The Importance of Maintaining Good Mental Health
The COVID-19 pandemic gave much-needed attention to the importance of maintaining good mental health. Human beings are resilient, but even the most well-balanced person needs to take time out for self-care now and then.
Mental health encompasses your emotional, social, and psychological well-being. Everyday stresses, not to mention deeply upsetting events like the end of a meaningful relationship or the loss of a loved one, present a challenge to the quality of your mental health.
How can you maintain your good mental health when life is so full of distressing moments? There’s not one simple answer to that question, but fortunately, there are numerous easy and even enjoyable ways to maintain good mental health.
7 Ways to Maintain Good Mental Health
Everyone wants to enjoy life to the fullest, and that requires learning how to maintain good mental health. Struggling with mental health concerns isn’t as rare as you might think. The National Institute on Mental Health reports that one in five people lives with a mental illness and must learn to manage mild to moderate symptoms every day.
The following tips can help you stay healthy, but if you’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder, reach out to a mental health professional. Self-care is an important part of maintaining your well-being, but sometimes other interventions are necessary.
Warning signs to be aware of include:
Feeling guilty or ashamed
Avoiding friends and family
Unexplained aches and pains
Feeling depressed or hopeless
Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
Loss of interest in hobbies and favorite activities
Everyone feels a little down or fatigued on occasion, but if you or someone you care about is exhibiting consistent symptoms, get professional help as soon as possible. Mental health treatment can improve the quality of your life and may save a life as well.
1. Practice Gratitude
If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of worry or anxiety, try some of the following gratitude techniques:
End each day by writing down at least one thing you’re grateful for
When you need a boost, write down three good things that happened recently
Record small acts of kindness you receive or offer to others in a gratitude journal
Write and deliver a letter or thank you card to a person you are grateful for and tell them why you appreciate them
It may seem cliché, but making a point to be grateful for the simple things in life helps improve mental health. Why? Researchers have found that gratitude shifts negative thinking patterns to positive ones.
2. Eat Well — but Don’t Forget the Chocolate
You know that food nourishes the body and helps build strong muscles and bones, but the role food plays in nourishing your mental health is not always emphasized.
Some foods trigger the brain’s chemical messengers to produce more of the “feel good” chemicals — dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine — that are vital for boosting energy and balancing mood.
When it comes to maintaining good mental health, it doesn’t get easier than enjoying good food. Consider adding more of these foods to your diet for optimal physical and mental health:
Meats and poultry free of nitrates and preservatives
Fish, especially fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Cold-pressed oils for salads and vegetables
Fruits, especially berries
And don’t forget the dark chocolate. Yes, dark chocolate contains the perfect combination of caffeine, flavonoids, and theobromine to sharpen your mental skills.
3. Gather with Others
You don’t have to be a complete social butterfly to reap the benefits of socializing, but spending time with friends and loved ones is great for maintaining good mental health.
Psychology Today reports that people with an active social life live longer, have better physical and mental health, and may even lower their risk of dementia.
If your idea of the perfect Friday night is sitting at home alone with a good book, you can still socialize without being in a crowd. Meet a friend for a museum tour and chat about your favorite artwork over lunch, or sign up for a literature class at your local rec center.
You could also sing in the church choir, take tennis lessons with a friend, or join a local board game group.
4. Let the Sun Shine In
You’ve heard the warnings about getting too much sun, but not everyone knows that sunlight acts as a mood elevator. Getting a minimum of 15 minutes of sunshine every day will ensure that your body produces adequate vitamin D, which helps fight depression.
When bad weather or a busy work schedule makes it difficult to catch those rays, use a full-spectrum therapy light instead.
5. Keep Moving
How can one maintain good mental health? Staying active is one method that has multiple benefits. Studies show that exercise of all kinds, even going for a walk, can minimize the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Exercise helps you sleep better and improves self-esteem and emotional resilience — all important parts of overall good mental health.
If possible, 30 minutes of activity a day is ideal. However, if you don’t have the time or energy for a full 30 minutes, start by taking a 5- or 10-minute walk and increase your workout time as you gain stamina.
6. Try New Things
Trying new things increases neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to form new synaptic connections. When you engage your brain in new challenges, you’re teaching it to adapt to new circumstances. The more adaptive a person is, the better they can handle stress and learn how to maintain good mental health.
Some of the best ways to challenge your brain include reading novels, learning new skills, and playing brain games like sudoku or crossword puzzles.
7. Make Yourself a Priority
If you want to maintain good mental health, be prepared to put yourself first. Eating right, practicing healthy sleep habits, exercising, and spending quality time with the people you care about all require a commitment of time.
However, taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. In fact, failing to maintain one can have a negative effect on the other.
Start putting your health first by learning to say no to the people and things that compromise your wellness. Be kind to yourself, and let go of the idea that taking care of yourself is selfish. It’s up to you to protect your mental health.
How Can You Maintain Your Good Mental Health?
Following all of these tips would be ideal, but trying to incorporate many new habits into your schedule could be overwhelming. It may be helpful to take an honest assessment of your lifestyle and start with one or two of the most important changes.
For example, if you eat a lot of fast food dinners and work indoors all day, improving your diet and getting some sunshine may be the most beneficial steps for your needs.
The answer to “How can one maintain good mental health?” may not be simple, but it’s also not that complex. If you find that lifestyle changes aren’t enough to help you navigate difficult times, speak with a mental health professional and get the support you deserve.