October is mental health awareness month, so this month, I will be putting up a post every week to share my journey and help you on yours.
Today’s post is all about the habits you can follow for good mental health.
All of us have mental health, and it is essential to look after your mental health for life. It is not just for someone who has a mental disorder, but for everyone. It will be easier for someone who does not have a mental disorder to maintain mental health, but all of us can do it together.
Every small change that you make will lead to a healthier you. Here’s a list of habits you can adopt for good mental health.
1 – Sleep
Sleep is an essential part of having good mental and overall health. Research has found that adults need 8 hours of sleep every night regularly to function best during the day.
The time that you go to sleep is also critical. It is best to go to bed at around at 22:00 and get up between 5:00-6:00, this way you still get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, get a workout before work and be at work at 8:00 or 9:00. You should aim for 7 to 8 hours a night. If you only get to bed at 1:00 you are not getting the best quality sleep, and will likely end up feeling tired even after sleeping till 9:00 (so getting the 8 hours) – this is because you have missed a period of deep sleep that your body needs to be well-rested.
2 – Exercise & Diet
It seems obvious, but a lot of people neglect these two essential habits.
Your body needs a balanced diet filled with nutritious fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. You will get all of your nutrition by following a plant-based diet. It is good for the environment, and the animals will thank you for it. But if you do not see yourself giving up animal protein just yet, (and I admit I also struggle with giving it up) stick to lean meat and limit your fat intake, and ensure you get a lot of vegetables in your plate.
As far as exercise is concerned, it is recommended that you exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Changing small things makes a difference. Maybe walking to work, or parking a bit further away from the office, taking the stairs and taking a walk outside will all count towards the 30 minutes a day.
3 – Laugh
Make it a habit to laugh every day. It reduces our stress levels.
Find something funny on YouTube or Netflix (or anywhere else you can think of) or talk to a friend or family member that you know will lift your spirits and make you laugh.
4 – Talk to people
Talk to someone each day, don’t isolate yourself. Even if you talk to people online, it still counts as an interaction. Make an effort to meet a friend once a week or invite a friend over for coffee or a beer (any beverage really) and hang out a bit.
5 – Practice gratitude
Research has shown that practicing gratitude by writing three things you are grateful for at the end of each day, will lead you to see more things to be thankful for and put you in a positive frame of mind for sleeping and the next day. If we focus on being grateful, we become more positive in general.
6 – Let go of toxicity
Most of us have someone in our life that brings us down and makes our lives harder. It is perfectly okay to let go of those relationships. If it is an abusive, controlling, or toxic friendship or relationship, let go of it. You do this by communicating to them that you think you should go your separate ways. If you do not like confrontation, you can start by unfollowing them on social media and not communicating with them or even blocking their number if they are intrusive. If it is a family member that you have to see again, limit your contact with them during the times you do not need to see them and do not let them steal your joy.
7 – Spend time in the daylight
Spending time outside is very important, especially during winter, when there is limited daylight. When our skin gets into contact with sunlight, our bodies produce vitamin D, which boosts our mood by releasing endorphins and serotonin. You could practice two habits for good mental health by taking a brisk walk outside for 30 minutes – easy right!
8 – Acts of kindness
Doing things for others is fantastic for your self-esteem. You could write a good review, help someone across the street, volunteer at a charity, cook for a new mom, or go pick up shopping for someone in need.
9 – Being happy for other people
Stop comparing yourself to others and try to be happy for them instead. Remind yourself that we are all good at different things and celebrate their victories with them. It teaches you to be selfless.
10 – Make tasks and goals more achievable
When working towards something, use SMART goals.
Specific – be specific about what your goal is and avoid things like “I want to exercise” instead say “I want to start swimming laps in the pool at the gym,” and then work towards it.
Measurable – The goal has to be measurable “I will swim laps for 30 minutes in the pool five times a week”.
Achievable – your goal needs to be attainable for you. If you do not have access to a pool, then setting a goal to swim won’t help.
Realistic – you need to think about if your goal is realistic. Maybe you won’t be able to go swimming five days a week, but rather three times. Make it realistic, then the chance for failure is much less.
Timely – set a time for yourself of when you want to achieve the goal. For example, you might want to swim three times a week by the end of the month.
11 – Look out for signs
If you realise that you are having more bad days than good ones, make an appointment with a mental health professional, like a registered professional counsellor or psychologist.
Curious to see how good your mental health is? Try this quick test from the Mental Health Foundation to find out your good mental health score.