It’s difficult to tell how someone feels just by observing their behavior or asking them about it. Many suffer in silence while battling disorders like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and burnout. Identifying mental health issues, both in ourselves and others, is a tricky task. Knowing what steps you can take to improve your mental wellness is even more challenging. That’s where good mental health practices come to the rescue. These mental health practices are both predictors and causes of mental well-being. Following is our list of practices for good mental health and information on precisely how they can benefit you.
11 Good Mental Health Practices
Mindfulness or meditation is one of the best practices for mental health. According to a study by C. Behan published in the National Library of Medicine, meditation can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
A simple way to practice meditation is by drawing your attention to the senses and what you are presently experiencing. This practice is called mindfulness, and while the terms are used interchangeably, meditation often focuses on more minor aspects of your daily experience. For example, focusing on your breath, lungs, and the expansion of your diaphragm as you breathe is a form of deep breathing meditation. It is very easy to learn how to practice mindfulness and meditation in your daily life.
Such practices can be learned quickly and performed almost anywhere, whether in the workplace, at home, or while traveling.
Many live sedentary lifestyles and suffer from physical and mental health issues. We need to make time to deal with the same. Going to the gym, practicing yoga, running, or going for long walks are some practices that don’t require much effort and can help you stay fit. Among the practices for good mental health, physical activity or exercise requires the most effort to get used to but is the most rewarding.
A study by Yale University extensively covers different exercise times and their correlation with mental health. According to this study, exercising from 120 to 360 minutes spread out at least three times per week is the sweet spot for your mental health. The benefits of exercise on conditions like anxiety, depression, stress, and heart problems are well documented.
Work is a means of livelihood, but it can also become a path to meaning and self-actualization in life. Purposeful work has the most apparent benefits among our good mental health practices list. By taking a different approach to work or trying to get paid for things we enjoy doing, we can significantly improve our mental health.
A study by Jessica. V.W. highlights how meaningful work is related to the use of individual strengths, greater work engagement, and results in better work performance. By doing something that means a lot to you, you can perform better, utilize your strengths to the best of your ability, and be more engaged while working.
The first step to finding such work is discovering your values and doing a SWOT(strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.
4. Boost Your Self-Esteem
In his masterpiece “The 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem,” Nathaniel Branden shows us that self-esteem is more than confidence in ourselves and our abilities. It means developing the strength to assert your needs and perspective, even in challenging situations. Personal integrity or a constant dedication to your values is also essential to self-esteem.
You can start increasing your self-esteem by living consciously or acting with awareness of the consequences of your actions. Good mental health practices like taking full responsibility for your emotions, needs, and behaviors can also boost your self-confidence.
5. Participate In Healthy Social Interactions
We are the sum of the people we spend most of our time with. Hence, it is crucial to pick and choose those around us. Regular social interactions, especially face-to-face and engaging conversations, can make us feel better. A study by David A. Scott discusses how social media, smartphones, etc., affect mental health in society. Traits like self-motivation, emotional intelligence, kindness, and empathy are hindered by a lack of real-time social interaction leading to various mental health issues in the population.
Human moments including conversations, passing by each other, or just seeing people, can induce positive emotions in a person. You can also ensure employee motivation and well-being by applying good mental health practices in the workplace.
6. Follow A Sleep Schedule
A large-scale study by Daniel Freeman and others involving 3755 participants showed that insomnia might be one of the causes of psychotic experiences and other mental health issues. Prolonged sleep deprivation is also related to diabetes, mental distress, depressive symptoms, and heart problems, according to a compilation of reports funded by the National Institute of Health. Like sleep, not following other good mental health practices can cause mental health-related issues or lifestyle problems.
Sleep and mental health are highly correlated, as many mental health issues lead to irregular(difficulty sleeping, insomnia, or too much) sleep. Ideally, you can maintain a sleep cycle synced with the circadian rhythm. That is, staying awake during the day and sleeping at night. Following such a routine long enough can help you master your sleep. Good practices for mental health include sleeping and waking up at similar times daily.
7. Practice Self-Care
Most good mental health practices involve self-regulation and understanding your mind and body. Self-care is no different. Adequate and regular self-care is necessary to help you manage stress and sustain a healthy lifestyle. A study by Barbara R. published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies highlights the following:
-Self-care leads to lower morbidity(disease), mortality, and healthcare costs.
-People with chronic or severe conditions need to plan and invest in self-care practices actively. On the other hand, seemingly healthy people can also benefit by adapting such practices to help prevent disease.
-Forming a habit of self-care activities can be challenging due to issues like habit formation, cultural practices, self-care for multiple chronic diseases, and the influence of others.
8. Challenge Automatic Negative Thoughts Or Negativistic Thinking
Naturally, many of us tend to focus on the negative and lacking aspects of ourselves and our lives. This phenomenon(called negative bias) could be explained by the fact that negative experiences pose more significant threats and require more attention, while we can let loose during positive events. Over time, thinking negatively about yourself can become a natural tendency.
Most automatic negative thoughts(ANTs) occur unconsciously and might result from biases and cognitive(mental) distortions. Hence, thinking consciously is one of the good practices for mental health, balancing this tendency with its opposite.
For instance, a person may start believing they are doomed to always fail after failing a few times. While in reality, failure provides a person with experience and knowledge about why they failed to achieve their desired outcome. Another example of such intrusive thoughts is labeling someone and deciding what kind of a person they are without trying to understand them.
While there are countless ways to go astray, there is an easy way to fight off your ANTs. Firstly, acknowledge your thoughts and observe them without judgment. Then watch the feeling behind them and question yourself, “Is this really true? If not, why am I thinking this way?”
Finally, ask yourself what you will achieve by thinking such thoughts. If you gain nothing from this exercise, let them go.
9. Learn New Things To Gain Perspective
You may be prone to ANTs and other unproductive thoughts because of a lack of perspective about your circumstances. This could be the case if you have been following the same routine for a long time, avoiding your feelings, or trying not to observe your situation accurately.
Reading, traveling, and talking to or meeting new people are easy ways to gain perspective on your current situation. These activities also help you live a holistic lifestyle and expand your horizons one step at a time, bringing us to the next good mental health practice.
10. Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Stepping out of your comfort zone has numerous benefits, primarily making your life more vibrant and engaging. Many people report that new experiences can provide creative inspiration, uplift mood, and help them enjoy time with their loved ones in new ways.
One of the best ways to overcome your comfort zone is to spend time with nature. You can relax and practice meditation while listening to animals and feeling the wind and the sunlight. A study by Marcia P.J. and others discusses, at length, the benefits of exposure to nature on health.
These include improved cognitive function, brain activity, blood pressure, mental health, and sleep.
11. Improve Your Diet
Minding your nutrition is among the good mental health practices you cannot ignore. As the famous saying goes, “Good Food, Good Mood.”
A meta-analysis by Clay and Rebecca A. published in the American Psychological Association highlights the link between food and mental health. For instance, consuming fast food, sugar, and soft drinks was related to a higher rate of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) among children. Another meta-analysis suggested that dietary patterns might contribute to depression. On the other hand, multi-nutrient supplements and other beneficial edibles like Omega-3 fatty acids have proven helpful to mental health.
By ensuring that you are not deficient in essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, you can keep mental illness at bay and achieve peak performance in your body and mind.
Good mental health practices can help you stay mentally healthy without constantly monitoring or regulating yourself. While starting these practices can be challenging, they will eventually become second nature for you. Wondering how you can use the power of habit to make the process easier? Refer to this blog post to learn more.
Subscribe to Your Mental Health Pal to access more information on mental health best practices, therapy, and premium products to help you become mentally healthier.