Top 5 Lifestyle Factors That Affect Your Mental Health
It’s time to address the 5 lifestyle factors that most commonly influence the status of your mental health. We’ve all heard about the importance of these before – but this time I have included tips on how to balance these lifestyle factors as well as resources to follow for more information!
Just like what you eat effects your physical health, it effects your mental health equally! To help prevent symptoms of mental illness, ensuring you take care of your body by eating and drinking the right things can be the simplest and most effective option!
- Foods that are rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids will improve your mood and are proven to lift symptoms of depression and anxiety. If you hate fish (like I do) supplements are a great way to make sure you get enough of theses fatty acids – avocadoes are great too!
- Be sure not to skip breakfast and try to include lots of protein and nutrients into the first meal of the day to jump start your metabolism. For lunch, avoid foods that are high in sugar, sticking to a diet that is vegetable, fruit, and nut based.
- 8 glasses of water each day is vital to preventing dehydration which causes cloudiness of the mind and mood changes.
- Sarah Wilson, writer of “First, We Make the Beast Beautiful” and blogger/writer of “I Quit Sugar” advocates for substituting sugar for organic, non-processed foods. Benefits include increased energy, increased motivation, less snacking, more willpower, and reduced anxiety, and increased creativity!
- Avoid coffee and other forms of caffeine in access – it is known to trigger panic attacks!
This is what being a Recreational Therapist is all about! Participating in activities that you enjoy and find meaningful is so important to improve your overall quality of life and satisfaction within it. If you find it hard to make time to do ‘fun’ things or don’t find yourself enjoying what you used to, remember:
- Keep an open mind – try new activities, sports, hobbies, exercises, etc!
- Contact the recreation center in your city to find out what programs they offer – often times they are free or at least offered at a discounted price for city members.
- Join a new club – a book club, exercise club, gardening club, Mom’s club, Dad’s club, golf club, or whatever interests you! Clubs and organizations are a perfect way to meet new people and find people with similar interests.
- Don’t force connections that aren’t there – if you are finding that a social group isn’t for you, there are many other ones! Don’t stop trying.
- If social activities just really aren’t your thing (and you have given it an honest try), at minimum make sure you find a hobby or activity you can do independently that you find happiness in – reading, writing, blogging, designing, decorating, exercising, researching, etc. Note: Having both independent and social activities you enjoy is important!
Lack of sleep largely influences mental health by increasing fatigue, lack of interest, headaches, mood shifts, and irritability. Most health professionals recommend 7-9 hours of sleep. To make sure you get enough sleep:
- Go to bed at a consistent time every night – this helps to establish a routine.
- Wake up at a consistent time! Even on your days off. This will boost productivity and of course helps you get into that routine. It might take a week or so to get used to, but after a couple weeks you will feel much more energized.
- Set alarms – and don’t snooze them (the challenging part).
- Don’t over sleep! Doing this will throw off your sleep pattern and cause you to feel more tired.
- Avoid watching TV or scrolling through your phone in bed – this encourages your brain to ‘stay on’ and makes it more difficult to rest. Instead, get into the habit of showering, reading a book, meditating, journaling, or writing before bed. Not only with these activities help you sleep, but they also empty out any left over emotions from the day that might interfere with your sleep as well.
Relationships and Support Systems
Having a support system is one of the best ways to keep mental health in control! Whether it’s a family member, a friend, a counselor, a doctor, a co-worker, or anyone else – it’s important to have people established as reliable and compassionate in order to be able to turn to them when you are in need.
- Have a balance of professional and non-professional supports.
- Communicate your needs and wants appropriately and effectively.
- Set boundaries and establish how often you want to be in contact.
- Ask your supports how they are doing also – avoid only contacting them when you need something; this ensures that the relationship is healthy and strong on both ends.
- Make plans to see one another ahead of time – this will also give you something to look forward to and will hold each of you accountable.
Resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ from difficult or adverse situations. Being able to master resilience is key to having a healthy mental lifestyle. Ways to build up resilient techniques is to:
- Encourage positivity
- Learn from mistakes instead of dwelling on them
- Practice self-care daily
- Be vulnerable with your support system
- Find the humor and light in every situation
- Avoid taking things personally
- Remember all of your past achievements and accomplishments.