Imagine for a moment that you repeatedly snooze the alarm but still wake up feeling lethargic and sluggish. You manage to arrive at work on time, only to discover that you have left a crucial presentation unfinished. Your day and how you get through it are highly impacted by the range of emotions you experience. When it’s all said and done, you realise that you’ve made a number of poor decisions during the day in an attempt to cope with those emotions. You may be left wondering how you might improve the situation. This is where mental health enters the picture.
What is Mental health?
Recently, a new wave of mental awareness has risen. We hear about mental health in our family dinners, water cooler talks, discussions with friends and social media. Though increasing awareness of mental health is a positive change, but there is a possibility of the definition getting misinterpreted. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” Though this definition is a great leap from the previous definition of “lack of mental issues”, it is time that it gets updated. The issue with the current definition is that just positive emotions and positive feelings are accepted as state of “well-being”.
Why is Mental Health Important?
No matter what you do or how old you are, negative mental health can have a deteriorating effect on your own life, your health, your work and your relationships. But on the other hand, mentally healthy individuals can better cope with whatever life throws at them, enjoy better physical health, have cordial relations with their close ones and are productive members of society.
What can you do?
After knowing about mental health and its incredible benefits, it’s natural to ask what a person can do to improve their mental health. Below are some simple steps you can do daily to achieve that goal.
1. Get some sunshine
The first thing you can do to help your mental health is to get some sunshine for 10-15 minutes. Reaching out for the phone first thing after waking up in the morning can be detrimental in many ways. On days when sunshine is unavailable, at least spend the first 10-15 minutes without looking at any screen.
2. Get moving
After getting your daily dose of sunshine, you need to get your body in movement. That means doing some form of exercise. It can be a simple jog or a full-body workout. Studies indicate that even 15 minutes of light body movements can increase dopamine levels.
Just like exercises improve physical health, meditation directly enhances mental health. Meditation can be practised at any time of the day. Though if practised in the morning, it can set the right tone and mood for the day.
4. Eat right
Our mind and body are more closely related than we realise, and each of them influences the other. Thus, it becomes imperative to fuel the body with foods rich in nutrition. Care should be taken to avoid foods that are high in sugar, unhealthy oils, fats and overeating.
5. Pen down your thoughts
It is a simple way that helps you work through anxious feelings and improves mental health. When you pen down your concerns, it allows you to examine them in a way which was not possible when thinking about them; here, the app Chiku can be of great help.
6. Meet and talk to your loved ones
Even though technology has greatly reduced the need to interact with other humans, one should still seek out friends, relatives and similar-minded individuals. Humans are social animals, and shutting out other people can trigger loneliness. If you are new to a place, take up a hobby where you can meet new people.
7. Social media detox
Constant consumption of social media content makes an individual perceive themselves to be at the bottom of the social hierarchy, thereby reducing their self-worth and self-esteem. This makes them more susceptible and vulnerable to issues like anxiety and depression.
8. Sleep Early
The old saying “Early to bed and early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise” happens to be true. A restful and peaceful sleep proves to be the necessary rest that the body and mind need after tackling the ups and downs a person faces through the day. Avoiding heavy dinners late at night and coffee after 5 pm can aid in sleeping early.
9. Take it easy
There will be days when you are unable to eat right, or you oversleep or can’t exercise or indulge in social media more than usual. On days like these, be easy on yourself and understand it is natural. All the above things need to be done from the perspective of self-love and not punishment. So, an occasional indulgence should be overlooked, and a course correction needs to be done from a place of forgiveness.
10. Know it’s going to be alright eventually
A general attitude of optimism is necessary, especially on days, weeks and months when things don’t seem to be going your way.
An individual can adopt the above steps to raise their standard of living and, more importantly, quality of life. Many factors can affect our mental health, many being beyond our bounds. The above steps should not be seen as a panacea for mental health but as simple habits that can be inculcated to greatly elevate mental health. Try including just a few points and work on them before moving on to other steps. If mental health still seems to be deteriorating, it is advisable to seek a mental health professional. Take care.