Living a healthy lifestyle is about more than eating right and getting enough exercise. Taking care of your mental health is an equally important part of that equation. Your mental health influences many parts of your day-to-day life, from how you feel, to how you think, and your ability to cope with stress. It impacts your relationships, your ability to work productively, and how well you can recover from setbacks, hardships and heartbreak.
Being mentally healthy doesn’t mean you’ll never experience hardship or emotional problems. Everyone experiences life changes, loss and disappointment. It does, however, impact your capacity to cope and bounce back. If you are interested in learning more about how to improve mental health, you should know there are steps that can improve your emotional well-being.
Have a Meaningful Conversation with a Friend
Friendships are among the most important and valuable relationships that people have. Yet during periods of emotional stress, it’s not unusual for people to avoid spending time with their friends. Data from the Mental Health Foundation suggests that people who have fewer intimate relationships and smaller social networks can find it’s more difficult to manage stressful situations.
Having a meaningful conversation with someone you trust can serve several purposes. In addition to helping you see the problem in a different way, your friend may be able to help you sort through it.
Get Some Exercise
Psychologists agree that physical exercise can improve mental health. According to an article by Sarah Gingell in Psychology Today, “Increasingly robust evidence suggests that exercise is not only necessary for the maintenance of good mental health, but it can be used to treat even chronic mental illness.”
The reason for this, scientists say, is that exercise helps your brain release chemicals called endorphins, which help trigger a sense of well-being. “On the treatment side, exercise appears to be as good as existing pharmacological interventions across a range of conditions, such as mild to moderate depression, dementia and anxiety,” Gingell concluded.
Do Something Kind for Someone Else
Being kind to others can have an enormously positive impact on your psychological well-being. Consequently, people who are interested in how to improve mental health may be well served by performing small acts of kindness for others. This can include everything from helping an elderly shopper carry bags to their car, to letting someone go in front of you in line at the grocery store.
Acts of kindness are linked to happiness because even the smallest gestures can promote feelings of gratitude, compassion and empathy.
Create and Follow a Sleep Routine
Sleep deprivation can have a profound impact on your mental health. In addition to having a negative influence on your psychological state, the National Sleep Foundation reports that lack of sleep has been linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety.
According to their website, “[Sleep deprived individuals] are 10 times as likely to have clinical depression and 17 times as likely to have clinical anxiety. The more a person experiences insomnia and the more frequently they wake at night as a result, the higher the chances of developing depression.”
Making lifestyle changes that support a healthy sleep routine, such as increasing physical activity and engaging in relaxation techniques like meditation, can be beneficial to your psychological state.
Write in a Journal
Journaling can also be a powerful tool to improve your mental health. Not only can it help you reflect on your day-to-day activities, your experiences and how you reacted to them, but studies have also shown it provides a number of wellness benefits.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) reports that journaling helps people gain insight into their feelings and emotions, which can help manage stress. According to the APA website, “writing about things that have frustrated or upset you can help you let go of some of the stress and gain perspective.”
For example, if you’re upset because you’re quarreling with a friend or spouse, journaling may help you collect your thoughts regarding the argument, understand why it happened and help you process how the situation makes you feel.
Journaling can be done on a desktop computer, laptop, a cell phone app or in a simple bound notebook — the APA notes there is no single right way to do it. It’s more about taking the time to write down what’s on your mind and how that makes you feel.
Discover a Career in Counseling
Professionals who are passionate about helping others understand how to improve their mental health may find themselves drawn to a career in counseling. Counselors often have a profound impact on the lives of their patients, whether they need help navigating a divorce, dealing with stress at school or coming to terms with the death of a loved one. For this reason, counselors often find their work to be both meaningful and rewarding.
The online Master of Arts in Counseling degree at Wake Forest University is designed to provide aspiring counselors with the tools and educational background to be successful in this career. Your path toward becoming a professional counselor can start today. Discover how the Wake Forest University online Master of Arts in Counseling program may help you reach that goal.
American Psychiatric Association, Writing for Mental Health
Better Health Channel, Talking Through Problems
Harvard Health Publishing, “Sleep and Mental Health: Sleep Deprivation Can Affect Your Mental Health”
HelpGuide, Building Better Mental Health
National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Eavesdropping on Happiness: Well-being Is Related to Having Less Small Talk and More Substantive Conversations”
Mental Health Foundation, Friendships and Mental Health National
Sleep Foundation, “The Complex Relationship Between Sleep, Depression & Anxiety”
Psychology Today, “9 Ways You Can Improve Your Mental Health Today”
Psychology Today, “How Your Mental Health Reaps the Benefits of Exercise”
Psychology Today, “Why Random Acts of Kindness Matter to Your Wellbeing”
U.S. News & World Report, “Can You Boost Your Mental Health by Keeping a Journal”
WebMD, Exercise and Depression