Happy Mental Health Awareness Month! At MINES & Associates, we believe that mental health isn’t just about preventing and treating mental illness (although this, of course, is important!). True mental health is about more than just the absence of illness. It’s about thriving and being at your best in terms of your mental well-being.
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety, are you at your best mentally? How do you take care of your mental health on an everyday basis?
You don’t need to – and shouldn’t – wait for a mental health crisis to happen before you start taking care of your mental well-being. Here are some research-backed tips for your mental health from your MINES team that you can use all the time, not only when you’re having a problem with your mental health.
Get in touch with your feelings
One thing you can do to help support your mental health to prevent problems from arising is to learn how to notice, and manage, your emotions. So many of us never learned this skill (although many schools are now teaching it through social-emotional learning lessons). But the good news is that it’s never too late; even as an adult, practicing this skill regularly can lead to enormous benefits.
The next time you’re feeling upset about something, stop to notice it. Don’t sweep it under the rug or try to suppress it. Label the emotion – yes, you’re feeling bad, but what else? For example, are you feeling lonely, guilty, angry, or grieving? Put a name to it.
Next, learn how to manage these emotions in healthy ways. When you mindfully notice and put a name to emotions, you are less likely to turn to your “auto-pilot” coping mechanisms that may be unhealthy (like reaching for a drink, for example). How would you like to manage these feelings? What would truly be helpful at this moment?
Get regular exercise
You’ve probably heard it before, but that’s because it’s true: getting regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, including your mental health. Research shows that people who exercise regularly are less likely to experience depression, anxiety, and stress. Exercise can also help you sleep better, which comes with its own large set of mental health benefits (see below!).
We all know that exercise is good for us, but it’s easier said than done to get yourself to the gym. The good news is that exercise can look many different ways. If you don’t enjoy going to the gym, there’s no need to force yourself – gardening, dancing, walking your dog, swimming, hiking, and more are all forms of effective exercise.
The important thing is to get your heart rate up on a regular basis. Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week.
Get better sleep
As we just mentioned, getting enough restful sleep every night does wonders for your mental health. Experts recommend that healthy adults get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. But it’s important that these are restful sleep hours; tossing and turning for 9 hours won’t do much good (although it’s better than nothing).
Sleep allows all of your organs to rest, including your brain. Not only that, but getting enough sleep is essential for every level of your body’s functioning – molecular functioning, cognitive functioning, energy, and more.
It’s easy to sacrifice sleep in order to get everything done. But think twice the next time you’re tempted to stay up late to catch up on work. That extra hour could be the difference between a well-functioning brain and an exhausted one.
Go outside more
Nature lovers rejoice: Research shows that spending time outside in green areas is very beneficial for our mental health.
Spending time in nature can calm you and reduce anxiety. It can make you feel more hopeful about your life and the world. Studies have found that spending time in nature is an effective intervention for anxiety and depression.
You don’t need to have a National Park in your backyard to benefit from nature. Spending time in any green area will do. Is there a small park in your neighborhood? Can you find a plant or a tree to connect with?
You can practice connecting to the natural world wherever you are. Notice the sights, smells, sounds, and textures around you. What can you connect to the natural world? For example, maybe you hear a bird singing or can see the green of the grass.
Research shows that people who practice kindness are more likely to be happier and less stressed. In one famous study, people were asked to practice random acts of kindness over a period of time. The study found that these people experienced numerous benefits including higher well-being, more happiness, and even lower blood pressure.
The best part is that you don’t need anything at all to start practicing kindness. It doesn’t matter what the acts of kindness are – all that matters is that you do something or someone else with no expectation of anything in return. For example, you can write a thank you note to a friend for their support or do a favor for a colleague.
After you do an act of kindness, notice how it feels.
We tend to think of counseling as something we do when our mental health is already in trouble. For example, you might talk to a mental health therapist when experiencing symptoms of anxiety, or talk to a grief counselor when you’ve lost someone you love.
But you don’t need to wait for something to go wrong in life to benefit from counseling. Many people see a counselor simply to work on their self-esteem, get to know themselves on a deeper level or explore how their past experiences have affected them. They might see a counselor to talk about how to manage stress from work better, or how to improve their relationships.
Counseling is a great way to address your mental health before problems arise. And it’s a service you might have free access to if you’re a member of MINES’ Employee Assistance Program. We offer free and confidential counseling 24/7.
Get in touch with us to learn more about the mental health benefits services that you have access to!
To your wellbeing,
The MINES Team