October is Mental Health Month at Balance Wellness! I am particularly excited to focus on this topic for a few reasons:
1. Mental health/illness is not talked about as much as it should be given how many people it affects (see #2)
2. Depression is the #1 cause of disability worldwide… seriously
3. I have seen firsthand how proper treatment of mental illness can completely change a person’s life
So for today’s newsletter, I would like to focus on what YOU CAN DO to affect your mental health. I promise that you are not alone and there are a lot of options that can help you with whatever you have going on.
Here are 7 things you can do (and tell your family and friends to do, too!):
1. Meditate. The research is so overwhelmingly clear on the benefits of meditation. Studies have shown that it decreases depression, anxiety, and stress and makes you more compassionate. And these benefits come with as little as 10 minutes / day! Try apps like Headspace or Calm, Youtube videos or meditation classes at Meditation Bar.
2. Spend time in nature. This is another well-researched phenomenon showing that just getting out and walking in nature can have a significant, positive effect on blood pressure, heart rate and perceived anxiety and stress. Even the view of trees from a hospital room can help patients who are feeling depressed. Stress increases the more time we spend inside and in front of screens so do the exact opposite as much as possible.
3. Build community. The Harvard Study of Adult Development is the longest ongoing study of adult life and it has shown that, more than anything, close relationships and the ability to rely on those in times of need are the best predictors of long term health and happiness.
4. Volunteer. Volunteering has clear benefits for the person volunteering as well as those they serve. One researcher has found that weekly volunteers are 16% happier than their non-volunteering peers, all other things being equal.
5. Eat right. We are past the point of assuming our food choices have little to no impact on our mental health – it’s just not true. “The Gut-Brain Axis” is becoming a popularized phrase as more and more research is done proving the connection between the health of our brain and that of our digestive system. If either system is out of balance, the other system, as well as the rest of the body, are negatively affected.
6. See a therapist. Fortunately the stigma around seeing a therapist is lessening and many people talk openly about seeing a therapist. We all have challenges as we go through life and oftentimes the help of a trained professional to help us see the path forward is all we need.
7. Get acupuncture. Acupuncturists are able to employ not only acupuncture, but also Chinese herbs, dietary recommendations, and mind-body awareness exercises that have been used for thousands of years to effectively treat mental health conditions ranging from stress and anxiety to concussions and Alzheimer’s.
The mind and the body are intimately connected and influenced by each other. If you go to the gym or otherwise take steps to take care of your physical health, I highly encourage you to make sure you keep your mental health a priority or all of those trips to the gym will be for naught.