Brad created SelfCaring.info to share his own knowledge and the many great resources he has found on his self-care journey.
You can have abs of steel and the physique of a top model, but without good mental health, what do you really have? As the Surgeon General of the U.S. stated a decade ago, “There is no health without mental health.” Without it, you’re headed toward depression, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic illness. The good news is that mental health can be achieved through simple self-care practices — practices that don’t need to break the bank. Below are nine practices essential for your mental health.
- Have a vision for your life, or at least some goals to work toward. Pay attention to your needs and be specific about what you want. If you’re overweight, would you like to lose 20 pounds? If you need more money, would you like a higher-paying job or to get out of debt? Whatever you’d like to achieve, think of how good it will feel when you get there. Create an action plan, and commit yourself to it.
- Create order in your life. Declutter and get organized. Research suggests that clutter has a real impact on mood. Taking control of your finances is another way to create order. Research shows there’s a clear link between your financial health and your mental health. Debt in particular has been linked to increased depression, so create a budget and do everything you can to get out of debt.
- Prioritize eating healthy. Eating a nutritious diet is just as important for your mind as for your body. According to a study published by Clinical Nutrition Research, poor mental health has been linked to a lack of essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Conversely, consuming saturated fat and simple sugar are considered detrimental to your mental health.
- Get enough exercise. Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain and stimulates the production of endorphins, known to cause feelings of euphoria and well-being. New research in The Lancet Psychiatry says that just two hours of any form of exercise each week may make a significant impact on your mental health.
- Get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. Sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise. Some research states that being sleep deprived for just one night can increase your emotional response to negative feelings by 60 percent.
- Take time to unwind. According to the Mental Health Society of America, relaxation is crucial for your mental health. Not only does it reduce your level of stress, but it boosts your immune system, increases your energy levels, and drops or stabilizes your blood pressure. Explore different relaxation techniques until you find what works for you, be it aromatherapy, meditation, or simply taking time out of your day to sit and do nothing.
- Bond with a buddy. Abundant research suggests that people with strong, supportive relationships live healthier, longer lives. Whether you get together with a friend over coffee or schedule a 10-minute phone call, any investment of your time is better than none at all.
- Your home is your personal sanctuary. Here are a few ways to reduce stress there:
- Designate a room (or even simply a space) in your home for meditation.
- Indulge in soothing baths.
- Play your favorite music and drink calming teas, such as chamomile or kava.
- Create a cozy book nook where you can quietly escape into the world of good books.
- Unplug from all electronics for a set period of time daily.
9. As you focus on what to do, you’ll also want to identify what not to do, such as saying yes to people and things that don’t fulfill you and move you closer to your vision.
As you commit yourself to these self-care basics, you’re building the foundation for your mental health. Just as the quality of your produce depends upon the soil it’s grown in, the quality of your life depends upon its mental foundation. With these practices under your belt, you’ll not only have a solid foundation, but you’ll be well on your way to being the best version of yourself.