When setting goals for the New Year, mental health is often overlooked. However, your mental and physical health are very closely linked. Without practicing habits for a healthy mind, it can be hard to practice healthy habits for a healthy body. Here are ten tips to help get you started.
- Focus on your nutrition. Try eating less sugar, solid fats and salt. Be mindful of including more whole grains, vegetables and fruit and aim to drink more water. Some foods that are especially helpful for a healthy mind include: Green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries, beans and legumes, whole grains, fatty fish, poultry, and olive oil.
- Physical Activity is an important key to a healthy mind. In addition to all of the physical benefits, exercise also reduces anxiety and depression, has a calming effect on the mind, and improves your sleep.
- Brain activities help your memory, focus, concentration and overall mental health. Try putting together a jigsaw puzzle, learning a new word every day, playing solitaire, or learning a new language.
- Connect with others. Socializing boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression. Skype and Facetime make it possible to catch up with distant family and friends, while there are several local opportunities, including: volunteering at your local charity, homeless shelter or mentoring a child-helping others helps you feel better; taking a walk through your neighborhood and greeting your neighbors; signing up for a class at your local recreation center or library; attending religious services; singing in a choir; having a friend or family member over for tea.
- Make sleep a priority. Sleep helps the brain to think more clearly and boosts your mood. On the flip side, not enough sleep makes you more irritable and less able to cope with stress, and increases your risk for depression and anxiety. To help ensure a good night’s rest have a bed-time routine that includes turning off electronics, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and sleeping in a dark, comfortable environment.
- Lower your stress level. This can be easier said than done, but there are a few things to practice to keep your stress level lower. Having a positive attitude is key, as well as accepting that we can’t always control events that happen in our lives. Set realistic goals and take baby steps when making life changes. Practice good nutrition (see #1) and physical activity (see #2).
- Limit how much alcohol you consume. Alcohol can cause drowsiness, dizziness, a blurry memory, negatively affects your coordination and emotions, and increases your risk of depression.
- Go smoke free. In addition to all of the physical dangers, tobacco use is connected to depression symptoms, a greater chance of psychiatric hospitalization and an increase in suicidal behavior.
- Live gratefully. Keeping a daily gratitude journal helps to form a theme of gratefulness in your life. Remember how far you have come. Focus on the good others have done for you.
- Find a hobby that you love. Research shows that having a hobby makes you less likely to suffer from depression, stress, and feeling low. This includes athletics, creative, academic, or any hobby that is personal to you. The most important part is to find something meaningful and enjoyable to you.
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