your feelings with a trusted friend, family member, or consult a therapist. The therapist will help you understand yourself better and come up with possible treatment options.
We all have mental health. It is only that sometimes it is good and at others it is poor. Finding ways to take care of yourself is a MUST if you want to live a healthy life. Adopt the above 10 habits to protect your mental health and improve the quality of your life.
What activities do you do to protect your mental health?
NOTE: If you are struggling or need someone to talk to, please reach out to a friend, family member, or call these hotlines for help: Suicide prevention hotlines for all countries.
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