October 10th is World Mental Health Day. It was first designated by the World Federation for Mental Health in 1992 to bring awareness to mental health issues and their impact on people’s lives around the world. The day brings attention to global mental health education and awareness as well as advocacy against social stigma.
Physical Health Intertwined With Mental Health
World Mental Health Day 2022 is focused on making mental health and well-being a global priority. Several of the previous annual themes focused on the interplay between physical and mental health – something I have studied for most of my life and have great respect for.
Mental health exists on a continuum. Being mentally healthy is more than the lack of a mental health diagnosis. We all experience challenges and traumas. No one is immune to the myriad of stressors that come at us as we navigate through life. Admitting that we are not in a good place mentally and emotionally is a sign of strength, not weakness. It is part of the human condition to respond to the world around us.
Mental Fitness Toolbox
It is vital that each of us has a mental fitness toolbox – things we can do for ourselves to maintain a state of mental well-being and become cognizant of how the ways we think, feel, and act impact us. Just as physical fitness enhances our ability to respond to life in a healthy way, mental fitness does the same. Having routines and tools we rely on for mental fitness can help us better cope with stressors and change when they come our way.
In the spirit of World Mental Health Day, I would like to share 10 achievable ways you can protect your own mental fitness. In so doing, you will set an example for others and help to raise awareness of this important part of everyone’s lives.
- Commit a random act of kindness – Kindness increases dopamine in the brain, making the initiator as well as the recipient feel good.
- Disconnect from all technology for certain hours of each day – This is particularly important in the evenings when the glow from devices can adversely affect your sleep cycle.
- Take time to connect with a friend – Social support helps to counteract the negative effects of stress.
- Learn to recognize your self-talk and change it – Old habits of mentally berating yourself can be so automatic that you no longer recognize them. Learn to speak to yourself as you would to a cherished friend or loved one.
- Do something physical – Get outside for a walk in nature, do a home workout video, hit the gym.
- Write in a journal – Sorting through your thoughts and feelings on paper is often enough to improve your mental state.
- Practice gratitude – If you are reading this right now, you have much to be grateful for! Start there and begin to notice the “little” things in life we tend to take for granted.
- Develop a sleep schedule – Having routine sleeping habits help to ensure you get adequate rest. We have all experienced how lack of sleep negatively impacts mood.
- Eat clean – Eliminating or limiting sugar, caffeine, and processed foods can do wonders for your physical AND mental health.
- Limit alcohol and “recreational drugs” – This one is often overlooked or downplayed. Alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, and other substances impact the chemicals in our systems, affecting our mental and physical well-being.
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