By Lystia Putranto
Though most of us recognize the benefits of investing time and effort on physical health and fitness, this is hardly the case when it comes to mental health. Admittedly, I too failed to acknowledge its importance but it all changed years ago when I found myself working for a non-profit organization which focuses on providing mental health support.
Through this experience, I learned firsthand that maintaining a good state of mental health is as crucial – if not more – as maintaining our physical health.
When it comes to mental health illnesses, prevention is certainly better than cure as they can be difficult and very costly to treat. More importantly, having good mental health not only prevents us from developing mental health issues, it also enhances our ability to create and live out our best lives. It has been scientifically proven that those who are emotionally healthy tend to be more resilient, confident and able to handle life’s challenges with a more positive attitude.
Luckily, taking care of and improving our mental health is hardly rocket science. When given attention on a regular basis, it can actually be quite easy! Here, I’ll highlight five simple tips that I’ve personally found to be helpful in improving overall psychological health and well-being:
- Set Aside Some ‘Me’ Time
With so much on our plate, we often find ourselves ended up putting our own needs on the back burner. In order to have a healthier state of mind, we need to end this habit and pay more attention to our needs. If this is something that you struggle with, know that self-care is not selfish. Remember that when you tend to your own needs first, you are more likely to be able to offer your best self to others as a result.
Start by making a commitment to do something you enjoy a few times a week. Whether it’s taking a leisurely walk in the park, drawing yourself a bubble bath, reading, or playing with your pet, dedicating some time to indulge in something that gives you joy is a must in maintaining a good state of emotional health and well-being.
- Practice Meditation
As unbelievable as it sounds, setting aside at least 10 minutes to meditate each day can do wonders for your mental state. Think of daily meditation as an exercise for our brain that offers an abundance of benefits including improved focus, reduced levels of stress, and anxiety as well as mental health maintenance.
In fact, a study done by Harvard Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that by meditating only for 8 weeks, participants were able to significantly changed the brain’s gray matter, a major part of the central nervous system that is associated with processing information and providing nutrients and energy to neurons. Dr. Britta Holzel, who was part of the team that conducted the study, explained: “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation; we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.”
- Express Gratitude
Acknowledging our appreciation for the things that we already have enabled us to focus on the good that already exists in our lives and this creates feelings of joy. Appreciation is potent to fight off anxiety and worry because when we feel joy, we feel more excitement and optimism for life.
We can express our gratitude by reading our list of “Thank You’s” out loud before starting out our day every morning, writing it in a gratitude journal and/or simply by quietly expressing gratitude for things and people we are thankful for as we go about our day.
- Get Adequate Sleep
Countless research found that we are able to best perform and are most energized when we get adequate sleep on a daily basis. Though the exact amount of sleep one needs differ from one person to another, adults generally need about 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night to function optimally and be in a prime state of mind to make important decisions.
If you currently only get about half of the recommended amount of sleep, it’s helpful to start by adding 30 minutes to your normal sleep hours and gradually increase it. Soon enough, you’ll be getting plenty of sleep and be more ready to tackle whatever obstacles life throws at you.
- Share Your Story
Going through tough times? Keeping it bottled up can be detrimental to your mental health in the long run. So, it’s best to let it out and share your story.
Though many of us find it difficult to share our hardships with others, keep in mind that everyone faces challenges and they may just be able to relate to your experience as well as offer a shoulder to lean on. More importantly, sharing our innermost thoughts to someone we trust and care about, acknowledges that we trust them enough to be vulnerable and often times, ends up bringing the relationship closer.
If you are not ready to divulge your feelings and emotions to loved ones, I recommend for you to start writing a diary. Writing can have therapeutic benefits. Studies have shown that dedicating at least 20 minutes daily to writing and analyzing the written material plays an important role in mental wellbeing.