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In the era of multiple jobs, side hustles and non-stop social connectivity, many of us don’t take the time to even acknowledge our own feelings. Personally, I know I’ve become so accustomed to this lifestyle, that my idea of “relaxation” consists of a hot bath and a scented candle, accompanied by a self-help book. As we rush through the days, we miss out on the chance to have real connections. In times like this, it’s important that we take time to reconnect with each other and ourselves. Learn how to invest in yourself, your mental health might just count on it!


 

October 10th is World Mental Health Day, a day that affects each and every one of us. You may think that mental health doesn’t affect you because you don’t suffer from a mental illness. But by definition, mental health refers to your state of well-being, emotionally, psychologically, and socially. It determines how we act as human beings – affecting our decision making, how we behave socially and react to situations.

Just like we each have our physical health, all of us also have our mental health to care for. Though not all of us will be personally affected by mental illness, we can always look for ways to improve our mental health. We want tothrive, to enjoy life, have strong relationships, a purpose, and be able to manage our emotional highs and lows. Also, by learning how to help ourselves, we can better help others too, it’s a win-win! 

So, the question is how can we truly work on ourselves to improve our mental health? Well I love a face mask and a bubble bath as much as the next person, but unless it’s done in a strategic way, self-care practices aren’t enough to truly help us sort through our emotions. In light of World Mental Health day on the 10th of October (which is the also 10th month), I found it only appropriate to put together 10 tips to help you improve your mental wellness routine:

  1. Check-in and be honest with yourself

In times when you can feel yourself having intense emotions, take a few minutes to check-in with yourself and try to understand where these feelings come from. When we can be honest with ourselves and accept our feelings, it brings us that much closer to working through them. One way to do this is to schedule some “think time.” Essentially, you put aside a few minutes each day to reflect on any problems or worries weighing you down instead of letting them build up. 

When I realize that I’m in an emotionalfunk, I can pull myself out once I can work through the emotions behind that feeling. Once the problem is identified, I feel a sense of empowerment and purpose, and I feel equipped to deal with it. It’s a great first step, and it’s easy! Try it!

  1. Establish a routine 

Okay, yes, I know, establishing a “routine” as a cure for any imaginable mental agony, is not news to anyone. BUT, it is such a popular remedy for a reason, it actually does work. Personally, I’ve never been good at establishing a routine, but I recently got a puppy who wakes me up each morning at 7 AM. At first I hated it, and now I’ve come to love the mornings, and I feel more energized than ever.

Our everyday lives can be unpredictable and anxiety-provoking, especially in today’s climate (amirite!). That’s why having a routine is extremely helpful, it anchors you, and steadies your mind and thoughts. I’m not saying that you have to make a routine and follow it relentlessly, but establishingelements of a routine is a great place to start. It can be as simple as ensuring you eat meals at the same time each day, or incorporating a daily nature walk before beginning your work day. Work up to it, Rome wasn’t built in a day!

  1. Be Thankful

With thanksgiving around the corner, it’s only fitting to highlight gratitude. Giving thanks is a powerful thing, and often not something we do enough.Gratitude has been shown to improve your mood and wellbeing, helping you move past the feelings of frustration and resentment that can arise in a competitive world. Oprah once said, and I quote: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough”. This speaks truth on so many levels, it’s a quote I’ve come to live by, hopefully it can help you too!

  1. Acknowledge & celebrate the wins

Take the time to celebrate the wins in your life, regardless of how large or small they are. Your win of the day can be as simple as eating dinner before 8pm, or keeping your cool when dealing with your work enemy. Acknowledging small, daily wins is a definite must. It’s validating, and can keep you feeling motivated and uplifted on a day-to-day basis. 

  1. Journal

Journalling can be one way that you check-in with yourself on a regular basis. Sometimes you just can’t articulate how you’re feeling, and more times than not, journaling can help you get in touch with yourself. It’s also a great way to chronicle your life, which can be fun and useful to reflect on. Go buy yourself a cute journal and a nice pen, and get to it!

  1. Get social

Human beings are social animals, we are hard-wired biologically to connect with each other. When we are out of connection and socially isolated, we suffer. On the flip side, connecting with friends can reduce stress and give us a sense of purpose and belonging. While things are different this year, taking the time to socialize with friends is more important than ever before. 

