Mental health awareness is on a sharp rise since 2020, and while that means it's time to start taking active steps toward a healthier mind, it also means it’s the perfect time to build mind and body wellness. Physical and mental health are often thought of as separate entities, but the truth is that they are closely interconnected. Taking care of one can greatly improve the other. And that doesn’t mean doing double the work or needing double the time to take care of yourself. Here are five tips to help you guide you to full body wellness:
Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve mood, and increase self-esteem. It also helps reduce stress and promote relaxation. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals that make you feel good. This is why you often feel a "runner's high" after a good workout.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to become a gym expert before you can cash in on those feel-good hormones. There are many ways to get moving. If you're new to exercise, start with something fun and simple, like dancing, riding a bike, or going on a daily walk around the block. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercise as you become more comfortable. Once you’re ready, you could try a workout class, join a local sports team, or take up hiking. The key is to find an activity that you enjoy so that it becomes a regular part of your routine.
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, without judgment. It's been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, blood pressure levels, and depression while improving attention and focus. When you practice mindfulness, you learn to observe your thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. This can help you feel more grounded and less reactive to stressful situations.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness, such as meditation, yoga, or simply taking a few deep breaths. The important thing is to make it a daily habit, even if it's just for a few minutes. Set aside time each day to focus on your breath or body sensations, and try to do it at the same time each day to establish a routine.
Eat a Balanced, Not Restrictive, Diet
Did you know your diet can have a major impact on your mental health? Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases, and improve your mood. While a diet that's high in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fat can increase your risk of depression and anxiety.
To improve your diet, start by making small changes. Swap out processed snacks for fresh fruit or veggies, choose whole-grain bread instead of white bread, and opt for lean protein sources like chicken or fish. It's also important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Try keeping a refillable water bottle where you work and on the side of your bed as a visual reminder.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for both physical and mental health. Sleep deprivation can lead to a range of problems, including decreased cognitive function, increased emotional dysregulation, heightened stress and anxiety, and even depression. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and establish a regular sleep routine to help your body adjust.
Do you have good sleep hygiene? It’s key to sleeping long and feeling more rested the next day. There are several ways to boost your sleep hygiene like being consistent with the time you go to bed and wake up each day, keeping your room quiet and dark, removing electronics, and eating lighter meals before bed.
Connect with Others
Social connection is the foundation of humanity, sympathy, and empathy building. This means it's vital when it comes to fortifying our physical and mental health. Humans are social creatures, and we need social interaction to thrive. When we feel connected to others, we experience feelings of belonging, acceptance, and support. Groups can improve our self-esteem, reduce stress, and even boost our immune system.
There are many ways to connect with others, such as joining a club or organization, volunteering, or simply reaching out to a friend or family member. It's important to find what’s known as a “third place”. This is a place where you spend time between home (first place) and work (second place). It’s a place void of chores or conversations about productivity. This could be something as simple as having a consistent coffee date with a friend or joining a group fitness class.
If you're feeling isolated or struggling to connect with others, there are resources available to help. Therapy or counseling can be a great way to work through underlying issues that may be making it difficult for you to connect with others. There are also online support groups and resources available for a wide range of mental health concerns.
In summary, connecting your physical and mental health is essential for active wellness. By incorporating regular exercise, mindfulness, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, and social connection into your daily routine, you can improve both your physical and mental health. Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish, it's necessary. Start small and be patient with yourself as you work towards a healthier mind and body.