Ten Things You Can Do for Your Mental Health
What is Mental Health and Why Does it Matter?
Mental health is the umbrella that covers a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. These things are regulated in the brain and can be influenced by a number of internal and external factors. When our mental health is being affected, either positively or negatively, this translates into outward expressions such as mood or behavior changes, differences in thinking, and it can determine the choices we make about ourselves and the things we do.
This is why there is a growing movement to shine a spotlight on the importance of paying attention to negative mental health symptoms and offering access to health care services that can help individuals deal with stressful situations and provide mental health solutions.
Ten Activities You Can do For Your Mental Health
Your brain essentially runs on chemicals that travel along neural pathways and produce certain responses in the brain. These chemicals are produced both naturally and in response to stimuli. How much is produced can depend on genetics but is largely influenced by external factors. You can participate in activities that keep you mentally healthy and by prioritizing your emotional health and mental wellbeing, you can improve your mental health over time.
Get enough sleep: lack of sleep can have detrimental effects on your ability to produce “happy hormones” and regulate your mood, digestive system, and improve overall physical health.
Prioritize Gut Health: did you know that over 90% of your serotonin is produced by bacteria in your gut? Along with 70% of your immune system cells? Eating a balanced diet , drinking plenty of water, and keeping a healthy gut microbiome plays a huge role in your hormone regulation and can improve mental health which means your mood, physical health, and immune system can be largely affected by poor diet.
Exercise: Yeah, yeah, yeah, doctors and everyone has been touting exercise as the end all be all cure for everything but this doesn’t mean you need to become an Olympic athlete in order to improve your mental health. Just 15-30 minutes of daily physical activity has shown to greatly increase the amount of endorphins your brain produces compared to sedentary activity. Vacuuming your house, walking your dog, having a spontaneous dance party, window shopping at the mall, or another physical activity you enjoy are all great ways to get your body moving.
Yoga: Different from exercise, yoga specifically focuses on practicing mindfulness, breathing exercises, and using activating poses to encourage the release of endorphins in your brain.
Random Act of Kindness: Studies have proven that being the cause of happiness for another person can improve self-esteem, which improves mental wellness. This can be a small thing like offering a compliment, returning a cart for someone at the grocery store, or if you are able, paying for the person behind you in line at the coffee shop. Acts like volunteering strengthens a person’s social connection and decreases loneliness and depression.
Take a Social Media Break: There has been recent research that shows that people who spend a lot of time on social media often struggle with having low self esteem or feel depressed about their life situation. Taking time off and being present in your own life can decrease these negative emotions.
Incorporate Animals: Therapy dogs exist and are so popular for a reason. If you are an animal lover, finding ways to interact with animals regularly can lessen stress, increase serotonin, and improve your mental health. If you are not in the position to own a pet, many animal shelters are in need of volunteers to socialize with adoptable pets, or simply visit pet stores and interact with the animals there.
Listen to Music: Studies have shown that music stimulates positive feelings and activates a part of the brain that reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep quality, memory, and mood. It can even relieve symptoms of pain.
Become a Collector: Many collectable items are inexpensive, or free altogether if you opt for natural items. There is something basic and animalistic about the human brain that gets joy out of collecting small items. Finding ways to display them, sort them, or find rare versions can become a steady source of serotonin.
Practice Intentional Positivity: It can be easy to get bogged down by the stressful details of life, and sometimes that is all you can think of. Practicing gratitude and taking time to either write down on your own or chat with friends and family about the positive things in your life can help you gain perspective.
Risks of Ignoring Your Mental Health
Everyone experiences moments of low mental health, and some are better equipped to cope with these instances than others. The act of “pushing through” and continuing in your daily tasks, even if it means you are capable of enjoying certain activities, does not equate to taking care of yourself or taking care of your mental health. If you experience frequent moments of low mental health, you should seek professional help before your condition worsens.
When you ignore your mental health, your mental state can worsen, physical symptoms can arise, and you lose the ability to maintain your day to day responsibilities. Your ability to cope and choose healthy coping skills begins to degrade. Without the logical reasoning to learn new skills to cope with stress and choose healthy ways of improving your mood and situation, you stop looking after your mental state and begin to resort to unhealthy ones that temporarily result in instant gratification such as alcohol use or substance abuse.
The Relationship Between Mental Health and Addiction
In a brain that already struggles with hormone regulation, introducing chemicals that disrupt the way your brain normally produces these hormones can lead to increased mental illness symptoms when the chemicals are no longer present, leading to a pattern of addiction.
Health professionals have discovered a direct link between mental illness and addiction, where either substance abuse is triggered by a mental health issue or psychological conditions manifest as a result of the way drugs and alcohol can alter the brain’s ability to function.
As a result, many rehab and treatment centers are utilizing the strategic plan of dual diagnosis therapy methods and substance abuse treatment to treat mental illness and addiction simultaneously, rather than the substance abuse alone. This approach to improve mental health has seen an increase in the success and longevity of sobriety after receiving treatment.
To access a guide to finding professional resources about addressing mental disorders, substance abuse problems, or addiction, the National Institutes of Health website has information about finding treatment centers and rehab facilities in your area.
If you are located near the Pennsylvania area of Philadelphia, DayBreak Treatment Solutions is a licensed recovery treatment center that offers the full continuum of care and accepts most forms of insurance. Call DayBreak at (844) 695-0083 for immediate assistance.