November 3, 2023

10 Tips to Support Mental Health

Let’s face it: Life is hard. There will always be circumstances beyond our control. We need to do all we can to support our body so it functions properly, in order to increase our resilience and ability to adapt to change.

Here’s the good news: there is so much we can do to support our mental health through dietary and lifestyle interventions. With the proper tools and resources, we in fact have more agency than perhaps we realize.

Here are some practical lifestyle tips for supporting your mental health. We know intuitively know these work because they make us feel good, but they are also backed by science and research.

  1. Practice good sleep hygiene – Catch the melatonin wave and head to bed by 10 pm before cortisol levels start to rise. To ensure quality rest, remove screens and electronic devices from your sleep sanctuary. Keep the room completely dark, or wear an eye mask. (Even the light of your alarm clock can inhibit melatonin production.) Consider your 7-8 hours of quality sleep as sacred and non-negotiable. Limit caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, which disrupt proper hormone functioning related to mood and sleep.
  2. Spend time walking outdoors every day. Studies show walking in nature can have a powerful and lasting effect on depression. Sunlight stimulates mood-boosting neurotransmitters, including dopamine. Simply being on your feet increases oxygen flow to the brain and any kind of rhythmic movement (walking, dancing, knitting, petting your cat) has been shown to increase serotonin.
  3. Engage with Art & Music – beauty, and creativity provides a sense of agency and engagement with the world – alleviating anxiety, depression, and stress. There is a lot of research documenting the positive effects of music on the brain.
  4. Exercise – Exercise provides benefits from the detoxifying effects of sweating and increased circulation, stimulating the organs, relieving stress, relaxing the body, and aiding sleep.
  5. Dance – Dance improves memory and stands out among other exercise regimens to improve cognitive function and stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia. Spending time dancing with friends increases self-worth and feelings of security, and provides perspective and emotional support. We seem to be wired to move together to music.
  6. Meditation, Yoga, other mindfulness or somatic practices are powerful tools to support mental health – 18 benefits of meditation for mental health
  7. Remember the power of Touch – Hug or hold hands with friends and loved ones. Get a massage. Cuddling your pets.
  8. Diet – The roles nutrition, gut health, and our microbiome play in mood and motivation is far more significant than we may realize, as our understanding of the gut-brain connection has deepened in recent years.
    1. Omega 3s – healthy fats are very important for brain health, American diet is lacking in Omega 3s – fish oil, sea vegetables, flax, hemp, olive oil (spoonful quality olive oil)
    2. Support your gut microbiome by incorporating probiotics and fermented foods such as saurkraut into your diet.
    3. Reduce or eliminate refined sugar and processed foods
    4. Include a wide variety of colorful whole foods in your diet. Magnesium – 60% of the population is deficient in magnesium, which improves blood circulation, relaxes muscles and nerves and aids with sleep, helps with depression, anxiety, panic attacks. Foods that contain magnesium include dark leafy greens, avocados, bananas, pumpkin seeds, legumes, and whole grains. and dark chocolate. (And Epson salt baths!)
  9. Incorporate adaptogenic herbs in your diet. Adaptogens such as maca, ashwagandha, and ginseng, support our ability to adapt to external and internal stressors, thus increasing our resilience and sense of well-being.
  10. Essential oils – Lavender is calming, orange and citrus are mood elevators, and frankincense and rose both have been used in healing practices for thousands of years.
  11. Find reasons to laugh – Laughter stimulates organs, increases circulation, relaxes the body, reduces stress, and increases feelings of joy.
  12. Cultivate positive thoughts – Be kind to yourself. Take time to write or reflect every day on what you are grateful for.
  13. Spend time conversing with friends – Being with friends increase feelings of self-worth and security, and provides perspective and emotional support.

In conclusion:

  1. Taking care of the body so it functions properly through quality sleep, exercise, and nutrition.
  2. Engaging with the senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, good food, meditation) to increase engagement with the present moment.
  3. Engage with the world through community, friendship, time spent outdoors, art and creativity, self-reflection, writing, and being your own good friend.

I invite you to think about 1 thing you can do today to support your mental health!