You can readily name ways to reduce the risk of heart disease, but can you name any ways to reduce the risk of mental illness?
Even though our understanding and acceptance of mental illness continues to grow, we tend to make little effort to improve our own mental health. We regularly disregard emotional signs that alert us to something amiss.
Emotionally healthy people have the capability to handle life’s stresses, build relationships, and handle disappointments. Just as heart health takes work, so does emotional and mental health.
Six Ways To Reduce Your Risk of Mental Illness
If you don’t get outside enough, it can affect your mental health.
According to research, walking in nature for 90 minutes decreases activity in the part of the brain which is active when you think negative thoughts. Walking along a busy road for 90 minutes, did not decrease activity in this part of the brain. Nature is soothing and decreases stress. Cars speeding past you has the opposite effect.
Numerous studies have pointed to the health benefits of spending time outdoors, two which include:
- A 2010 study found a boost in self-esteem after just five minutes in a green space.
- A 2001 study found improved ADHD symptoms in children who spent time in green space.
Connect with Those Who Care for You
Having a group of supportive people to lean on and talk to improves mental health. We are naturally social animals, so we have a deep-seated emotional requirement for human relationships and connections to others.
Face-to-face interaction with friends and family calms the nervous system and reduces stress.
Here is an obvious fact: Each one of us is different. It is much better for your mental health to embrace your differences and feel good about yourself. Be proud that you are unique.
Being true to yourself boosts your self-esteem. And having good self-esteem is vital when coping with life’s challenges.
If you need to change parts of yourself, do so, but don’t beat yourself up because of it.
Food can affect your mental health. To keep your brain healthy and working properly, it needs the right nutrients. A balanced diet (for your body and your brain) includes:
- A plentiful selection of assorted fruit and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Oily fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Water and more water
Do your best to limit alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks.
You knew exercise would be on this list. When you exercise, your body releases stress-relieving and mood-enhancing endorphins. These endorphins combat depression, stress, and anxiety.
You don’t need to run a marathon. Simply set a goal to get 30 minutes of daily exercise. If you exercise outdoors, you benefit from green space and you absorb sunlight, which stimulates the production of vitamin D, increasing your serotonin levels. This helps you sleep better and keeps your body functioning at an optimal level.
Talk to Yourself in a Positive Manner
Research studies show that what you think of yourself can have an effect on how you feel about yourself. When we think of ourselves in a negative light, we also tend to view experiences with negativity.
Positive self-talk is one of the best ways to crowd out negative self-talk. Positive self-talk shapes our thinking just as much as negative self-talk does. Positivity reshapes our opinions of ourselves and our circumstances, which in turn enhances our mood and sense of well-being. Be positive and smile more. It makes a world of difference.
When Should You Seek Help
If you’ve tried to improve your mental health without success, then you may want to seek professional help. Objective assessment from a mental health professional can diagnose a mental illness and provide a roadmap to greater mental health.
If you have any of the following behaviors, professional help may be beneficial:
- Uncontrollable negativity or fear
- Concentration problems
- Feeling hopeless most of the time
- Coping by using nicotine, food, drugs, or alcohol
- Suicidal thoughts
- Inability to sleep