Let’s close out Mental Health Month with a look at some ways to live a full, healthy, joyful life. Here are ten suggestions.
1. Connect with others: Your friend gets your joke. Your co-worker offers congrats. Your spouse hugs you hello. They are all helping you bust stress and boost well-being. In fact, Mental Health America found that 71 percent of people surveyed turned to friends or family in times of stress. We are created for fellowship with God and with one another. We crave feeling supported, valued and connected.
2. Stay Positive: It helps to be able to detect danger. But our worry-filled thoughts can present dangers of their own: Thinking negatively can drag down our moods, our actions and even our health. Experts say it's worthwhile—and possible—to learn how to think more positively. Consider what researchers found about the benefits of staying positive: People who were pessimistic had a nearly 20 percent higher risk of dying over a 30-year period than those who were optimistic. People who kept track of their gratitude once a week were more upbeat and had fewer physical complaints than others. People who obsessively repeated negative thoughts and behaviors were able to change their unhealthy patterns—and their brain activity actually changed too. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
3. Get active: Pump up your resolve by considering that exercise can:
• prevent heart disease and high blood pressure
• lower your risk for stroke, osteoporosis, colon cancer and diabetes
• improve your sleep
• increase your energy
• decrease some kinds of pain
• boost your immune system
• help with weight management
• Exercise matters for your mood too. Millions of people have found it:
• decreases stress, anger and tension
• reduces anxiety and depression
• offers a greater sense of well-being
It's not clear exactly how exercise boosts mood, but experts say it:
• relieves pent-up muscle tension
• stimulates feel-good hormones
• burns off stress hormones
4. Help Others: If you lug your elderly neighbor's groceries up her steps, clearly it's good for her. But did you know that it's likely good for you too? Research indicates that those who consistently help other people experience less depression, greater calm, fewer pains and better health. They may even live longer. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
5. Get enough sleep: Sleep may seem like a waste of time. You could instead be answering e-mail, doing the dishes, repairing the deck or decking the halls. But research shows that you're more likely to succeed at your tasks—and enjoy greater well-being—if you get some serious shuteye.
Of course, it's not easy to sleep when you're feeling overwhelmed. In fact, nearly two-thirds of Americans say they lose sleep because of stress. That's especially unfortunate because sleep combats some of the fallout of stress, and poor sleep has been linked to significant problems, including:
• greater risk of depression and anxiety
• increased risk of heart disease and cancer
• impaired memory
• reduced immune system functioning
• weight gain
• greater likelihood of accidents
6. Create joy and satisfaction: Studies show that:
• Laughing decreases pain, may help your heart and lungs, promotes muscle relaxation and can reduce anxiety.
• Positive emotions can decrease stress hormones and build emotional strength.
• Leisure activities offer a distraction from problems, a sense of competence and many other benefits. For example, twins who participated in leisure activities were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or dementia than their fellow twins in one study.
7. Eat well. Mom was right: You've got to eat well to function well. Just in case you didn't gobble up Mom's wisdom, here are some useful tidbits.
Among other benefits, good food can:
• boost your energy
• lower the risk of developing certain diseases
• provide fuel to your brain
• counteract the impact of stress on your body
• affect mood-related body chemicals
In an unhappy twist, good nutrition can help at times of stress, but that's exactly when lots of us tend to eat less well. According to a recent survey nearly half of Americans overeat or eat unhealthy food to cope with stress. In fact, it's not just that we're seeking creamy comfort—our stress hormones actually give us the munchies.
Still, if you follow some reasonable guidelines you may be able to reduce your stress and promote your overall health and well-being.
8. Take care of your spirit: You may be thinking, what in Heaven's name does it mean to "take care of your spirit"?
For lots of people, being spiritual means observing rituals, studying texts and attending religious services, or just “being religious.” For others, it's not at all about traditional structures or concepts of God. You can think of spirituality as connecting to whatever you consider meaningful and holy. You can find it in God, in yourself, in other people, in nature, art or kindness. “The Kingdom of God is within you.” Whatever you focus on, spirituality offers many possible benefits, including better mood, less anxiety and depression-and even fewer aches and illnesses. “Now the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace…”
Spirituality can provide a:
• reassuring belief in a greater force or being
• sense of purpose and meaning
• focus on your own or universal wisdom
• way to understand suffering
• connection with others
• reminder of the good in the world
Consider some of the science on religion and spirituality:
• People who pray and meditate have increased activity in a "feel-good" area of the brain
• People with strong religious beliefs recovered faster from heart surgery than people with weaker faith
• People who didn't attend religious services died significantly younger than those who attended more than once a week
Why the connection between spirituality and health? It seems spirituality cuts the stress that so often triggers disease. For better health and well being in this life consider the things that are eternal.
9. Deal better with hard times: At some point in our lives, most of us will face times that are extra stressful or that even shake us to our core. At those times, having strong coping strategies can make a huge difference.
Of course, exercising, focusing on your spiritual life and getting enough rest—and all the other Live Your Life Well tools—can be great supports in difficult situations. Other techniques can be particularly useful in dealing with tough times.
The research shows that:
• People who spent time writing about a difficult event had better health and less depression. Writers' grades even improved, and they found jobs more quickly
• People facing stress felt less depressed after problem-solving
• People who often focus on the positives in their lives are less upset by difficult memories
10. Get professional help if you need it: If the problems in your life are stopping you from functioning well or feeling good, professional help can make a big difference. And if you're having trouble, know that you are not alone: One in four adults in this country have a mental health problem in any given year.
If you or someone you know is feeling especially bad or suicidal, get help right away. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center or dial 911 for immediate assistance.
Of course, you don't have to be in crisis to seek help. Why wait until you're really suffering? Even if you're not sure that you'd benefit from help, it can't hurt to explore the possibility.
A mental health professional can help you:
• come up with plans for solving problems
• feel stronger in the face of challenges
• change behaviors that hold you back
• look at ways of thinking that affect how you feel
• heal pains from your past
• figure out your goals
• build self-confidence
Most people who seek help feel better. For example, more than 80 percent of people treated for depression improve. Treatment for panic disorders has up to a 90 percent success rate. Treatment for a mental health issue can include medication and psychotherapy. In some cases, the two work well together.
For an in depth look at these suggestions, check out: http://www.nmha.org/go/live-your-life-well
Disclaimer: Facts in these articles are obtained from medical and clinical journals, scientific publications, and published trade books. These articles are written and published strictly for information purposes. Consult your health care provider for your specific medical needs. For any questions, comments or suggestions contact Maryella at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.maryellajuiceplus.com