Medically reviewed by Dr Emeka Kanebi
Table of Contents
Mental health is important to our physical and emotional well-being, but unfortunately, many people don’t treat it as such.
The majority of those suffering from mental illness experience it in silence, not wanting to let on that they are struggling or make themselves vulnerable to judgment from others.
But that’s just one of the reasons why mental health stigma still exists today.
Another reason is that there isn’t enough awareness about mental health and how to keep it healthy, as well as knowing the warning signs of when you might need some extra help in this area.
What Is Mental Health
The World Health Organization defines mental health as A state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with normal life stresses, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
For many people, mental health is just a buzzword that gets thrown around without any real understanding of what it means.
But what is mental health? What constitutes a healthy mind?
And how do we improve our mental health?
These are all important questions.
To find answers, let’s start by exploring some basic facts about mental health.
Here are 10 things you should know about mental health:
1) Have a Support System
A major contributor to stress and anxiety is feeling like you’re doing everything on your own.
Find a support system, whether it’s friends, family, a therapy group, or even an online forum.
Even if it seems silly at first, letting others know about your goals can help motivate you and keep you accountable.
And as one inspirational quote goes: You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.
Cliche? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely!
There’s no better time than now to start tackling those long-term dreams that have been tucked away for so long – why not get started right now?
It may seem obvious, but physical activity can improve mental health.
People who exercise have been shown to have better moods, lower stress levels and higher self-esteem.
In fact, you don’t even need an hour at a gym, just 30 minutes of any moderate physical activity can have a huge impact on your well-being.
And remember that exercise doesn’t have to mean lifting weights – it could be anything from playing tennis with a friend or going for a bike ride on your lunch break.
You will not only feel more energetic but also reduce depression and anxiety.
Exercise has also been linked to improved sleep quality and an increased ability to cope with stressful situations.
As well as helping us stay mentally healthy, regular exercise can reduce our risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer too!
3) Eat Healthy Foods
Eat foods that will give you long-lasting energy rather than short-term.
It’s no secret that junk food contains a lot of trans fats and refined sugars, which give you fast energy but leave you feeling sluggish and tired shortly after eating.
If you want to feel happier and healthier, avoid these kinds of processed snacks in favor of nutrient-rich veggies, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and lean meats.
Not only do they help keep your energy levels stable throughout the day, but they also nourish your body with vitamins and minerals it needs to fight off disease and other physical ailments.
A healthy diet is crucial for keeping yourself mentally sharp as well.
Making sure your blood sugar remains steady so you have sustained energy can prevent mood swings, depression, and related disorders.
Keeping up with current nutrition research can go a long way toward ensuring you’re getting all of the nutrients you need.
Experts recommend taking multivitamins if necessary to fill any nutritional gaps.
4) Sleep Well
One of the most effective ways to improve your mental health is also one of its simplest. Make sure you get enough sleep.
Experts recommend between 7 and 9 hours per night, and if you’re not sleeping well, then your mental health could suffer.
Not getting enough sleep can lead to a whole range of negative outcomes, from obesity and diabetes to anxiety and depression.
And a lack of sleep is thought by many experts as an important factor in triggering episodes of serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
5) Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Comparison is a thief of joy.
You’ll only ever be as happy or sad as you choose to be and your happiness (or sadness) has little to do with what others are doing or have done.
When you stop comparing yourself, you open up a whole new world of possibilities.
And it doesn’t matter if they have more likes on Instagram than you; true contentment isn’t comparative, it’s personal.
There’s no right way to live, there’s just being comfortable in your own skin and loving life for everything it gives you.
Live in harmony with how you want to feel, not how someone else wants you to look.
The bottom line: don’t worry about other people.
Focus on working out who YOU want to be and just get there, however, makes sense for YOU!
6) Stay Active in Your Community
Research suggests that keeping a strong network of friends and community members may help improve your mental health, as well as relieve stress.
Participate in organized sports and fitness activities or volunteer for local organizations in order to meet like-minded people.
Most of all, try not to isolate yourself from others; it will only make you feel worse.
If you’re suffering from a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, seek professional support.
There are plenty of treatments available if you’re willing to talk about it.
Don’t keep your feelings bottled up!
You don’t have to deal with things alone.
Get out there and make some friends!
7) Tap Into Your Creative Side
Sometimes, when we’re feeling down or stressed, it’s helpful to give our brains a break.
Studies show that mind-wandering or letting your thoughts drift off aimlessly can improve mood and even help us better understand situations.
One way to allow your mind to take a break is by participating in creative activities, whether it’s drawing, painting, singing karaoke or writing poetry.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an artistic person, there are still ways you can tap into your creative side.
Take up knitting or photography, volunteer at an animal shelter or spend time simply daydreaming as you go for a walk on the beach.
When you feel worn out and overwhelmed by anxiety, getting lost in your imagination can help clear away negative feelings so they don’t overtake your ability to manage stress and anxiety symptoms.
Meditation has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as reduce stress.
If you’re having trouble meditating, start small by setting aside ten minutes per day, this will help you get used to it and make it more automatic over time.
It might feel awkward at first but soon enough, you’ll be a meditation pro!
If meditation isn’t your thing, try some other stress-relieving activities like going for a walk or taking a bath.
9) Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Many people suffer from social anxiety, which is a fear of being judged or embarrassed in public.
If you’re dealing with anxiety or depression, getting outside of your comfort zone can help you feel more connected and less alone.
Whether it’s volunteering at a local event or joining a group exercise class like Zumba, getting involved will help boost your mood and increase your self-confidence.
Being around other people in an unfamiliar setting may even be enough for you to overcome feelings of social anxiety altogether.
Just remember: It doesn’t matter what level of activity you engage in as long as it helps bring about positive change for your overall mental health!
10) Keep Things in Perspective
When you’re anxious, depressed, or stressed out, it can be tempting to write off any positive feelings.
This is especially true for anxiety and depression which tend to worsen negative feelings.
However, if you’re going through a tough time, learning how to manage your mental health means you’ll need some coping strategies that go beyond just focusing on what makes you feel worse.
You might have heard of putting things in perspective as a way of improving your mental health and it really works!
Even small changes in outlook are enough to make us feel happier.
And when we take better care of ourselves physically, we do better mentally.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, taking charge of your physical wellbeing can help empower you to make those shifts in mindset.
When it comes to your mental health, you’re in charge.
If something isn’t working, change it.
You might want professional help and that’s great!
If not, that’s great too! There are lots of little things you can do to improve your emotional well-being just by taking action.
For example: Take a few minutes each day for yourself.
Taking time out each day gives you some space to destress and get away from your responsibilities.
It may be as simple as writing down five things you’re grateful for or focusing on deep breathing exercises.
Making these small changes can help bring more happiness into your life and make you feel better about yourself and what you’ve accomplished.