What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor and more unashamed conversations.Glenn Close
During my media week in Kenya, I discussed, among other things, ways to optimise your mental health or wellbeing. A lot of people have asked for succinct, point by point, ways to improve or optimise your mental wellbeing.
Here are some suggestions, in no particular order, of course, you can be creative by modifying the suggestions to suit you as long as it’s beneficial to your mental wellbeing.
Eat a balanced diet.
Dietitians recommend incorporating a variety of colours in your fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Ensure your meal contains a protein source, starchy foods, fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy fats.
I heard the best practice to ensure a balanced healthy meal is:
1) to have on your plate 50% vegetables, 30% meat/protein and 20% starchy.
2) drink a glass of water at least 15 minutes before a meal.
3) wait at least 30 minutes after meals before drinking water
4) you can have a vitamin C based drink with your meal, it helps digestion.
5) Don’t wait until you are literally starving to eat a big meal – a few smaller meals are better than one large one.
6) Take a supplement e.g., vitamins or zinc
Healthy is the best practice for self-care which ultimately ensures optimal mental health.
Create a to-do-list
A few psychological studies have shown that people perform better when they write down what needs to be done.
A to-do list gives us structure in a plan we can stick to, and I’ve personally found that having a to-do list reduces my anxieties because I have a bird’s eye view of what needs to be done and in what priority.
There is joy and a sense of accomplishment when you cross things out and prove that some things got done or achieved.
Remember though to make it simple, avoid writing things like ‘mum’, ‘post’, be specific and add a little detail. The last thing you want is to write down a vague thing and then not have a clue what it was you needed to do. At the same time, your to-do list should be in smaller achievable one-liner chunks instead of the grim foreboding mountain that looks unachievable e.g., write a book is pretty scary, but outline chapter 1 is not too threatening.
Remember too to-do lists are goals and having goals in life help trigger new behaviours and guide or align your focus to promote a sense of self-mastery.
Complete an act of kindness
Extending kindness promotes empathy and compassion. Empathy and compassion are beneficial to mental health because they improve our sense of connectedness. The practice of doing random acts of kindness releases positivity in you and the recipient of your actions, and this will more than likely prompt the recipient to also do something nice to someone else. Random acts of kindness can be an unbroken chain, be part of it. Most times we perform acts of kindness without much thought, try being intentional and feel the difference.
It doesn’t have to be to a person, you can do something nice for the environment e.g., turning off the shower while you soap up. And always reduce, recycle, and reuse.
Research shows that the way you think about yourself has a powerful effect on how you feel. Affirmations is the art of using words that promote positive feelings of self-worth and personal power. It is also the way we perceive life, for example, think about these two sentences: –
Happiness leads to gratitude vs gratitude leads to happiness.
Affirmations are proven ways to self-improvement because they can rewire the brain – it takes practice and constant reminder, just like physical exercise.
Here are a few TiH suggestions: –
Today I am bursting with energy and overflowing with joy
I am the creator of my reality
My body is healthy, my mind is brilliant, and my soul is peaceful
I am superior to negative thoughts and bigger than any situation.
Celebrate wins and loses
Celebrate wins (big and small) and step into your greatness.
Not only is celebrating wins great for physical wellbeing, but it also reinforces a positive attitude that is great for emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Embrace the present moment by being mindful
Ruminating about the past or worrying about the future compounds insecurities, fuels fears, brings distractions, distorts expectations, and undermines hope. Show gratitude by embracing the present moment.
Practice mindfulness by savouring every moment and the things you do e.g., walks, eating or taking the shower.
When you read something inspiring, you flood your brain with positivity and uplifting concepts some of which comes with exercises and prompts you to get thinking about your choices. This brings forth an honest evaluation of your values and belief and a chance to judge if they serve your higher good. A daily dose of inspiration and motivation readings or quotes drives your exploration of your abilities and capabilities, your limitations, and ideas on how to deal with them. Reading does not have to be tied to your career.
Talking about issues that impact our lives is not easy but talking to a trusted friend makes the load lighter. You don’t even have to go deep, but talking is a great way to release any tension brought on by stressful events.
However, be mindful of who you think is a trusted confidant, there are people out there who pretend to care but all they do is gather information BBC style and use it against you which is overall detrimental to your emotional wellbeing.
Learn a skill
Research shows that learning a new skill improves overall mental health by boosting and enhancing your self-esteem, your sense of purpose and your connectedness with others.
However, be sure to learn a skill that’s exciting and that which brings you joy.
Social media detox
Taking time off social media reduces anxiety and it allows people to focus on themselves more than what others are up to.
Although the impact is small, taking frequent social media breaks and detox can over time improve your psychological wellbeing.
Count your blessings not your troubles.
There’s an ancient saying, that everybody should count at least 100 blessings every day. You can achieve this by taking inventory of all the reasons you are grateful – breathing, food, water, home, friends etc. Even if you count 10 blessings in a row, your positivity improves which leads to a happier life and better mental attitude.
Above all self-acceptance
Self-acceptance is about taking the rough with the smooth – embracing every part of you. Practising self-acceptance helps you realise all your qualities, good or bad and ease any feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and unhappiness. When we begin to accept ourselves as we are, and expressing gratitude for what we have, we set ourselves up for fulfilment and happiness. When we practice self-acceptance, we uncover hidden talents we may have overlooked when envying other people’s. Self-acceptance makes gratitude more meaningful and truthful.
The more you accept yourself, the more compassion and kindness you have for yourself and the more you will have for others.
Indulge in therapy when need be, it is the gym for your mental health. Book a session
Image – pixabay @pexels