Mental health affects emotional and physical health. A mentally healthy person is able to manage stress and emotions, balance personal life, work, family, and interpersonal relationships.
A disturbed mind makes a person an easy prey to disease and illness. Maintaining a healthy state of mind lessens the possibility of triggering an infection, worsening disease and reduces the risk of age-related diseases.
Here are 4 Practical Ways to Improve Your Mental Health.
1. Improve Your Diet.
The foods you eat affect your brain functions. Certain nutrients and vitamins are involved in the production of important neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals which control many cognitive functions such as memory, concentration, focus and moods. When the levels of neurotransmitters are either low or too high, it can lead to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, memory loss, ADHD and addictive behaviors.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that produces serotonin which is a neurotransmitter. An imbalance of serotonin level can lead to anxiety, depression and paranoia.
So to maintain and improve mental health, ensure that you eat adequate amount of foods that contain tryptophan such as turkey, shrimp, tuna, halibut, calf liver, venison, asparagus, soybeans and sardines.
Besides those mentioned, eat foods such as cod, crab, oysters, tuna, salmon, sardines, beef, turkey, chicken, walnuts, almonds, peanut butter, cheese, soy products and eggs. These foods provide your body with phenylalanine. Phenylalanine converts to tyrosine and is involved in the synthesis of a neurotransmitter called dopamine.
Dopamine affects motivation, emotional response, focus, memory and muscle coordination. Aging depletes dopamine and it is one of the causes of Parkinson’s disease.
Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are linked to ADHD, behavioral problems, sleep disturbances, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. By eating foods such as flaxseeds, walnuts, sardines and salmon, you can improve your brain health and reduce the risk of mental illness.
Your diet should also include high antioxidant foods such as fruits and vegetables to prevent radical damage to the brain cells. Foods such as asparagus, wheat germ, sesame seeds, broccoli, sprouts and peanuts contain folic acid and they may help improve memory. Beside folic acid, vitamins and minerals that enhance mental health and brain functions include niacin or vitamin B3, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, iron, copper and selenium.
2. Get Physically Active
Doing aerobic exercises such as aerobic dancing, brisk walking, bicycling, jogging and running stimulates the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain to release endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that bring about the feeling of pleasure and they act as natural pain relievers.
Physical exercise also increases the release of dopamine. Dopamine improves mood, energy, alertness and muscle coordination. Doing regular aerobic exercise may also help prevent or slow down age related cognitive decline.
One of the major causes of depression is low levels of serotonin. Studies found that doing aerobic exercise has similar effect as taking the popular antidepressant known as SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. SSRIs are prescribed as mood boosters to treat depression.
Doing physical exercise increases oxygen flow to the brain. It helps reduce tension, stress, mental fatigue and improve sleep. Studies also found that exercise increases the growth or new brain cells. Exercise may reduce the risk of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Make Lifestyle Changes
If you want to maintain or improve your mental well-being choose a healthy lifestyle. Stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Reduce your intake of coffee and caffeinated beverages.
Find ways to relax in order to reduce your stress level and get enough sleep. Lack of sleep and taking unhealthy substances reduce the levels of dopamine and serotonin in your brain.
It is also very important to develop healthy relationships. Being in a bad relationship or isolating yourself can trigger mental health problems.
Volunteering and participating in group activities or programs will provide you with the opportunity to connect with other people and make new friends.
In addition to developing a bond with other people, choose a healthy living and working environment. Learn to love your job or do something that you feel passionate about. Set your priorities right so that you can balance your work, family and personal life, and reduce stress.
Developing an optimistic attitude and a positive outlook about life and people will also improve your mental health. Having dreams and goals to work towards will keep your inspired and achieving them will improve your confidence and self esteem.
4. Do Relaxation Exercise
Doing relaxation exercise such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation or yoga is good for your body and your mind. It reduces stress and tension.
The other benefit of relaxation exercise is it alters your brainwave frequency which helps raise the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain.
This is why it is strongly recommended that you breathe deeply when you feel angry or upset.
By altering your brainwave frequency from the beta level to alpha or theta, you are able to change your state of mind and change your mood and focus of attention.
You got to pay attention to your mental health because it affects other areas in your life.