6 Small Ways You Can Support Your Mental Health
Sometimes the most complex problem can be solved with a simple solution. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health condition, you know that some days it takes every ounce of willingness just to get out of bed in the morning. Once you muster the strength to get up, you can start the day by making your bed, brushing your teeth, and brewing some coffee for yourself. These simple actions build a foundation for healthy, positive choices throughout your day. It's these baby steps that soon make up the miles. Below are six small, simple solutions that can provide dramatic results in boosting your mood and improving your overall mental health and wellbeing.
#1 Get Outside in Nature
Vitamin D provided by sunlight exposure increases the hormones responsible for promoting positive feelings, like serotonin and endorphins. By boosting serotonin and endorphins, you can manage symptoms of depression. Vitamin D is also said to “minimize your risk of developing mental illness.” Furthermore, going outside also lowers the stress hormone, cortisol. By controlling your cortisol levels, you can lower your stress. Try to aim for 15 minutes of outdoor time a day, or 120 minutes a week.
#2 Exercise Regularly
Exercise increases endorphins and other feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Experts recommend that you aim for 20-30 minutes of exercise per day, at least three days per week. The exercises don’t have to be intensive. You can try a yoga class or a spin class, or go for a run or a swim. Perhaps you can try something as adventurous as rock climbing, or as simple as walking.
#3 Drink Plenty of Water
As simple as it sounds, water (or lack thereof) can have a dramatic impact on your mental health. It should be noted that nearly 75% of brain tissue is made up of water. This means that your brain is desperate for hydration! Lower water intake is linked to higher levels of anxiety and depression. In fact, “multiple studies point to a link between dehydration and a higher risk of anxiety.” Healthline mentions a 2018 clinical study where, out of 3,000 adults, “those who drank more water had a lower risk of anxiety and depression than those who drank less water.” This could be because dehydration leads to physical tension, which in turn leads to “depression, confusion, and fatigue.”
So how much water should you drink a day? Doctors advise you to divide your weight in half and that is how many ounces of water you should intake a day. Other sources suggest drinking 9 cups for women and 12.5 cups for men.
#4 Eat Nutritious Food
Did you know that about 90-95% of your body’s serotonin is made from food? Although the feel-good hormone serotonin is a neurotransmitter in your brain, it is made in your digestive tract by enterochromaffin (EC) cells and also by particular types of immune cells and neurons.
Studies show that poor eating habits “can lead to fatigue, impaired decision-making, and can slow down reaction time.” Even worse, a poor diet can increase depression. More specifically, sugar and other refined foods increase the inflammation in your body. This inflammation contributes to anxiety and depression.
Detox your mind by detoxing your diet! It’s important that your body stop relying on sugars and processed foods. To prevent cravings for unhealthy foods, the source of the cravings must be cut out of your diet. Sutter Health recommends replacing unhealthy foods with eating lots of fruits and vegetables, supplemented with foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which decrease inflammation. Dark, green leafy veggies, nuts, seeds, and legumes are all good for your brain, too.
#5 Find a Therapist
This may be the most daunting one on the list. The good news is, the COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat normalized the idea of seeking professional help for your mental health. Clinical therapy is, for the most part, no longer stigmatized. With the state of the world, it’s normal to feel a loss of control over your life. You may also be feeling a variety of emotions right now, and it is helpful to find a therapist who can help you systematically sort through these feelings.
#6 Download a Wellness App
Many people have turned to their smartphones to find support for their mental health. Apps that support your mental health can be useful if you are constantly surrounded by other people - all you have to do is look down at your phone. Apps like these are also helpful if you have an aversion to traditional ways of managing your mental health. Or, if you’re new on the journey to better health and wellbeing, an app may be a simple place to start. Many apps offer guided meditations and mindfulness exercises. Apps like Moodfit, Calm, Aura, Insight Timer, Headspace, MoodMission, and Happify are all great options.
Supporting your mental health doesn’t have to be complicated or disheartening. Taking the time to walk outside helps set you at ease when you’re feeling anxious. Making a conscious effort to drink plenty of water and exercise can be beneficial in alleviating symptoms of depression. At Achieve Medical Center, we offer a holistic approach for the betterment of your mental health. We offer a variety of professional and community mental health services to meet your unique needs. Our doctors and staff know that there are a broad array of options that we provide to support our bodies and minds holistically - through exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, meditation, and counseling. Some of our additional services include nutrition and dietary counseling, wellness consulting, neuropsychological testing, psychotherapy, neurofeedback, and clinical counseling. We provide direct access to physicians and clinicians via phone, telemedicine, or in-person on campus. Call (619) 375-3977 to schedule a health and wellness consultation.