Poor mental health is often associated with conditions such as depression and anxiety, but not experiencing either of those conditions does not necessarily mean your mental health is flourishing.
Likewise, it is possible for someone to have a mental health condition while feeling well in many other aspects of life.
Here are a few practical ways to look after your mental health.
1. Filter what you see and listen to
Technology gives you access to vast amounts of information at any time. But too much information can be overwhelming. Filter what you see and listen to, especially on social media. Don’t feel bad to unfollow people or pages that are irrelevant or create negative feelings.
People react differently to information. Messages that motivate some might demotivate others. Pay attention to your emotions and how you react to different information.
2. Stay active
Exercise might not be your cup of tea but it can boost self-esteem and promote concentration, eating, sleeping and feeling better. It keeps the brain healthy too, which has significant mental health benefits.
Hitting the gym or playing a sport is not necessary. Find what you like – a walk in the park, gardening, housework or playing with the children keeps you active too. Try to make physical activities part of your day and have fun.
3. Get enough rest
Everyone has chores to do, goals to achieve and places to go. But listening to your body and making time for sleep is important. Without it, your mental health suffers, concentration goes downhill leading to negative thoughts and emotions.
Gadgets and electronics, such as computers, smart phones, tablets and the TV can compromise the quality of your sleep.
The backlit “blue light” emitted from screens suppresses melatonin production – the hormone that helps you sleep. It is recommended that a healthy adult gets at least seven hours of sleep, though this can vary.
A good rest can be as short as a five-minute break from whatever you’re doing to de-stress. Take a deep breath, relax and let your thoughts flow.
4. Eat healthily and consume less refined sugar
There are strong links between what you eat and how you feel. The brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well. A diet that is good for your physical health improves your mental health as well.
High sugar consumption might improve one’s mood momentarily but the roller coaster of high blood sugar followed by the crash might lead to mood disorders. Drink enough water to prevent dehydration so you can think clearly.
5. Find your creative side
There are many ways to be creative – gardening, writing, sewing, dancing, singing, composing music, playing a musical instrument, sketching, and the list goes on.
It has been proven that being creative and tapping one’s creative energy improves mental health. It can help focus the mind and releases dopamine, a natural antidepressant.
Most importantly, enjoying yourself helps to beat stress and doing an activity you enjoy probably means you are good at it, so it boosts your self-esteem.
6. Keep in touch
Strong family bonds and supportive friends can help deal with stress. Good friends and family make you feel included and cared for.
Talking to people gives you different viewpoints from whatever is going on inside your head. Connecting with people makes you grounded. Work on relationships that make you feel loved and valued.
The quality of your relationships is more important than the quantity of people in your social network. Part of building strong relationships is by having good, open, and regular communication.
But if being around someone is damaging your mental health, take a break from them or just call it a day. It is also important to be socially active and spend less screen time. Smiling and saying hello to strangers is a good start.
7. Take care of your personal finances
The relationship between personal finances and mental health is complicated. If you are constantly worrying about how to make ends meet, how to settle credit card debt, or how to feed the family, you will find yourself in a negative headspace.
Losing control over your finances, often means losing control over your mood and emotions as well.
You know the phrase “Money can’t buy happiness”. There is some truth to that but if your finances are in good order, it is a considerable burden off the shoulders.
A thoughtful, mature approach to money matters enhances the chance of achieving lasting happiness and security that results in good mental health.
Consult a professional, licensed financial planner to get a holistic view of your financial situation and work on your life goals step by step. Personal financial management can be simple and stress-free if you have a structured plan.