5 tips for optimal mental health
Stress, depression and anxiety are on the increase in our fast-paced modern society. A study of over two million Americans from 2001 to 2010 found that the use of mental health medications increased by 22% in just that short period. In fact, 1 in 5 adults now uses at least one type of antidepressant, antipsychotic, ADHD drug or antianxiety treatment.
While prescription medications can undoubtedly make the difference between life and death for many of us, others may find at least partial relief by addressing imbalances that have crept into our lives. Certainly it is a difficult, never ending juggling act to balance work, relaxation, diet, exercise, family and spiritual activities. Yet, allowing any single thing to consume you will throw your life and mental well-being off balance.
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There are many tips that I want to share with you on how to optimize your mental well-being, but I have chosen to include just five of my personal favorites. By making these few lifestyle changes you may be able to move closer to your health and happiness goals.
- Be social and connect - connect with the people around you, with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors, at home, work or in your local community. Social relationships are critical to our well-being.
- Get active - exercise has been shown to improve mood and has been used successfully to reduce depression and anxiety. Look for exercise that you enjoy. Mix it up so that you don't stop out of boredom. If you prefer group activities, try yoga. Participate regularly in physical activity at the level of your fitness.
- Be a lifelong learner - learning keeps us youthful at any age. It encourages social interaction and increases self esteem and feelings of competency. Taking classes or learning something new gives you something positive to talk about with your friends and family.
- Give and receive - there are so many ways a person can give of themselves to others. You can practice "random acts of kindness," thanking someone, smiling, volunteering your time, and getting involved with your local community. These positive experiences contribute to a sense of mental well-being.
- Be grateful in the moment - the ability to be present in each moment is a major component to mental wellness. Try this exercise: Focus your attention on the chair you are sitting on. Look around you and become aware of your surroundings. Take a deep breath and center yourself. Feel the sensations of touch; listen and be aware of the sounds in the room. Now think of all the reasons you have to be grateful. You can literally feel your mood shift.
Personal mental well-being does not happen by itself - however, we can each choose to take steps to optimize this part of our lives. As Mother Teresa once said, "Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."
Judy Ellison, Ph.D., is a psychologist, author and motivational speaker. She has inspired people around the world to reach within and find their passionate purpose to live a more meaningful life.