“By the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 have—or have had—a mental illness.” Did you catch that? 1 in 2! And you know what else: “70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence.” Yes, that’s SEVENTY! And yet, the stigma remains.
So many of us are affected by mental illness. I, myself, have struggled with anxiety and depression. Too often, we are afraid to speak up about it because of the stigma that surrounds it.
Today is #BellLetsTalk Day in Canada, which provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of mental health and to work towards ending the stigma around it. In honour of #BellLetsTalk Day, here are six ways to improve your mental health today.
# 1 – Exercising
There is a great deal of research on the benefits of exercise on mental health.
One study, in researching exercise therapy and depressed patients, found that “physical exercise is an outstanding opportunity for the treatment of patients who have a mix of mental and physical health problems”, in addition to it also “improv[ing] [one’s] body image, coping strategies with stress, [and overall] quality of life.”
How much should we be exercising? Well, Dr. Laskowski at the Mayo Clinic recommends that you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily.
The benefits of exercise are too great to ignore, and by incorporating regular exercise, even in small ways – like going for a walk – into your lifestyle, can make a real difference in keeping our minds healthy.
# 2 – Eating Healthy
Another essential way to take care of our mental health is through healthy eating. Dr. Ross at Psychology Today recommends eating the following foods to improve mental health:
- fatty fish
- whole grains
- lean protein
- leafy greens
- yogurt with active cultures
These foods will improve our gut health, which directly impacts our brain’s functions.
You also want to be regularly eating throughout the day, staying hydrated, managing your caffeine intake and limiting your alcohol intake.
By starting to incorporate healthier options throughout your day, even in small ways at first, can help you maintain mental wellness. Remember, baby steps are still steps, and they count!
# 3 – Doing a Relaxation Exercise
Anytime you are feeling stressed or anxious, try a relaxation exercise.
Deep breathing, a body scan meditation, yoga, or a visualization exercise are all ways to relax our minds. There are countless options out there and great resources available for free online. Finding one that works best for you is easier than ever.
These mindful exercises help bring your mind’s focus to the present moment. It can help decrease your stress, bring a sense of calm and peace, and enhance your mental health.
# 4 – Practicing Gratitude
I’m a big believer in the power of gratitude on our mental health. Being grateful helps us remain more positive in our everyday lives. We begin to notice the things in our daily lives that bring us joy. And research shows it too!
A study by Cheng, Tsui & Lam (2015) found that “taking stock of thankful events is an effective approach to reduce stress and depressive symptoms.” They were researching how gratitude related to improving mental health in health care practitioners who often experience burnout.
Not sure how to go about doing this? Start a gratitude journal!
Jot down a few things you are grateful for each day. Try this for one week. You will notice as you keep doing this, a grateful mindset becomes more automatic, and you will begin to see the positive aspects in every situation.
# 5 – Seeking out Information
Hello, my name is Amanda, and I’m obsessed with self-help books!
There are so many incredibly helpful books out there, and ones catered to your specific need. Books are a great way to educate yourself on the mind and the way we can work towards thinking in a healthier, more positive way.
The very act of reading also becomes part of your self-care routine and forces you to take time for yourself.
Balance in our lives is crucial and is needed to maintain mental health. Reading is a beautiful way of incorporating more YOU time into your busy day.
# 6 – Talking to Someone
And lastly, one way to care for your mental health is to confide in someone you trust. Feeling heard and non-judgmentally listened to can be very helpful.
If you feel there is no one in your circle that you feel comfortable speaking with, visit your local Community Health Centre and seek out counselling. These services are free and can be incredibly beneficial.
Therapy provides you with a safe and confidential environment to share your thoughts and feelings. It also helps you learn new ways of better coping with some of the struggles you are experiencing.
Our mental well-being is just as important as our physical well-being, and we can make it a point, every day, to protect it. With a little bit of exercise, healthy eating, relaxation, gratitude, seeking out information, or talking to someone, we can care for and improve our mental health.
Let’s make a pact not to stop talking about Mental Health…you with me?
Here’s to us continuing to have the conversation and coming together to end the stigma around mental health.
We, as humans, are more the same than we are different. Let’s choose to come together to make this world a better place for us all, a place where everyone feels loved, supported and accepted.
Thanks so much for stopping by <3
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DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this blog is written from personal and lived experience. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace professional mental health services, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health or mental health, you should always consult with a health-care professional.