Staying healthy means looking after our minds as well as our bodies. Mental health is every bit as important to our well-being as our physical health. Maintaining good mental health helps us to keep a positive outlook and enables us to deal with everyday stresses. Good mental health also enhances our focus and our ability to learn and retain information.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t look for ideas on how to improve mental health. This is despite the mental health fact that one in every four adults in the UK will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives, as reported by the National Health Service (NHS).
There are, luckily, some simple things we can do to stay in better mental shape. Focusing on a few of our daily habits can make a huge impact on our mental well-being. In this article, we will look at how to improve mental health by concentrating on four aspects of our everyday behaviour.
Common Types of Mental Health Problems
People can experience different types of mental health problems or suffer from mental health illnesses during their lives. In January 2022, approximately 1.54 million people in the UK had made contact with mental health services, according to recent statistics gathered by the NHS. The most reported mental health issues are:
Some mental health illnesses require ongoing professional treatment but stress, anxiety, and depression can be alleviated through lifestyle changes.
How to Improve Mental Health in Four Simple Steps
Step 1 - Get More Exercise
There is a clear link between exercise and mental health. Physical activity increases the blood supply to the brain. This improves memory and all sorts of mental abilities like problem-solving and reasoning skills.
Exercise also affects emotions. During physical activity, the brain triggers the release of ‘feel good’ hormones, called endorphins. This is why you feel relaxed and in a good mood after strenuous exercise.
This endorphin rush doesn’t only happen through vigorous exercise. There are many less strenuous behaviours that can be used to directly boost our emotions. These include dancing to music or going for a walk in nature. Think of these as happy behaviours. We can’t help but feel happier when we do these things. Get more exercise and you can boost your mental health as well as your physical health!
Step 2 - Get More Sleep
Research demonstrates that sleep loss cripples our thinking ability. It damages the memory, problem-solving abilities, and reasoning skills that exercise does so much to boost.
Sleep deprivation also affects our emotions. It reduces the brain’s ability to regulate adrenalin and cortisol. Lack of sleep directly causes these stress hormones to increase.
You can feel anxious and stressed simply due to a lack of sleep alone, regardless of what else is going on in your life. People who suffer from long-term sleep problems report much higher levels of mental health problems. Ensuring that you get enough sleep will do wonders for your mental health.
Step 3 - Increase Your Social Interaction
Social interaction with the people around us is another key behaviour connected to maintaining good mental health. Researchers have shown that people who live alone and do not have daily support from a social group, like family or friends, have a higher risk of experiencing mental health problems.
People who are isolated suffer higher suicide rates and are more prone to depression. Ultimately, people with poor social interaction have a lower life expectancy. To maintain good mental health, it helps to keep in touch with family and friends.
Step 4 - Improve Your Diet
The health of your gut depends on your diet and this is another factor that underpins mental health. Serotonin, a hormone that makes us feel happy, is produced in the gut, so a healthy gut will actually make you feel happier.
Diet has been shown to have a major impact on our moods. Too much sugar or caffeine can induce the same symptoms as a panic attack. These include a raised heartbeat, shaking, and increased feelings of anxiety.
We have also already discussed how exercise is key to maintaining good mental health. Obesity or being overweight makes it harder to do the physical activities that release endorphins – the hormones that make us feel good.
Sticking to a healthy diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, will benefit your body and your mind.
How to Improve Mental Health at Home and at Work
Ultimately, your behaviour and your lifestyle have a big impact on your mental health. Try and focus on behaviours that make you feel happy and make time to enjoy them regularly. Try and increase the amount of exercise you do, get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet and maintain family and friendship groups. By focusing on these quite simple behavioural changes, you are more likely to stay mentally healthy and happy.
There are also measures we can take to improve our mental health while at work. If you are wondering how to improve mental health at your workplace, then consider participating in a mental health awareness course. These courses give trainees the skills to support each other’s mental health in the workplace and create a more accepting and empathetic working environment.
Human Focus offers a range of mental health awareness courses. These courses can be taken online at your convenience.