Make time to socialize, even if you have to add it into your google calendar! Some other tips to get more social are: going for a walk with a friend, scheduling a phone or video call, or even joining a virtual community. Reach out to others, we’re in this together friends!

  1. Get those steps in! 

Again, I know, it’s been said before, but hear me out! Exercise is consideredvital for mental fitness. In fact,regular exercise has proven to be just as powerful as medicationsin relieving stress induced by anxiety and depression. Also it’s important to know that you don’t need to have an extensive routine to achieve these benefits.  Ten minutes of briskwalking or meditating while walking can help to improve your mood, with effects lasting for hours. 

This isn’t a cure-all method, nothing truly is. Just as medications work for most, but not all people, this is the same notion. Regular exercise might not work for everyone, but it’s still good for you and there’s no harm in trying!

  1. Give back

Research shows us time and time again that by giving to others, you give to yourself. Whether you volunteer your time, do a random act of kindness, or donate to a cause you're passionate about, helping others will boost your mental wellbeing. Our communities need us more than ever. Find out where you can help, in whatever capacity you can. 

  1. Develop resilience

Resilience is what helps you bounce back from a setback or challenge. It gives you the inner strength and ability to adapt to different situations. When stress or adversity strikes, you will still experience all of the feelings it may bring, but resiliency allows you to continue functioning. It is also known to enhance your mental health and even protect from mental illness. 

Some tips to improve your resilience are to: develop a strong support system and use it, learn from experience, turn to problem-solving, and remain hopeful where you can. It might be cliché, but we will all experience hardship, and how we can adapt and manage our negative emotions, is what will set us apart. 

  1. Fuel your body

Eating well isn’t just good for your physical health, it can promote mental wellness too! Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables is associated with greater wellbeing. 

Part of this is attributed to thegut-brain connection. Our gut is home to over a hundred trillion microbes, called the ‘gut microbiota’. These microbes are responsible for making and storing over 95% of our body’s serotonin, the happy hormone, which is associated with mental wellbeing. The gut is also home to millions of nerve cells which are directly connected to the brain via the gut-brain axis. This axis is known to affect communication between the gut and the brain, and our mental health.

Therefore eating a variety of high fibre foods, like fruits and vegetables, is a step in the right direction. These fibers are the main source of energy for our gut, and are essential for our overall health. Something that I’ve done recently is add blueberries and Holy Crap Natural cereal to my greek yogurt. Holy Crap cereals are full of soluble and prebiotic fibers to keep your gut happy, and you happy too! 

 

If you’re looking to boost your mental health, try incorporating some, or all, of these tips into your life. Remember that although mental health problems may be common, help is always available, and many are extremely treatable. Tough times don’t last, but tough people, like me and you, do. It’s 2020, so be sure to wash your hands and invest in your mental health! 

 



References

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2020). Mental health: What is it, really? Retrieved from:https://cmha.ca/blogs/mental-health-what-is-it-really

Cooney, G. M., Dwan, K., Greig, C. A., Lawlor, D. A., Rimer, J., Waugh, F. R., McMurdo, M., & Mead, G. E. (2013). Exercise for depression.The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (9), CD004366.https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD004366.pub6

Edwards, M. K., Rosenbaum, S., & Loprinzi, P. D. (2018). Differential Experimental Effects of a Short Bout of Walking, Meditation, or Combination of Walking and Meditation on State Anxiety Among Young Adults.American journal of health promotion, 32(4), 949–958.https://doi.org/10.1177/0890117117744913

Edwards, M. K., & Loprinzi, P. D. (2018). Experimental effects of brief, single bouts of walking and meditation on mood profile in young adults.Health promotion perspectives,8(3), 171–178.https://doi.org/10.15171/hpp.2018.23

Lawton, R.N., Gramatki, I., Watt, W.et al. (2020). Does volunteering make us happier, or are happier people more likely to volunteer? Addressing the problem of reverse causality when estimating the wellbeing impacts of volunteering.Journal ofHappiness Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-020-00242-8

Liang, S., Wu, X., & Jin, F. (2018). Gut-brain psychology: Rethinking psychology from the microbiota-gut-brain axis.Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 12, 33. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2018.00033

UC Davis Health. (2015). Gratitude is good medicine. Retrieved from:https://health.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/features/2015-2016/11/20151125_gratitude.html