How do we promote and sustain our mental health?
Let’s look at 14 very important things to do to promote and sustain mental health.
1. Eat right
Your brain is a biological organ and it needs to be properly nourished. It needs to be supplied the right nutrients. Junk food is bad for the brain just as it is for other organs of the body. You need to eat a variety of foods to get the nutrients you need for good mental health. Follow the food guide pyramid to help you to know what to eat and how much from each food group to get the necessary nutrients. Choose a diet with plenty of grains, vegetables and fruits. Eat moderate meats, eggs, and milk. Eat less of fats, saturated fats, cholesterol and sugar, and drink adequate amount of fluid every day. If you eat a balanced diet, there is no need to take any food supplements except in some states like pregnancy.
2. Keep away from psychoactive substances like alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, cocaine, heroin, codeine, tramadol and so on.
Even though alcohol and nicotine (cigarettes) are socially acceptable in most societies, there are significant health risks associated with the consumption of these substances. You may hear that little alcohol is salubrious, but, the negative effects outweigh any flyspeck of gains to health. Apart from this, that small gain can be obtained by doing other things that do not carry the risk alcohol possesses. Psychoactive substances are toxic to the cells of the brain. A user may initially enjoy enhanced positive sensations after using the substances but they always damage the brain cells on the long run, and how fast they damage your brain depends on many other factors. When people use psychoactive drugs they often get a boost to their mood but it is usually short lived; more like a flash in the pan. Sometimes people take these drugs to self-medicate; to relieve their mental distress or mask their pain but the brain gets used to it and keeps demanding for more and soon the individual becomes dependent or addicted to them. All psychoactive substances carry significant health risk with them. These drugs don’t make your problems go away; rather, they complicate things for you. Some people claim they can stay within the safe limit of use, but often time, they lose control over this use. The best advice is; Stay away from all psychoactive substances.
3. Have enough rest and sleep
Rest and sleep help not only the nerves of brain cells but every cell in the body to recover from use and fatigue. How much sleep you need depends on your age. Although there are shorts and long sleepers, an average adult needs at least six hours of sleep daily. It’s important that you cultivate good sleep hygiene.
When you talk about how you feel, your worries and fears, it lightens the mental burden for you. It is not a sign of weakness. Don’t suffer in silence. Talking, apart from lifting the burden, may also open you up into receiving valuable insights and advice from trusted people. There is nothing to be ashamed of in talking about your problems with a trusted friend, relative, colleague, cleric or any other person you know you can trust. Talking helps, but please do talk to the right person.
5. Social interaction and support.
We are social beings and we need one another. Social media is not enough, real face to face interaction is more beneficial. Positive and strong supportive friends and family are invaluable. Having friends, good friends, boosts your positive emotions; you feel valued and loved. Having listening ears around you to unburden has immense benefits. Having shoulders to cry on is therapeutic. No man is an island, no one is a superhero. We all have times when we sure need the strength of others to lift us up. Cultivate a good social network for yourself.
6. Taking a break.
Sometimes it is very necessary for us to step outside our daily vicinity of stress for a while to regain vigour and gusto. It may be for few minutes, or hours or for days. Stepping out of a heated argument for few minutes can calm us down and make us put things in perspective. Going for days on a vacation can be very soothing and rejuvenating.
7. Create time for leisure
Doing what you love gives an invaluable satisfaction; even when you are not doing it for profit. Identify your hobby; engage in it as often as you can. It may be singing, baking, biking, gardening, sewing, sporting, playing musical instruments, dancing, drawing or other forms of leisure. It calms and enhances positive moods.
Regular exercise is very beneficial to the whole body including the Brain. Exercise is not just to lose weight. Exercise rejuvenates and tones not only your muscles but all your organs including the brain. Exercise is not only going to the gym or sporting. Physical activities like walking briskly or engaging in house chores are good forms of exercise. Thirty minutes of regular exercise 3 to 5 times a week has been proven by research to be very salubrious. Take the staircase at work instead of the elevator. Regular exercise fosters brain recovery, boosts mood, because some neurotransmitters are released when the body is very active. It enhances your attention and concentration, sharpens your focus and perception, and ultimately increases your productivity.
9. Practice relaxation techniques regularly.
Sitting in front of the television or going to the bar or club is not enough to harness the benefits of relaxation to our mind and body. It is something that you have to do actively. Relaxation is the antithesis to the stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system which arouses our bodies to action during times of stress. Relaxation is a wonderful way of countering the effect of stress on our body. Relaxation techniques are deeply calming and there are various types like deep breathing, meaningful meditation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation. One of the advantages of relaxation is that you can do it anywhere; even at your office desk. Choose the ones that work best for you.
10. Adopt optimism.
Be optimistic. Change the way you think, the way you evaluate things, events, people and indeed everything around you. Learn to put things in the right perspective. Learn to look at things from the positive angle. It will save you from a lot of unnecessary worries and you will have more positive emotions that will promote your mental well-being.
11. Embrace an attitude of gratitude.
Appreciating what you have and being grateful for them helps a lot. But, most times, people focus on what they do not have, forgetting that some people don’t even have what they have. Gratitude engenders positive emotions and fosters good mental health.
12. Do not harbour negative feelings.
Negative feelings like bitterness, forgiveness, hurt, etc. put more pressure on your mental functioning. Negative emotions are interpreted by the brain as stressors, so, the cascade of the stress response is activated and when this happens too often or for too long, it drains you and damages organs in the body including the brain. Learn to let go of hurts and bitterness.
13. Accept things you cannot change.
Life happens to us. Sometimes things happen that is way beyond us that no human can do anything about. This is the reality of life. Learn to accept things you cannot change.
14. Seek Help.
If you still feel overwhelmed despite all these, please do not hesitate to ask for help. Asking for help does not mean you are weak; rather, it shows you are wise.