November 29, 2021
The way you feel, think and act are affected by your mental health. Mental health is more than anxiety or depression, it’s how well you can cope emotionally, handle stressful situations, interact with others, and propel yourself towards acts of self care
It’s okay, to not be okay. Everyone has days where their mental health is low, including me! Life loves to throws challenges at us. Some we dodge with grace, while others leave us feeling overwhelmed, anxious, unhappy or even depressed. Ongoing mental health concerns can lead to stress or affect your ability to function.
According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, but could include feeling sad, extreme mood changes, excessive worries, reduced ability to concentrate, low energy, problems with alcohol or drug use, major changes in eating habits, excessive anger or withdrawal from social activities. Mental health is not a diagnosis. It’s the way you feel about yourself and others, as well as your ability to cope with the stresses of everyday life.
Anxiety and depression are mental illnesses that affect a person’s ability to participate in behaviours that promote health from fulfilling relationships to healthy eating. Mental health plays a major role in people’s ability to maintain good physical health.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
One in 5 people will personally experience a mental health problem in Canada. Mental illness is among the highest of all diseases in the United States, with an estimated 18% of adults over 20 years of age suffering.
Exercise, eating healthy foods and writing down something you are grateful for are easy ways to improve your mental health. Here are 8 ways you can quickly improve your mental health, naturally…
What you think about yourself has a powerful effect on how you feel. Tell yourself something positive using words that promote feelings of self-worth.
Keeping a gratitude journal has been well researched as an effective way to feel better about life and be more optimistic. A group of 293 students at Indiana University Bloomington, tried a few different mental health activities and found the practice of gratitude writing for 12 weeks resulted in better mental health. Similarly, University of Miami researchers divided adults into three groups who were instructed to write down either the things they were grateful for, irritated by, or any event that affected them. After 10 weeks, the group who keep a gratitude journal were more optimistic, exercised more and generally felt better about their lives. Giving thanks can make you happier, says Harvard Medical experts. Even writing a thank you note can boost your happiness.
From a manager saying thank you, to a partner expressing gratitude to their loved one, being kind to another person builds better relationships which increases your happiness.
The practice of mindfulness, being present in the current moment, can help you let go of negative or difficult emotions about a past experience or a future concern that is weighing you down. Putting some attention on the sensations (smells, sounds, feel) around you can help you focus.
Simple breathing exercises help you improve your mental health quickly. Close your eyes. Take 10 breaths. Let each inhale last to the count of 4, hold for a second, then slowly exhale for the count of four.
Opening up to someone about your worries can really help.
Somethings the best thing you can do to improve your mental health is to take a break. It may be just a moment spent doing some slow breathing exercises. Or, perhaps its heading out for a walk to help you alleviate emotions that are building up. At times, it may mean taking a break for a more significant amount of time from an environment or situation that is distressing you.
Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress and depression. Being physically active helps your body release stress. Exercise causes the body to release mood-boosting endorphins.
Your brain lives on food. It consumes 20% of your daily calories. As such, it’s no surprise researchers say your mood is affected by what you eat. Shifting towards a whole food dietary pattern helps your brain produce the neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine) that are important in better mental health.
Researchers at West Virginial University interviewed 1956 students and found those who ate more fruits and vegetables, and less sugar had better mental health. Fish and seafood are one of the most nutrient-dense brain foods, containing omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins needed for optimal brain function. Whole foods contain fiber that support a healthy microbiome (bacteria in your gut) known to have significant ability to talk to your brain.
Australian researchers have reported that diet may help manage clinical depression. In a group of 67 adults with clinical depression who were living in the community were prescribed a healthy, whole food-based diet by dieticians. Those who ate more whole foods saw greater improvement in their depressive symptoms.
You may also enjoy reading:
The Gut Brain Connection: 5 Foods that Play a Role in Mental Wellness
Counting blessings versus burdens. J Pers Soc Psychol 2003 Feb;84(2):377-89.
An Attitude of Gratitude. Body Image 2018 Jun;25:9-13.
Canadian Mental Health Association, 2020.
National Institute of Mental Health, 2020.
Mental Illness, Mayo Clinic, 2020.
Food, Mood and Brain Health: Implications for the Modern Clinican. Mo Med 2015 Mar-Apr; 112(2): 111-115.
Relationship between diet and mental health in a young adult Appalachian college population. Nutrients 2018 Aug; 10(8): 957.
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