Five Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

When you think of the word health, you may think of clean eating or intense workouts. However, taking care of your mental health is also important to living a happy and healthy life.

But what exactly is your mental health? Mental health includes emotional, psychological and social well-being, MentalHealth.gov says. Many factors can contribute to mental health problems, the website says, including genes, life experiences, and family history. Understanding your mental health allows you to live a full and productive life.

You may be surprised by what affects your well-being. We’ve compiled five simple ways you can improve your mental health today!

Common mental health challenges

Whether it’s an anxiety disorder, mood disorder or a number of other problems, mental health issues can affect your thinking, mood, and behavior, MentalHealth.gov says.

Depression is a common issue that isn’t always recognized. Every year, about 7 percent of adults in the U.S. experience a major depressive disorder, the National Institute of Mental Health says. Major depression is when you have severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, and enjoy life, NIMH says. Everyone can feel sad or blue for a few days, but depression can involve loss of interest in hobbies, feeling helpless or hopeless, and fatigue and decreased energy.

Anxiety disorders are another challenge faced by many Americans each year. About 40 million adults are affected by an anxiety disorder in a given year, the NIMH says. Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, but for some, the anxious feelings can be overwhelming. An anxiety disorder lasts at least six months, the NIMH says, and the symptoms focus on excessive, irrational fear and dread.

Providing support for a friend or loved one who is struggling with mental illness can be very important to that person. That support can start when you help a loved one recognize their illness and get professional assistance. Learn what to look out for in a variety of mental illnesses.

Here are five ways to help keep your mind and emotions healthy.

  1. Exercise often

Exercise is great for your mind and body. Thirty minutes of gentle walking a day can help boost mood and reduce stress, the NIMH says.

  1. Get enough sleep every night

Sleep is also important for your whole body. Sleep deficiency has been linked with depression and risk-taking behavior, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says. Get too little sleep and you could have trouble making decisions, controlling your emotions, and coping with change, the institute says. Set yourself up to be healthy by getting as much sleep as you need every night.

  1. Consider yoga

Studies suggest that yoga may help relieve anxiety and depression, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says. Many people who practice yoga want to maintain their health and reduce stress, the center says. Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced yogi, there are many levels of yoga to match your comfort level.

  1. Learn to manage stress

For almost everyone, stress is part of life in some form. Coping with stress is important to your overall health and well-being. Don’t make perfection your standard for success – it’s an unrealistic measure. Schedule time to relax with a book, a walk, or a friend. Try journaling about a stressful experience instead of dwelling on it.

  1. Ask for help

It’s important to talk to your doctor about a possible mental health issue. If you’re unsure, seeking a professional opinion will only help to get you back to health. He or she may point you to another medical professional for therapy or a psychiatrist to prescribe medication. Know that asking for help is a sign of strength and is nothing to be ashamed of. Talking with a medical professional just might be the first step to feeling better.

Be sure to prioritize your mental health and don’t delay treatment. “There is research showing the longer one waits, the greater the impairment can be down the road,” the NIMH says.

If you or a loved one is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255.