Mental fitness or mental health lifestyle strategies can contribute significantly to the well-being of people and populations.
The Mental Health Foundation in the U.K. provides a nice summary of the key characteristics of good mental health encompassing many of our capacities as humans, which include being able to learn; being able to feel, express, and deal with emotions; building and keeping good relationships; and handling change and uncertainty.
Take note of the following lifestyle strategies to build your mental fitness, and help you cope.
Move your body. Be physically active throughout the day. Exercise can help manage chronic pain and reduce emotional pain. Research on depression, anxiety and exercise demonstrate that there are psychological as well as physical benefits to exercise in the reduction of anxiety and improvement in mood, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Eat real food. Include multicolored fruits and vegetables and fish with omega-3 fatty acids, while avoiding the four species with high mercury levels (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish). Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) may reduce the risk of progression mental disorders.
Unplug from excessive media immersion if the news feed leaves you feeling blue. Constant exposure to mass media can sway opinions and influence emotions. Evidence from multiple studies link smartphones and media with increasing mental distress.
Build solid relationships. Rich relationships may reduce mental health risks ranging from the common cold to stroke, mortality and multiple psychopathologies. Social relationships play an important role in mental health and wellbeing—especially in persons with disabilities. Solid scientific evidence shows that social relationships affect a range of health outcomes, including mental health, physical health, health habits, and mortality risk.
Mind your happiness. Find a hobby. Studies suggest that when participating in pleasurable recreation activities, positive emotions can ensue.
Learn to self-manage your stress. Meditation, religion, spirituality, and relaxation classes are ways to connect to a support network.Religious/spiritual beliefs and practices are commonly used by both medical and psychiatric patients to cope with illness and other stressful life changes. Get plugged into a network that facilitates positive emotions including well-being, happiness, hope, optimism, meaning and purpose, and a sense of control over life.
A large volume of research shows that people who are a part of a spiritual, religious or wellbeing group have better mental health and adapt more quickly to health problems compared to those who do not have a support network. Positive emotions can lead to healthy and desirable traits such as altruism, being kind or compassionate, forgiving, and grateful.
Get your sleep. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep. If you are not sleeping soundly, seek support to improve your sleep strategies. Improvement in sleep habits may reduce paranoia feelings and benefit your mental health.
Strategy 9: Get guidance. Seeking mental health treatment can ease your mind. Many people around the world are navigating mental health obstacles, be sure to get professional help if you are feeling depressed, hopeless, excessive anxiety, no interest in life or you feel overwhelmed with emotions.
The HelpLine for the National Alliance on Mental Illness can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET.
1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or firstname.lastname@example.org