Improving Your Mental Health

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Kevin Mangelschots

Considering how at odds modern society and culture are with humans’ natural evolutionary tendencies as primates, it’s not surprising that most humans grapple with mental health issues.

According to scientific studies, urban dwellers are at much higher risk for anxiety disorders, depression, and schizophrenia. Most people just deal with everyday annoyances, insecurities, neuroses, and fears. Often, these build to the point that they seem overwhelming.

However, there are simple ways to improve one’s mental health and maintain a more positive outlook. 

Start with the body

Food has more impact on your brain than you may realize.

According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, a diet high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat can increase the risk of depression by 80%. Minimizing or eliminating sugar and eating nutrient-dense foods such as kale and spinach will go far toward promoting better mental health. 

And don’t forget to exercise. Scientific research demonstrates that aerobic exercise such as running, cycling, and simply walking can reduce depression and anxiety.

Get outdoors

The early primate ancestors of humans evolved in a forest environment. It should then come as little surprise that being in nature helps mental health. Science has confirmed this as well: Several studies show that time spent outdoors in a natural setting reduces anxiety and depression.

Try exploring a national park or going to a nearby green space and sitting under a tree. Or, bring some nature inside with houseplants. According to researchers at the University of British Columbia, these work almost as well. 

Adopt companion animals

Animals are also part of nature, even when they’re domesticated. In the late 1980s, researchers found that even a few minutes spent interacting with a dog or cat resulted in a lower heart rate, reduced blood pressure, slower respiration, and all-around greater relaxation.

Pets can also be designated as official emotional support animals that can legally stay with you at all times. Ask a mental health professional about certification requirements. 

Reach out to others

Many mental health issues are due to isolation. Humans are clan animals who need connections with others.

Get out and interact with others by joining a social group or volunteering with an organization for a cause that resonates with you. Even your local library or school district will have numerous opportunities for volunteer work. 

 Pursue Your Passions 

It’s difficult to maintain a positive outlook when you’re longing to create art or tell stories, but you spend eight to nine hours each day engaged in a high-pressure corporate job or up to your neck in domestic chores.

Yet, spending even an hour a day dedicated to something you’re passionate about can help maintain mental health. 

If this is not an option, perhaps it is time to consider a change of career. This may mean returning to school for training and/or a new degree. The good news is that modern online degree programs make learning much easier than it was in your parents’ day. You progress at your own rate, working around family and job commitments. As long as the institution is accredited and tuition rates are reasonable, this can be an excellent step toward improved mental health. 

Better mental health does not necessarily require expensive treatment, especially when you pay attention to your psychological and emotional state. Become aware of and acknowledge your own feelings, note your emotional triggers, take care of your physical health, and, as William Shakespeare advised, “To thine own self be true.” 

Guest author bio

Julia knew from a young age she wanted to have a career that made her excited to wake up every day.

Now in a top-level position with a financial services firm, she’s got her dream job alongside multiple side-income entrepreneurial ventures. You can check her out at http://outspiration.net/ where she blogs alongside her peers.