Mental health is a subject that has recently stepped into the limelight; a few decades ago, talking about your depression and anxiety was considered taboo at best. We’ve come a long way since then. People have become much more willing to talk about their mental health issues and the social stigma has started to dissipate. There are many things that first line treatments recommend, such as medication and therapy appointments to help deal with the underlying causes of these ailments.
Generally, anxiety and depression can be caused by much more than just chemical imbalances; improving your mood and well-being can be empowering when you do it yourself. We all have the ability to make impactful changes on our own, and making certain lifestyle changes can have a profound impact on the way you live your life. There are many lifestyle changes that you can implement into your daily life that can help alleviate the symptoms of depression and mental illness.


1. Diet

Optimal brain function is key to overall health, including physical and mental wellness. Eating foods such as cruciferous and leafy green vegetables, lean red meat and seafood, legumes, and whole-grains contain many essential nutrients such as zinc, potassium, vitamins, essential fatty acids, and magnesium. Eating these foods regularly can improve your physical – as well as your mental – health. Foods that are high in polyphenols, such as berries, tea, dark chocolate, wine and herbs also play an important role in brain function.
If you are on a vegan or vegetarian diet, it is also a good idea to take a multivitamin, as a vegan diet can lack certain minerals. Overall, everyone can benefit from vitamin supplementation; however, getting the majority of your nutrients from whole foods is the best bet.


2. Exercise

Exercise is touted as one of the most impactful activities you can do for you mental health. Many types of exercise can be beneficial. Finding an activity you love to perform regularly can help improve mental health dramatically. Team sports, yoga, jogging, Pilates, swimming, brisk walking, weightlifting and rowing are ideas that can get your started in the right direction. If you have trouble motivating yourself to workout, joining a gym that specializes in group classes or hiring a trainer is a smart decision. Looking better and feeling better sometimes go hand-in-hand.


3. Get More Sleep

In a recent survey, statistics from 20,000 people found that 79% of Americans are getting less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night. The majority of people in this country are neglecting their bodies’ need for sleep, and the long-term effects can be devastating. Chronic sleep deprivation – according to the University of Washington Health Sciences – leads to a suppressed immune system. This means more sick days and time spent feeling under the weather.
This does not bode well for mental health. Limiting your exposure to electronics at night, setting a bed-time, and having enough hours for relaxation and leisure activities can help promote a better nights sleep. Having a hobby, particularly one that involves physical activity, can also benefit mental health and sleep.


4. Reduce Your Vices

People that regularly abuse illicit drugs and alcohol are much more likely to suffer from mental illness and have far poorer health on average when compared to a sample population. Cutting down on alcohol and drug use, limiting or quitting cigarette and/or nicotine use, and cutting excessive caffeine consumption are all associated with better mood, reduced levels of depression, and reduced anxiety.


5. Reach Out

Many people –especially men – avoid talking about their issues due to a fear of being perceived as ‘weak’. Positive lifestyle changes can make someone feel better, but if there are deep-rooted traumas or psychological issues, seeking professional help is the next step. Abstaining from vices such as problem-drinking and cigarettes can be difficult, especially if these methods are being used to combat psychological issues. Go easy on yourself and try not to cause any additional stress due to these lifestyle changes.


6. Go Outside

Many people seem to feel happier when they are in nature. Whether it is a walk in the park/forest with a friend, a camping retreat or watching the waves on the beach, it is reported that levels of anxiety and depression go down when people go outside. We spend so much time indoors, watching our various glowing screens, that we sometimes lose touch with the outside world around us. When the sun is shining, adequate sunshine exposure helps our bodies create Vitamin D, promotes a healthy circadian rhythm, and allows us to disconnect from the virtual world for a few minutes.


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