How a Healthy Lifestyle Can Improve Your Mental Health

 

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How a Healthy Lifestyle Can Improve Your Mental Health


If you think maintaining a healthy lifestyle is all about your physical health, then you’re missing out on a major perk: improved mental health! Eating well, sleeping well, and exercising will not only help you avoid diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, but it can also reduce your risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Here are three ways maintaining a healthy lifestyle can improve your mental health.


Nutrition

The right nutrition is essential to keep your body at its peak. The food you eat directly affects your mental and physical health, so it’s important to give your body what it needs to perform optimally. If you aren’t eating enough healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains and lean proteins—to name just a few—your energy level could suffer. Not only that but poor diet can have serious long-term consequences for your physical and mental health, too. It also doesn’t matter whether you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet or if you eat meat; all people need certain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to maintain their optimum health.


Exercise

We know that exercise is one of, if not THE most important habit you can develop to improve your mental health. Exercise combats depression and anxiety by releasing endorphins into your bloodstream. The additional oxygen that is in your blood stream makes you feel good - even euphoric! In addition to combatting depression and anxiety, exercise also improves concentration and memory. Studies have shown that people who exercise at least four times per week have sharper memories and are able to recall memories more readily than their sedentary counterparts. If you work in an office all day, try incorporating standing meetings into your schedule as well as walking meetings (where participants walk outside while discussing business matters). Not only will you be getting much needed movement during your day, but it will help clear your mind for big picture thinking.


Sleep

A lack of sleep can cause symptoms of depression, anxiety, and make you feel generally miserable. Sleep deprivation is also associated with impaired immune function, high blood pressure, and headaches. In addition to getting plenty of shut-eye each night (7-9 hours), try to avoid screen time before bed. Try reading or doing something else low-key before you go to sleep so that you're well rested in the morning!


Meditation

There are many physical benefits to meditation, but some people may not realize how much it can also improve your mental health. In fact, regular meditation can do everything from easing stress and anxiety to improving overall quality of life. One study published in JAMA Internal Medicine even found that meditation is more effective than antidepressants at treating depression and preventing its recurrence. But there’s no need to take our word for it: try it out yourself by listening to an app like Calm or Headspace, which makes meditating easy.


Supplements

Just as important, making sure you’re eating healthy will ensure your body gets all of its basic nutritional needs met. While supplements can’t replace real food, they can help make up for what you might not be getting otherwise. If you struggle with mental health and want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, try adding some supplements to your diet in place of sugary junk food or other quick fixes. Supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and probiotics are often recommended for mental health and have been shown to improve symptoms like depression , anxiety and mood . Getting them from whole foods is ideal (like oily fish) but taking supplements allows you to increase your intake in just one or two daily pills.


Avoidance Of Environmental Triggers

A healthy lifestyle is not just about what you put in your body; it’s also about how you interact with your environment. For people struggling with mental health issues, avoiding triggers can be essential to staying calm and centered. If certain situations or people trigger negative emotions, try to avoid those triggers as much as possible. This might mean taking different routes home from work every day or setting boundaries with family members who exacerbate feelings of anxiety. It also might mean breaking up with an abusive significant other—while sometimes difficult, ending a toxic relationship can be extremely beneficial to overall mental health if it leads to better relationships and fewer triggers. As always, talking things through with a trusted loved one can help immensely when trying to figure out new coping strategies or remove environmental triggers from your life.


Keeping A Journal

Studies show that keeping a journal can help relieve stress, increase overall productivity, and even improve sleep. Start by writing down one thing you're grateful for every day. It could be as simple as sunshine or my cat, but simply starting with something positive helps your brain focus on good things instead of negative ones. If you start to see benefits from doing it regularly, consider making it part of your morning or evening routine. You may even find it becomes part of who you are (the concept is known as good habits make good people). Studies also show that starting your day with three good habits makes them much more likely to stick—so feel free to shift out gratitude for brushing your teeth or having a healthy breakfast.


It Takes Time To See Results

While changing your habits can lead to positive mental health changes in as little as six weeks, you shouldn’t expect to see overnight results. It’s important to be patient and remember that each change you make is one step toward building a healthier life for yourself. Take some time out for yourself every day, whether it's taking a walk around your neighborhood or going for an easy run around your block. Whatever you choose, staying active is crucial to keeping up with healthy mental habits!

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