Every year since 1949, Mental Health America (formerly known as the National Mental Health Association) has led the observance of Mental Health Month in May.
Mental Health America strives to help people achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. Many people may believe that they do not need to monitor their mental health since they have not been diagnosed with a mental illness, but mental health can affect many areas of your life and your overall health. MHA suggests 10 proven tools that can help you feel stronger and allow you to live your life well.
Connect with others: Social connection leads to increased happiness, better health and a longer life. Make new friends through classes, clubs and other social groups.
Strengthen your current friendships by committing to spend quality time together without distractions, such as cellphones. If you need additional support for a certain issue, seek out support groups in your area.
Stay positive: Negative thoughts can have a heavy impact on your mood and health. Optimism does not need to mean turning a blind eye to the negative sides of life.
Focusing on the positive can bring great benefits to your mental health and your life. Imagine positive outcomes in any situation and search for the silver lining. Avoid dwelling on the negatives. Take time to appreciate the positives in your life.
Get physically active: Exercise not only improves your physical health, it can do wonders for your mental health. Physical activity can help reduce stress, anxiety and feelings of depression. Be sure to check with your health provider before beginning any exercise program.
Help others: Performing acts of kindness can increase your happiness and make you feel good. Not only do you get some social connection, it can add a sense of purpose to your life. Volunteering is a great way to help others, but even small gestures, such as holding a door open for another person or paying for the coffee of the person behind you in line, can bring pleasure to someone’s day — and also to yours.
Get enough sleep: Sleep provides your body and mind rest and revitalization. In order to get better sleep, try these tips: set a regular bedtime; cut off drinking caffeine six to eight hours before bedtime; and turn your bedroom into a relaxing area free of electronics and other distractions. If you can’t fall asleep after 15 minutes, get out of bed and try again later when you feel more tired.
Create joy and satisfaction: Have some fun and laugh a little — or a lot. Leisure activities that bring joy and satisfaction can create positive emotions that are beneficial to your health. Partake in a hobby, get a massage, take a walk in nature or read a funny book. Go it alone or invite a friend or loved one to share the good times.
Eat well: Healthy eating can help reduce your stress and promote your overall health and well-being. Food acts as fuel for your brain and body, so don’t skip meals, snack well, and make sure you have a healthy, varied diet.
Take care of your spirit: The definition of spirituality is different to everyone. Whatever it means to you, it can provide great benefits to your physical and mental health.
Ways to care for your spirit include joining a religious institution; praying; reading religious texts or inspiring stories; meditating; connecting with your deepest self away from distractions; journaling; or nurturing your spirit through nature, music or art.
Deal better with hard times: Strong coping strategies can help protect your mental health during difficult times. Try writing about your experience. No one else has to read what you write. Writing can provide release and allows you to reflect on your situation.
Tackle your problems by coming up with solutions; writing them down can help you organize your thoughts. Put your good solutions into action. Shift your thinking. Look at your worries from an outside perspective.
Set aside a daily “worry” time. Don’t allow yourself to worry until that set time. You may feel better about the situation by the time your “worry” session rolls around. Use your difficult times as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Get professional help if you need it: Consider getting professional help if you need it. Treatment can help you build plans for solving problems, change behaviors that may be detrimental, create and work toward goals, build self-confidence, and allow you to feel stronger in the face of challenges.
Further information regarding Mental Health Month and other mental health information can be found on the Mental Health America website at www.mentalhealthamerica.net.
To Your Health is written by the staff of Boulder City Hospital. For more information, call 702-293-4111, ext. 576, or visit bouldercityhospital.org.