When we talk about mental health, we are speaking about our overall psychological well-being. It includes the way we feel about ourselves, the quality of our relationships, and our ability to manage our feelings and deal with difficulties.
It is quite common to experience mental or emotional health problems over a lifetime. 1/5 Canadians experience mental health or drug-use problems nowadays.
The following 10 strategies and suggestions can help elevate your mood, build resilience, and bring more joy into your life:
1. Make social connection a priority - especially face-to-face even if it is over zoom or skype what most of us might have to do during the pandemic
Social connection is the feeling you get when you belong to a group, and generally feel close to other people. Scientific evidence strongly suggests that this is a core psychological need essential to feeling satisfied with your life.
One way to utilize technology is to set-up video-conferencing with a club or your group to expand on your skills and learning. Or maybe, it’s an opportunity for your group to join an online fitness group or e-learning class together.
A more casual way is where your friends, living in different households, can see one another on their screens, and join in on a visual game like Charades or Pictionary or play online board or word games. You can also find a time with friends to connect online and watch a movie together.
If you aren’t able to meet your friends at a local coffee shop, you can set up a virtual date or make a plan for a video chat and ‘catch up over a coffee’ so that your virtual face-to face-time with other people can have a stress-busting and mood-boosting power for everybody involved.
2. Stay active
Staying active and engaging in physical exercise is energizing for the brain and for the body.
Regularly done, it stimulates better mental and emotional health, relieves stress, improves memory, and helps you sleep better.
Being physically active can help you feel stronger and do better day-to-day activities and challenging tasks. It also helps you feel better mentally and emotionally as it improves your overall quality of life by decreasing depression and increasing cognitive function, emotional stability and positive mood.
3. Talk to someone
It is worth putting effort into maintaining our friendships and making new friends. Friends form one of the foundations of our ability to respond with the problems that life throws at us.
Talk to a friendly face. Social interaction, may it be virtual or with a person in your family or a friend who listens, can calm your nervous system and relieve stress. Talking things out, can help ease anxiety and get different perspectives on a topic you like to discuss.
Great friendships that are based on learning and growing together is a great way of increasing mental health. Talking to our friends and listening when our friends want to talk to us, can keep us grounded and can help us get things in perspective.
4. Get in touch with your senses
Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel more happy or calm? Does squeezing a stress ball help you feel centred? What about taking a walk in nature and enjoying the sights and sounds of trees, plants and the hills?
Everyone responds to sensory input differently, so experiment to find what works for you. Using your 5 senses such as hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching the things in your surroundings, can help connect you to the present moment.
A great exercise is the 5 sense exercise. Look around and find five different things in your environment that you can see or notice. Then identify four different sounds you can hear and describe them. Find three ways to interact with your environment using your sense of physical touch. Can you run your fingers through the grass? Seek out two things you can smell. Perhaps it’s the freshly mown grass? Is there something in your surroundings you can taste? A drink or food nearby? If not, simply notice the taste inside your mouth. This exercise can help reduce anxiety.
5. Take up a relaxation practice
Yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing can help reduce overall levels of stress.
Let’s take mindful breathing as an example.
Put your hand on your belly and one on your chest, close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose and out your mouth. Feel your belly rising and falling. As you breathe you will notice different thoughts and emotions coming up. Once a thought comes up, say ‘thought’, just label it without judging it good or bad & see it pass. When an emotion (negative or positive) comes up, say ‘emotion’ and let it pass without judging it.
Also the body scan is a great exercise to relax. Mindfully scanning your body can support in releasing tension by going through your body parts from head to toe and noticing where you feel the tension. You can release the tightness by breathing into it with oxygen and light and becoming aware of them. You can slowly go through your body, thinking to yourself: Does my head ache? Is there tension in my scalp, my skull, my brain, my face? Doing this before going to bed encourages systematic relaxation, and deeper sleep helps rejuvenate your body.
6. Leisure time and downtime are important
Leisure time is a necessity for emotional and mental health. Reading a book or meditating can support analytical thinking, reduce stress and improve focus and concentration. Take some time to relax and contemplate.
Paying attention to the positive things as you go about your day - even the small things, helps to increase your mood and feeling well. Write them down if you can, because they can be easy to forget. Then you can reflect on them later if your mood needs a boost and some cheering up.
7. Eat a brain-healthy diet to support fit mental health
Foods that can support your mood and brain to be healthy can include healthy supplements as they support to keep your brain healthy.
Be sure to follow a vegetable rich diet with less sugar. Using real foods in the form of vegetables or fruits, healthy grains and proteins will support you to boost your brain.
Eating well besides boosting your mental health, can also stimulate your physical health. Choosing the right foods more often, having a healthy breakfast, and eating regular meals can keep your mood and energy levels steady.
8. Don’t skimp on sleep
Sleep matters more than you think.
To calm down your brain and get prepared for sleeping, take a break from screens such as TV, phones, tablets or computers 2 hours before bedtime.
When you’re short on sleep, it’s a lot harder to concentrate, solve problems and make decisions. This means that, without enough sleep, it’s difficult to be your best self at work, school and in your social life, too. By getting to sleep at a regular time, you’ll be putting your best brain forward.
9. Find purpose and meaning
Purpose and meaning is different for everyone.
For you, it might be engaging in work that makes you feel useful. Or you enjoy investing in relationships and spending quality time with people who matter to you. Volunteering can help enrich your life and make you happier as well as caring for others, which can be as rewarding and meaningful as it is challenging.
By identifying and setting goals you are able to practically work on your envisioned future. It will help improve your mental health and find great meaning to feel good in life.
10. Ask for help
If you or a loved one needs support, there are many programs and resources available.
McAtee Psychology can help build your mental health toolbox with various strategies that foster positive well-being.
McAtee provides psychological services that are collaborative, genuine, and non-judgmental. We are an ideal fit for clients who are willing to embrace the challenge of learning skills to face and overcome difficult challenges, experiences, and emotions.
McAtee Psychology is a private family psychology practice offering counselling, assessment, and therapeutic services to families. Our services include counselling and assessment for individuals, couples, and children & teens. Our mission is to help you and your family create a more rich, connected, and meaningful life.
McAtee Psychology NW: 1982 Kensington Road NW, Calgary, AB
McAtee Psychology SE: 105, 11500 29 St SE, Calgary, AB
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