How to improve your mental health according to a health and wellness coach
More and more people are bringing awareness and paying attention to mental health. Many people openly speak about going to therapy, taking “mental health days” from work, and speaking up on the topic’s importance- all are great things! Many factors impact our mental well-being, but did you know that there are simple daily habits you can start developing and practicing today that significantly improve your mental and physical well-being and increase your success rates of making long-lasting changes?
It’s important to understand that mental health is health and so much more than the “absence of mental illness.” Daily practices can either enhance your mental well-being or contribute to its deterioration.
Here are four habits that can improve your mental well-being:
You can boost your mental health with a few small habits that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine:
1. Set up A.M. and P.M. routines
One health habit many overlook is sleep and activities around it. You know the saying “early to bed, early to rise, makes a (wo)man healthy, wealthy and wise”? Well, they were onto something! People who wake up early and around the same time daily have more alertness and improved immune system and report having better moods than those who have inconsistent wake-up and bedtimes. Waking up and going to bed around the same time helps your body establish and keep a healthy circadian rhythm, impacting your sleep cycle and hormones, eating habits, and nervous system.
What you do when you first wake up, and before you go to bed also matters. How you start the day sets the stage for the rest of the day. Incorporating 1-2 minutes of deep breathing upon waking helps keep stress at bay. Avoiding screen time and overstimulation just 30 minutes before bedtime improves sleep quality. Morning and evening routines do not have to be complex and elaborate to be beneficial. Start with what you can, and add as you go along.
2. Watch what you eat
The food we eat impacts our mood. Ever eat something greasy or super sugary, and not long after, start feeling meh? There's a reason for that—and it's time to start bringing awareness to how certain foods affect your mood. No, this doesn’t mean “go on a diet.” Complete meals with foods rich in nutrients have been shown to have positive effects on our well-being (that have nothing to do with fitness and weight management). Foods rich in Omega-3 Fats (think salmon, trout, seafood), magnesium (such as almonds, spinach and leafy greens, black beans and legumes, and dark chocolate), along with other foods rich in zinc, folate, pre and probiotics, and other vitamins and minerals can have a significant effect on gut health and brain health. Healthier eating habits support our physical, psycho-emotional, and sleep health.
How you eat also plays a role. Practice mindful eating behaviors— slow down and savor your food. Put down your utensils between bites so you can chew, swallow, and take a breath before taking the next bite. Avoid scrolling through your phone or working as much as possible while you eat. Meal time is “you time”— give yourself this gift and practice self-care.
3. Move your body
It is well known that exercise is a great way to keep your body healthy. Strength training and physical activity can also be great stress reducers. But you don’t only have to go to the gym to reap the benefits of movement. Simply going on walks has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress, lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression, enhance sleep quality, and increase energy. So, take a hike! No, really, go for a hike. Spending time in nature is also scientifically proven to support mental health. And, if “outside” is not your vibe, there are plenty of ways to move your body. Movement as simple as easy yoga or mobility flow, having a dance party, or even cleaning your home can be a great way to incorporate movement into your day.
4. Up your stress management game
It seems that in today’s world, stress is inevitable— and in many ways, it is. However, being stressed doesn’t have to be part of your identity. It is well known that stress negatively impacts our physical and mental health. Having proactive and active stress reduction practices is a vital health habit worth making time for. To be proactive, you first have to know your stressors and their triggers and take a hard look at how you choose to cope with them. Then, make a conscious effort to break those patterns and replace them with healthier ones. This may require additional support from a professional. Some active strategies to start incorporating into your daily routines include daily meditation, breathing breaks throughout the workday, time-blocking, and other daily practices of self-care (including prioritizing sleep, improving your nutrition, moving your body, and taking time for yourself.
Stop waiting until you’re burnt out to start taking care of your health— physically and mentally
The more proactive you are about your health, the less it feels like you constantly have to put out fires. Taking small steps daily toward improving your health behaviors will accumulate benefits and create lasting change in your physical, emotional, and mental health. The more proactive you are about your health, the less it feels like you constantly have to put out fires. Establishing simple morning and evening routines, prioritizing sleep, nourishing your body, moving your body, and reducing stress are just some ways of honoring your commitment to self-care and a healthier and happier you. Remember, you are worthy of living a healthy life.
Aleks Zavlunova is a Holistic Behavioral Health and Wellness Coach. Aleks strongly believes that our relationship with food greatly correlates with our relationship with the self, our emotional, physical, and mental well-being, as well as our relationships with others. She combines principles of cognitive behavioral psychology and nutrition psychology along with other philosophies of mental, physical, and spiritual health to help her clients begin healing self-destructive patterns and habits and build self-esteem, confidence, and self-love by systematically improving their relationship with food and body.