Mental health is a topic that is largely spoken about today. Through the news, blogs, TV shows, movies, and ads; mental health is something we are constantly reminded to be aware of.
According to Queensland Health, mental health encompasses your emotional, psychological, and social well-being1. It influences cognition, behaviour, and perception – it also determines how an individual handles stress, relationships, and decision-making2.
In a nutshell, mental health impacts almost everyone… just in different ways.
Many factors of mental health you cannot control, such as experiences, trauma, genetics, and history. It determines how you react to situations, interact with others, and make appropriate decisions.
However, there are multiple elements of mental health that you can control. If one takes care of their mental well-being it can lead to:
- Reduced anxiety
- Clearer thinking
- Deeper connections and relationships
- Improved self-esteem and confidence
- Improved mood
As you can see, mental health can impact everything about you and your environment. Caring for your mental health can be done by making lifestyle habits that are easy to adapt to, but ultimately make a huge difference in your day-to-day life.
Here are our 7-weekday habits that will support, and over time improve mental health and wellbeing.
- Build and work on your relationships
Humans are social beings; we enjoy companionship. Strong relationships have a positive influence on our mental health in various ways1. Relationships can ease feelings of loneliness, add meaning/purpose to our lives, and allow for emotional support.
It is important to put effort into your relationships, some things you could do include1:
- Keep in touch by checking in, a quick text or a phone call.
- Organise a weekly sunrise walk.
- Facetime weekly if busy schedules collide.
- Send either funny videos or memories of each other.
All you need to do is show that you are thinking of them, show that you care and in return, you have them in your circle. Putting effort into your relationships is crucial when looking at your mental health. We all need a shoulder to cry on occasionally, or another perspective. Put the effort in now, it will be worth it down the track.
- Get good quality sleep as much as possible
Inadequate sleep is extremely common in today’s world; anything less than 9-10 hours for children and anything less than 8 hours for adults is inadequate. A study conducted in 2016 highlights that mental health tends to worsen over time when inadequate sleep is present3.
Good quality sleep is multifactorial and comes as a result of good sleep planning, natural ingredients or hygiene. Tips to improve your sleep include:
Maintain a regular sleep schedule: Keeping your circadian rhythm regular, even on weekends can be hard to do but highly beneficial. Aim for an average of 8 hours of quality sleep a night. You shouldn’t need an alarm clock to wake up if you get to bed 8 hours before you need to wake up. Your body will be its own alarm clock, all you need to do is make sure you are consistent.
Add magnesium in your food or take supplements: A magnesium deficiency (which is found in 75 – 90% of Australians) can lead to sleepless nights. While there are plenty of magnesium-rich foods you can eat naturally, adding a supplement can help jump-start your levels and improve your sleep. In fact, one study in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences found that magnesium supplements improved insomnia and sleep efficiency4. Just one serve of 300 mg before bed will help you not only relax and drift off to sleep but have you waking to feel rested and refreshed.’
However, it needs to be noted that mental health can also be the cause of poor sleep. Changes to your sleep environment and nighttime routine might not be the ‘fix’ to your restlessness1. If you have tried small changes at home and your sleep is still inadequate, there are sleep therapists that may be a helpful next step. Having good quality sleep may be the best solution to helping negative headspaces.
- Move your body, in your own way.
Whether it is a walk, yoga, HITT session, light jog, hiking, or even stretching – all movement of the body is better than nothing. Exercise offers a range of mental health benefits; it relieves stress, lifts mood (hormones), helps have deep sleep and helps manage symptoms of depression and anxiety1.
You don’t have to do an intense workout to support mental health, moving your body is all it takes. Release tension in the body and let out any negativity. For example, stretching will help with blood flow and get more oxygen through your body, this will release hormones to make you feel relaxed and happy1.
- Know when to rest
The term ‘rest’ varies from person to person, knowing when it is needed is up to the individual. Whether is it physical rest or mental unwinding – when your body needs rest, it will tell you.
Science has highlighted how stress and mental fog are a result of not listening to the body’s demands5. The inability to rest your body and mind is nowadays more detrimental to a person’s mental health than being overworked5.
Listen to what your body is telling you. If you are struggling to wake up for the gym more than usual, your body is wanting that extra rest. Evidence shows that not listening to your body when it needs rest, can influence the onset and progress of mental health problems5.
- Restrict social media usage.
Social media has become one of the most detrimental triggers for mental illnesses. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others which unintentionally promotes anxiety, depression, low self-worth, anger, and jealousy. Studies have revealed that social media use is tied to negative mental health outcomes, including suicidality, loneliness and decreased empathy6.
