Mental health is on our minds every day — even more so this week. October 10 is World Mental Health Day, and October 6-12 is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Psychologist Lindsay Henderson, a provider you can see through LiveHealth Online, shares a few pointers and healthy habits for managing and improving your mental health.
- Eat, sleep, move! Our minds feel best when our bodies feel best. Eating well, sleeping enough, and getting a bit of physical exercise can do wonders for your mental health. Exercise has proven to be a top form of treatment for depression and anxiety — in some cases it can be more effective than medication or therapy. Start small! Even 10 minutes of movement in your living room or office can make a difference. The same with eating — don’t overhaul your diet all at once (no one can keep that up!). Make small changes that you can stick with.
- Lead with kindness. The way we interact with others not only impacts our relationships and the way that others feel, but also affects our own mood. Make efforts to lead with kindness in your communication with others. Try the 2:1 rule — for every negative or constructively critical message you communicate to another person, make sure there are two positive or appreciative messages, too. For example: “Thanks for picking up the kids today! Can you please be sure to make sure they each have their backpacks with them in the future? I’m excited to have a family dinner together tonight.”
- Practice gratitude. Research suggests that people who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, sleep better, feel more engaged and energetic, express more compassion and kindness, and may even have stronger immune systems. Try it out by keeping a gratitude journal (listing a few things you’re grateful for each day) or making a habit of thinking of things you are grateful for throughout the day. Try to counter some of your frustrations by reframing to highlight the positive, like instead of dwelling — “I can’t believe my air conditioning is broken — it is so hot out!” — tweak your perspective, like, “Wow, we are so lucky to have air conditioning! I wonder what it was like on these hot days 50 years ago before people had this technology! It’ll be nice to get ours working again.”
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness gets a lot of buzz lately, for good reason. So often we are distracted by thoughts of the past or worries about the future that we miss what is actually going on in the present. Try to bring your focus to the here and now, and attend to what you are doing with your full attention. Not only do things get done more effectively, but it’s usually more enjoyable, too. This is especially true for the time we spend with our children or loved ones.