Unfortunately, most people are unaware that we are currently in the midst of a mental health crisis. While exact figures are difficult to come by, it is estimated that approximately 13% of the global population (971 million people) suffer from a mental condition. Three hundred million suffer from anxiety, 160 million from major depressive disorder, and many of the remaining suffer from some stress-related ailment. In fact, the British charity one in every four people will suffer from some type of mental illness in any given year, and who could be surprised?
Political and social tensions appear to be reaching a boiling point, and the obligations of a more consumerist world continue to rise, causing people from all walks of life to experience elevated levels of stress and anxiety. But this does not have to be the case.
Regardless of the external circumstances, there are a variety of strategies you can use that have been proven to promote mental health by decreasing feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, which means you can live a more peaceful life and go back to enjoying what’s most important. Here are some of the best ways to go about it.
Spend more time in nature
When life becomes too much for us, and we begin to feel overwhelmed, many individuals feel the need to get outside and take a stroll in nature to clear their minds. As it turns out, this instinctive habit has been scientifically demonstrated to be one of the best methods to boost mental well-being and keep stress at bay. According to one study, spending just ten minutes per day in a natural setting, such as a park, forest, garden, or hiking trail, is all it takes to boost psychological and physiological markers of mental well-being, such as perceived stress and happiness.
Don’t forget to take a break
As the business world becomes faster-paced, employees are expected to deliver more in shorter time frames. Eventually, something has to give, and it usually ends up being our mental health. With this in mind, you need to take regular breaks throughout your working day, so you do not become beaten down by an uncompromising workload.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should take 3 hours long work breaks to binge-watch your favorite Netflix shows. Instead, you could opt for a 15-minute break to call a friend, eat a healthy snack, or even play a game of solitaire to keep your mind active yet distracted from your working tasks. In doing so, you can return your mental and psychical functional systems to their baseline before going back to your job.
Watch your food intake
Food has a significant impact on your mental health. If you consume highly processed meals, candy, or junk food regularly, it will likely manifest negatively in your body. According to one study, those who eat such diets are more likely to report high levels of perceived stress. Furthermore, not eating enough nutrient-dense foods may raise your risk of deficiency in nutrients important for stress and mood regulation, such as magnesium and B vitamins.
Why do today what you can do tomorrow? Well, here’s why. Procrastinating is one of the most common ways to inflict unnecessary stress and pressure upon themselves. That’s because not taking care of essential tasks and sweeping them under the rug means that you are likely to leave yourself scrambling to catch up. This can have negative implications on your sleep and overall health, and can even cause a variety of chronic health conditions. With this in mind, try to organise your tasks by making a to-do list, so you can take care of what is important before it gets out of hand.
Try out meditation
Many people believe that meditation and mindfulness are two of the only true methods to attain a peaceful mind free of stress and anxiety. Rather than trying to eliminate external stressors and change the world around you, these practices help you to reframe your perception. This means that you can eventually train yourself to react differently to situations, usually with more clarity and less emotion. Furthermore, not only has meditation been proven to combat stress and anxiety, but it can also reduce age-related memory loss, improve sleep, help to fight addiction, and decrease blood pressure.
By now, it’s been fairly well documented just how important sleep is to our physical and mental well-being. However, despite this being common knowledge, nearly half of the population are expected to suffer from insomnia at some point in their lives. While some of these cases will be due to medical complications, many of them result from poor sleep hygiene, a lack of a routine, and stress.
Once again, a big driver for poor sleep amongst the global population is the profound importance society places on productivity (often over things such as health and family). Nowadays, it’s even become commonplace for people to boast about how little sleep they had, claiming that they are simply too busy to get a good night’s rest. Of course, it is not recommended that you take a similar approach.
Instead, if you want to improve your mental health and well-being, you should learn to prioritise sleep. In doing so, you will benefit from various health-boosting effects, such as reduced stress, improved concentration, sharper judgement and decision-making, and better mood regulation.
Ask for help
Finally, you must seek the help of others when you need it. While it can be difficult to reach out and open up to somebody else, speaking up and leaning on those around you can prove to be a huge source of relief for those suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression. If you feel as though asking for help isn’t a possibility, then there are plenty of professional services that you can turn to, such as counseling, therapy, and general practitioners who will be able to assist you in finding a suitable support option.
David Tobin did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in psychology, mental health, and wellness.
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