8 Lifestyle Changes To Improve Your Mental Health

Constantly feeling stressed and overwhelmed is something that’s considered normal in our society. We’re so busy with work, school and family life that it’s become increasingly common for many of us to feel this way. But while we’re busy trying to balance our personal and professional lives we may not realize the toll that this kind of lifestyle can take on our mental health.

Considering that many illnesses begin with stress, it’s really important to maintain a balanced lifestyle and take care of our mental health the same way that we look after our physical health. Not to mention that this has a huge impact on our happiness levels and quality of life. Keep reading to discover a few lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your mental well-being and overall health.

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1. Exercise: It's not only the cheapest antidepressant but it lowers the risk of depression happening in the first place. Regular exercise improves academic performance at one end of the age scale and reduces the risk of memory loss at the other. While some is good, more is better.

2. Nutrition: A rainbow diet of multi-coloured fruits and vegetables that includes oily fish and is high in vitamins and nutrients. There’s a reason why fish is considered brain food – studies have shown that fatty acid DHA (found in fish) is linked to enhanced memory, improved learning abilities, and reduced cognitive decline. To reap the benefits of fatty acids you could also take fish oil supplements.

3. Nature: Exposure to the outdoors, natural sounds (including silence), sunlight (as opposed to artificial lighting) and fresh air helps prevent depression and reduce its effects. Science has proven that connecting with nature can diminish stress, improve mood, increase focus, and up your energy levels. If you’re busy keep in mind that even a little bit can be good - just getting out of the office for a short walk is better than staying cooped up all day.

4. Relationships: Human beings are hard-wired to be social. While social isolation increases the risk of developing problems with mental and physical health, spending more time with family and friends can make you feel happier and improve your quality of life. Keep in mind that social media and online messaging don’t replace face-to-face interaction.   

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5. Hobbies: Resurrect an old hobby or try out something new. If it's an outdoor activity all the better, but what matters is that it engages your full concentration and attention. And surfing through Netflix doesn’t count! You can kill two birds with one stone by taking up an active hobby that involves exercise. Download the #SweatCity app to find different studios and classes near you.  

6. Stress Management: Whether it’s muscle relaxation exercises such as yoga and meditation, practicing a sport, or writing out your thoughts on paper, find what helps you relax. If you’re taking up yoga you can find a class to join or even teach yourself – there’s plenty of online material out there. You can search up videos on YouTube and follow along at home. Whatever you do will work best if you practice it regularly.

7. Volunteering: Altruistic behaviour such as volunteering is linked to improved mental health. It’s been found that Oxytocin (a neurotransmitter that regulates social interactions) spikes in people who regularly volunteer and helps with better managing stressful events. Not only does helping others make us feel good but it can also help us develop a wider perspective and see that in comparison, our problems may not be so bad. Many experience significantly reduced stress and anxiety after a session of volunteering. By helping others we are filling our lives with purpose and also helping ourselves.

8. Openness about Mental Health: While mental health conditions are very common in our society, stigma can make us feel really uncomfortable with talking about it. In reality, we’re all at risk of being affected. If you’re struggling, seek help and speak to a therapist or a counselor. If this seems too out of your comfort zone at the moment, you can start by reaching out to a family member or friend to get support so that you don’t have to go through everything alone. Recognizing when problems are starting, seeking help early on, and being receptive to the mental health needs of those around us will benefit ourselves and everyone around us.  

To view the original article at businessinsider.com click here.

Victoria Gimelfarb