These days we are often so busy with work, the kids, or the household chores that we forget to take stock of our health. If we do manage to spend a few minutes thinking about our physical well-being, we often neglect to think about our own mental health care. Mental health is just as important as our physical health after all, we need our minds to be healthy in order to complete our daily tasks, enjoy activities, and, hopefully, live to a ripe old age. Here are some great tips on how you can look after your mental well-being and ensure that your mind stays healthy for years to come.
What Exactly is Mental Health?
This may seem like an obvious question, but actually, the term mental health is multi-faceted. When we talk about our mental health we are referring to both our brain's physical health as well as our emotional state. In order to have good overall mental health, your brain needs to be physically fit as well as emotionally fit. A number of factors contribute to both the physical and emotional state of our minds. It is important be aware of these issues so that you can keep your mind happy on both levels.
Mental Health as You Age
Just as the body changes with age, so does the mind. You may be finding that you just don't seem to be "on top" of things as you used to be. Maybe you're more forgetful or perhaps you just seem to be misplacing things a lot. Or possibly you find that you just need more time to complete mental tasks. Whatever changes you are noticing, you can probably put it down to the fact that your brain is aging.
The brain is made up of billions of tiny nerve cells, called neurons. These neurons send signals to each other and tell your brain to do certain things. As you age, fat tends to deposit itself in-between these brain cells, making it more difficult for the neurons to communicate with one another. Old neurons begin to die off and they aren't replaced with new ones. As a result, your brain actually gets smaller as you age.
Even though your brain is getting smaller, there are ways to improve mental health. These tips should help you to establish more neural pathways in your brain, helping your memory, mental fitness, and mood. If you have been experiencing severe difficulties with your mood or memory, it is important that you seek medical treatment. Conditions such as depression and Alzheimer's disease can affect the way the brain functions.
Keeping Physically Fit
You may be wondering how staying physically active can help your mental health, but, actually, mind-body interaction happens on a daily basis. If your body is healthy, than there's a better chance that your brain will also be healthy. This in turn will boost your self-esteem, mood, and overall mental state.
Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise everyday. Exercise helps to bring blood and oxygen to your brain, which helps to improve memory, reasoning, and reaction times. Studies have shown that even exercising 3 times a day for ten minute intervals can provide you with great mind enhancement. Keeping physically fit will also help to ward off heart problems like heart attack, stroke, and hypertension. Heart problems can drastically affect your brain function, as it is the heart that supplies the brain with nutrients. So if you want your memory to last a long time, look after that heart as well!
Maintain a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet can go a long way to improving both how your brain functions and how you feel about yourself. Keep your mind active by eating lots of carbohydrates. Your brain gets all of its energy from glucose, a sugar it needs to take from carbohydrates. Wholegrain breads and cereals will give your brain the energy needed to remember, make decisions, and think. Carbohydrates are also a great way to improve your mood. They help to boost serotonin levels in the brain, which are responsible for monitoring mood.
It is important to maintain a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet in order to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. This type of diet can also help to address numerous mental health issues. Your brain relies on your blood vessels in order to supply it with nutrients, so if they are all clogged up your brain just can't function well. Try to eat lots of fruits and veggies too, especially those with antioxidants. Antioxidants help to keep your brain cells healthy and prevent your arteries from clogging. Try colorful fruits and vegetables like blueberries, oranges, and spinach.
It is also a good idea to reduce your alcohol intake. Alcohol acts as a depressant, and it can leave you down in the dumps. It is also responsible for causing serious damage to your brain when taken in large quantities. If you are a woman or older than 65, it is recommended that you limit your alcohol intake to 1 drink per day.
Exercise Your Mind
Many of us exercise our bodies to stay fit, but we tend to ignore the fact that our brains need exercise too! Simple mind puzzles like crosswords or word searches, cards, or Trivial Pursuit can keep your mind in tip-top shape. Try reading the newspaper every morning or tuning into the nightly news for a quick mental health treatment. Taking a class, whether it is Shakespeare Appreciation or pottery, can also keep your mind feeling fresh and active. Simple changes like taking up a new hobby or having a conversation with your coworker can also stimulate the brain. Research shows that these mental exercises can help reduce memory loss by up to 50%.
Reduce Your Stress
Life can be pretty hectic sometimes and we often fail to realize how much stress we are actually under. Stress can affect our mood, memory, and mind development, so it's a good idea to reduce stress whenever possible. When you experience stress, you release special hormones that get your body to perform certain actions. Long-term or chronic stress can cause too many of these hormones to enter your system. This can kill special cells in your brain responsible for laying down new memories or accessing old information.
To reduce stress, practice deep breathing exercises. Breathe in through you nose and out through your mouth. This will help to regulate your heartbeat and keep you focused. Listening to music at home or at the office will also keep you calm and on task. Cut back on the amount of caffeine and nicotine that you ingest; these work as stimulants in your body, and can often make stress even worse. Some of the best stress relievers are things that you can do at home. Take a relaxing bath or shower, or make time for your favorite television show. Writing in a journal for even fifteen minutes a day can also help you to get out all those pent up emotions.
Increase your Self-Esteem
Maintaining a healthy self-esteem is integral to your mental health. Low self-esteem has been linked to mood disorders, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and chronic fatigue. It can also increase your stress levels and make it difficult to function at work or at school. A person with healthy self-esteem realizes both her strengths and her weaknesses. She is able to accept herself for who she is and realizes that she is a worthwhile person. Many people are simply unable to recognize their achievements and self-value. Improving your self-esteem can go miles to lifting your mood, improving your mental ability, and your enjoyment of life.
It can be difficult to improve your self-esteem it can take years to come to realize who you are and that you are important. But you can begin by following these three tips:
- Don't listen to the negative messages you give yourself. Rephrase those negative comments to make them positive.
- Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Make time for things that you find enjoyable. Reward yourself for a job well done. Remember your achievements.
- Ask for support. Improving your mental health sometimes means seeking help from others. Talk with your family, friends, or get some mental health counseling to help you improve your self-esteem.