Scientific ways to improve your mental health

Scientific ways to improve your mental health

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What can we do to better our mental state?

Despite advances in medicine, the incidence of mental illness is increasing year by year. Modern man is subject to daily stress and information overload, and some scientists speak of an epidemic of loneliness. All this is fertile ground for the development of mental disorders.

What is mental health?

Mental health refers to the state of our emotional, psychological and social well-being.

Here is how the World Health Organization defines it:

Mental health is a state of well-being in which each person realizes his potential, is able to cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and contribute to society.

People born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s (generation Z) have the worst mental health scores. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 27% of respondents report mental health problems, compared to 15% of Millennials, 13% of Gen X-ers, 7% of Baby Boomers and 5% of older adults.

Why it is important?

The impact of physical illnesses and illnesses such as cancer or diabetes is evident. We do our best to prevent these ailments through diet, exercise, medication, and doctor visits. But unfortunately, many leave mental health by the wayside. We do not think that it is on the same level of importance as physical health. However, the reality is that it is just as, if not more, important. Your mental health affects every element of life, from work to relationships with significant people, family members and friends. Your sleep, mood, motivation and intelligence depend on it. Finally, constant stress can also cause physical illness.

People often don’t notice mental health problems and don’t take action. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends looking out for these hidden signs:

  • you eat too much or too little;
  • you sleep too much or too little;
  • you lack energy;
  • you have constant mood swings;
  • you are constantly in conflict with loved ones;
  • you often feel confused, angry, or annoyed.

If you notice something from this list, contact a specialist: a psychologist or psychotherapist. But still, before visiting a doctor, you can use our recommendations.

Ways to improve mental health

Even if you don’t have a diagnosed condition such as anxiety or depression, it’s important to prioritize your emotional well-being and constantly look to improve it.

Maintain healthy relationships

Loneliness is an epidemic in today’s world. More people than ever are feeling isolated, anxious and overwhelmed.

One study showed that loneliness has the same effect on life expectancy as obesity or smoking, and reduces it by 15 years. Having strong interpersonal connections benefits us in many ways. It helps to feel like part of a community, gives meaning to life, makes us feel important, and keeps us confident that we have people we can rely on during difficult times.

Use social media wisely

In general, having social contacts is associated with improved mental health. However, maintaining friendships through Facebook and other social networking sites can be fraught with problems.

Research shows that people feel worse after viewing the posts of more successful friends. Other studies show that excessive use of social networks increases the risk of depression, anxiety, impairs sleep and reduces self-esteem. This does not mean that you should retire from social media. However, try to limit their use, unsubscribe from people you don’t need, and also adhere to the rules of information hygiene.

Stay active

Exercise will help you sleep better, make you feel more relaxed, and increase the production of endorphins that will lift your spirits. You don’t need to practice high-intensity interval training to reap the benefits of exercise. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, just 30 minutes of walking each day can improve your mood and reduce stress. Plus, just five minutes (that’s the length of one song) of aerobic exercise or cardio can help reduce anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

Use pet therapy

Get a pet! Or regularly interact with pets (volunteer for a pet shelter or visit your friend who owns one).

Supporters of pet therapy believe that animals help stabilize emotions, become more relaxed and calm, develop trust in others and self-confidence, improve communication, self-regulation and socialization skills. In addition, pets relieve loneliness, reduce irritability and anger, reduce PTSD symptoms, help overcome insomnia and increase the level of joy hormones – oxytocin and endorphins.

Sleep well

Another study showed that people who reported insomnia were four times more likely to become depressed over the next three years. Scientists have determined that a person needs 7-8 hours of sleep for the normal functioning of the brain. Exercise every day, eat a well-balanced diet, and try to eliminate things like caffeine, alcohol, and smoking that can negatively impact sleep. Keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet.

Spend at least two hours a week in nature

Scientists have long noticed that connecting with nature improves mental health. A study published in June 2015 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that a 90-minute walk in nature can reduce brain activity in an area called the subgenual prefrontal cortex. This area is active when we reflect on negative thoughts. Walking along a busy road did not calm this area.

Scientists advise to spend at least two hours a week or 15-20 minutes daily in nature to achieve the optimal effect.

Learn new things

According to the UK National Health Service (NHS), education is another way to support mental health. The NHS claims that people who continue to study after leaving school and university report higher well-being and greater ability to cope with stress. Setting goals and achieving them can create positive feelings of self-fulfillment. Learning often involves interacting with other people. It can also increase your well-being by helping to build and strengthen social relationships.

Practice Gratitude

If you’ve ever felt overly anxious, stressed, or depressed, you’re probably familiar with the onslaught of endless negative thoughts. One of the best ways to deal with this is to practice gratitude. There are countless ways to practice gratitude. One simple and effective way is to keep a gratitude journal every morning or evening. Spend 10 or 15 minutes writing down small or big moments and things you are grateful for. Try to list 3 to 10 things. It could be your family, work, good weather, or a compliment from a colleague. As research shows [Wong Y. J., 2018], this method really works.

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