In honor of mental health awareness month, I put together 5 wellness practices that improve mental health, although I try to live and practice these always. Metal illness affects 1 and 5 adults in the U.S. each year regardless or race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender. Mental illness also affects 1 and 5 children aged 13-18 in America. Many people wait years after symptoms start to get help partially due to the stigma around mental illness. I hope we can support each other with compassion in the quest for mental health.
1. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
MBSR stands for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. It is a healing technique that uses meditation and yoga practices to reduce stress. MBSR is known to help with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, addiction, high blood pressure, and even immune disorders. I personally took an MBSR certification course and as a requirement I had to meditate daily for 30 minutes a day for month. They results were phenomenal. I was calmer, more patient, and accepting of my feelings. I would recommend trying a 30 day challenge for yourself and see how you feel. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
2. Have a Massage, Facial or Relaxation Treatment
Having a spa day has gotten the reputation of being purely for pampering. I must disagree. The overall health benefits, including mental health of having a massage or facial are endless. When we have a deeply relaxing treatment such as these, our parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated- which is the opposite of fight or flight mode. The nervous system is responsible for so much of our mental health. The brain is actually a part of our nervous system and when then parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, we are in a rest and digest state. This has lots of benefits such as reduced stress and anxiety and much more.
3. Eat Healthy
The foods we eat fuel our minds with the nutrients it needs to function healthily and regulates our moods. When we take in unhealthy foods it damages the fuel and in turn, our brains- promoting free radicals, high levels of inflammation and worsening the regulation of insulin. This can lead to a host of health problems including mood disorders such a depression. So choose high quality fuel that is filled with vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.
Affirmations almost instantly changes my mood. The brain communicates with the rest of your body, what you think directly affects how you feel. For instance, if I am having a thought such as, “I am not good enough at making my kids happy”, which by the way can be often, they are at that age, sigh. I replace the thought with a positive affirmation such as, “I am trying my best to be the best mom I know how to be”. It’s amazing how you can’t control your initial thought, but you can control how you respond to it- which can change everything.
A good exercise to do is to write down any negative thoughts you have throughout the day and next to the thought replace it with a positive affirmation. Another good technique is to make an affirmation board on Pinterest. They have lots of great ones that you can choose from that best suite you.
5. Move Your Body
Exercise is such a staple in mental health. It has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression and improve self-esteem, mood, social interaction, and cognitive function. Blood pressure to the brain increases, improving physiological reactivity to stress. Even just walking for 20 minutes per day can be highly beneficial. It’s great to try a variety of exercises and see what works best for you. Penciling it into your weekly calendar helps make it more official too. Making a list of some exercises you’d like to try could be a good place to start. Activities like kayaking, hiking, tennis, and biking are awesome because you get the added benefit of being in nature.