6 Lifestyle changes you should make to keep mental illness at bay

By Alycia Gordan 

Many philosophies in the world consider physical and mental health a joint entity rather than two separate ones. Much like physical fitness, mental well-being is something that can easily be worked on. When seeking help to address a mental health concern, we are presented with numerous medications as well as treatment options.

A commonly ignored aspect of this scenario is the influence of lifestyle on one’s health; both physical and mental. A study carried out at the University of Illinois concluded that patients who exhibited the greatest number of symptoms were, in fact, the ones that were given all kinds of advice but that of introducing changes in their lifestyle to get better.

Lifestyle changes, in fact, have the most significant impact on the quality of life for everyone but particularly for those battling mental illness. Introducing small changes in diet and exercising for instance, not only helps mental health but also has reduced the risk of developing conditions that can compromise your quality of life such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, etc.

Following are some lifestyle changes that we can enforce in our lives that will prevent us from mental illness of any kind. This post from Parenting Pod highlights 9 food types that can help combat depression.

1. Healthy Diet

(Image Credit to Vegan Liftz)

Diet has the most monumental impact on physical as well as mental health. Studies reveal that fruits and vegetables induce better mental wellbeing. Good mental health, in turn, can protect physical health as well. Optimism, resilience, happiness and self-esteem boosts are all factors that better general mental wellbeing. While fruits and vegetables are responsible for aiding mental wellbeing, on the other end of the spectrum, foods rich in fats are said to contribute to an increased risk of developing psychiatric symptoms. Fatty food consumption is now believed to be associated with anxiety, repetition, inflammation in the brain and most significantly, impaired memory.

This does not mean all fats are harmful to your health. Healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids are foods that in fact help boost mental wellbeing and keeping neurodegenerative disorders at bay. Their neuro protective effects have been studied under multiple research studies particularly those that deal with memory loss diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and mixed dementia. When it comes down to the signs of dementia, one sign is the presence of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, so the two conditions go hand in hand.

Similar to saturated fats, sugars are addictive and induce rapid weight gain. This response is also a contributing factor to depression and low self-esteem.

A healthy diet for a healthy mind ideally constitutes of fruits, vegetables, fish, grains, nuts and a limited amount of dairy and meat. Cut down saturated fats and sugars down to a minimum and watch yourself heal with time using only diet modification.

Photo by Jonathan Colon (https://skatesphere.com)

2. Regular Exercise

Exercise plays as much of a monumental role as diet when it comes to mental wellbeing. Studies revealed that exercise is almost somewhat of a magical anecdote for those struggling with mental illness particularly those dealing with depression and anxiety. Multiple studies carried out to study the effect of exercise on mental health concluded that simple exercise such as even a casual stroll of half an hour can help heal your mind and ward off mental illnesses like depression. Patients dealing with illnesses like mixed dementia and schizophrenia can aid greatly from regular exercise. Not only does diet help keep your mind fit but it also keeps your body fit. A fit body makes you feel good. Weight gain is one of the primary causes of many mental illnesses. Controlling one of the main causes can in turn control a possible mental health condition as well. Exercise is the most inexpensive antidepressant that helps lower the risk of developing depression altogether. At times exercise can be difficult if there is bad weather. However, a rain jacket can help you walk and exercise when it is raining.

3. Stress Reduction

Stress is a part of daily life, and we all deal with it on a daily basis. While some experience the effects of stress more than others, stress is a factor that heavily influences mental wellbeing. Stress relief is one of the best ways in which you can retard this cycle of the brain and mental health deterioration. A tried and tested method of stress relief is practicing meditation and mindfulness. It is said that meditating daily for even 25 minutes helps build one’s resilience and also reduce stress levels. It is also studied to help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Yoga is a powerful tool that helps reduce stress in an individual as it enables an individual to reflect and perceive things in a different light. Looking at the world with a more positive insight and in a way that is less threatening is considered monumental progress for someone dealing with a mental health disorder.

4. Proper Sleep

Maintain a good sleeping schedule to rejuvenate your body and your mind. Sleep is extremely important, and for one to be able to maintain good stable mental health, one must commit to a solid 8-hour sleeping schedule in addition to eating healthy and exercising regularly. Poor sleep is known to contribute to not just brain health deterioration but also various other complications that can compromise your quality of life. From fatigue to triggering symptoms of ailments as serious as schizophrenia, give your mind a break and take rest. Good sleep helps reduce stress, boost one’s mood, rejuvenate our bodies and also help protect the brain. If you are having sleeping troubles, consult a doctor and avoid switching to sleeping aids. To see how mental health affects your sleep, please click here to read an informative and interesting article.

5. Outdoors Exposure

Spending time outdoors allows one to experience something beyond the confines of their room. Fresh air, sunlight exposure, the sound of birds and the movement of everything around them is all very refreshing. Spending some time outdoors daily is the best way to take a break from your schedule and take a deep breath to let out all your worries and stress.

6. Interact with Others

Humans base their survival on socializing with those around them. Spending a portion of your time with friends, family or a new group of individuals instigates healthy conversation and gives you a much-needed break from work. Interacting with others allows you to realize all that you have and thereby makes you appreciate it more. Social isolation is known to accelerate the risk of mental illness development which is why it is advised to engage in open discussion and socialize. 

Mental health still continues to be a stigma in this day and age which is why it is crucial to talk about too openly and publicly. Dealing with mental health requires more management than it does treatment. A challenging ordeal, the first step on the road to recovery is the first meeting with your clinician. Do not be afraid to go into thorough detail or asking any questions.

Ask them about what kind of changes you can make in your daily routine to get better. With the right headspace and mindset, you can come back from mental illness. However, if you start taking care of yourself from now, you can put a halt to this process altogether. Introduce changes in your routine if you wish to keep any sort of mental illness at bay. We are all at risk; what truly makes a difference is recognizing those problems early and working to fix them as soon as possible to help ourselves and those around us as well.

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About Alycia Gordan 

Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia

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