Small habits that can ultimately build a healthier relationship with social media include.
- Turn off notifications, put sleep move on when asleep.
- After 5 pm, put your phone on limit social mode – to restrict social media usage.
- Keep your phone on charge outside of your room, (for eg: in the kitchen) overnight.
- Make a small list of alternative activities that you can do instead of scrolling. For example, get into reading or journaling.
All these small habits will improve your relationship with social media, but they will also improve your stress, anxiety, sleep, and happiness significantly.
- Enjoy nutrient-rich foods
Mental health is commonly associated with food, what we can and can’t have.
However, certain foods can directly impact your mental health as they worsen common symptoms1. Some include:
- Refined carbs
- Added sugars
There are some nutrient-rich foods that have mood-boosting nutrients in them to help support improved mental health. Some include:
- Blueberries, strawberries & raspberries
- Whole grains
- Fatty fish, like salmon
It is important to fuel your body every day with nutrient-rich foods. An easy way to implement this into your life is through supplements. A supplement containing organic greens and “Superfoods” may provide the essential vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and more to fight stress-inducing free radicals, detoxify your body, reduce inflammation, and support your immune system. Super green supplements are easy, delicious, and affordable. However, what your body craves the most and needs, is water.
When your body is dehydrated, you are denying your body the nutrients it needs to operate and function at an optimal level1. When you are dehydrated, your reactions, emotions and responsiveness are all heightened. This means your mental health may be enhanced due to a lack of water. It is recommended for men to have 3.7 litres of water and 2.7 litres for women, to stay hydrated daily7.
- Seconds for Sunshine
Studies have found that sunshine plays a significant role in lifting one’s mood. The sun is a great source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D in the brain has been shown to relieve symptoms of depression8.
Standing under the blue skies for just 5 minutes a day can do your mind and body wonders. If you find yourself indoors most of the day, maybe you work in an office? Taking a few minutes to step outside and take a quick walk, sit in your backyard, or even just stand where there is fresh air; will make a huge difference in your day. If you can’t find the time, try opening a window nearby for fresh air, eating lunch under the sun or doing your morning exercise outside.
Fresh air and sunshine will center your mind and body, appreciating what is around you. It is proven that Vitamin D daily will indeed improve mental stress, anxiety, and depression over time8.
Make this a daily habit and over time this practice will reward you.
These 7-weekday habits are strategies to help improve mental well-being, they cannot ‘cure’ mental health illnesses1. However, these habits can be powerful when improving mental well-being and overall happiness.
Your mental well-being is a big part of who you are, and the quality of your life. Mental health tends to be triggered by events/things that are out of your control. By adopting small, effortless habits daily you will promote greater wellness within yourself.
If your mental health does not improve, you can always consider professional support. You do not have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to get the help you deserve.
Disclaimer: The above article is merely a guide and is in no way a recommendation or a treatment protocol for any health conditions or diseases. You should always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before changing your supplement, training or nutritional strategy. Supplementation should not be attempted by pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone on prescription medication or children under the age of 15 unless advised by your qualified health care provider
1Tartakovsky, M. (2022, May 2). 8 daily habits for Improved Mental Health. Healthline. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/habits-to-improve-mental-health
2Queensland Government. (n.d.). Dear mind. Your Mental Wellbeing. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://mentalwellbeing.initiatives.qld.gov.au/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIkIiKw8ek-gIVfZJmAh2--A71EAAYASAAEgLcMfD_BwE
3Milojevich, H.M. and Lukowski, A.F., 2016. Sleep and mental health in undergraduate students with generally healthy sleep habits. PloS one, 11(6), p.e0156372.
4Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghniiat, K., Shirazi, M.M., Hedayati, M. and Rashidkhani, B., 2012. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 17(12), p.1161.
5Lundberg, U., 2003. Psychological stress and musculoskeletal disorders: psychobiological mechanisms. Lack of rest and recovery greater problem than workload. Lakartidningen, 100(21), pp.1892-1895.
6Berryman, C., Ferguson, C.J. & Negy, C. Social Media Use and Mental Health among Young Adults. Psychiatr Q 89, 307–314 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11126-017-9535-6
7Sawka, M.N., Cheuvront, S.N. and Carter, R., 2005. Human water needs. Nutrition reviews, 63(suppl_1), pp.S30-S39.
8Nutrition Reviews, Volume 67, Issue 8, 1 August 2009, Pages 481–492, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00220.x