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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

10 Proven Ways to Help Improve Your Mental Health

One thing I find to be interesting in my general observations as I delve further into the health and wellness world is that there is never one way to reach a specific goal -- like weight loss, a good attitude or even our mental health.

How many times have we found ourselves on a good path of eating healthy well-balanced meals, being productive at work, sleeping enough and just feeling pretty good about ourselves -- then, the inevitable happens! An obstacle gets in the way! All it takes is neglecting one of the activities I just mentioned to throw us off of our game and at times, believing that the way to leading a healthy lifestyle is just unreachable. Isn't it always a work in progress?

The following list of 10 Proven Ways to Help Improve Your Mental Health gives a realistic approach to how to tackle difficult situations when they come up -- and inevitably, they will.

(1) Devote Time to Self-Reflection. How well do we know ourselves or even bother to want to know ourselves? In the process of self-reflection, we can learn so much about ourselves and how we've been affected by people in our life as well as the experiences we've had. This is where a little self reflective time or meditation can come into play.

(2) Spend time with people who really care about you! In particular for those that may suffer from anxiety or depression, it may be easier to simply isolate, but keeping a healthy social support friend or two is actually good for you and your mental health!

(3) The old cliche, "You are what you eat" really is true. In paying attention to the foods we eat, we become more aware of our own energy and how it can influence our decisions. Hence, there are foods that specifically boost our brainpower such as blueberries, oily fish (salmon and sardines) and tomatoes -- those foods all contribute wonderfully to our mental health.

(4) Regular exercise is good for you. I know, I know -- we've heard all about the benefits of exercise, so stop already! But, it is true! At this point -- unless you live under a rock -- you know how exercise is incredibly important. In looking at exercise as a type of meditation, it becomes more meaningful to us. We can see the results in not only losing or maintaining weight, but in lowering our stress levels, sleeping better and being more mentally aware.

(5) Read uplifting books. This really is helpful in improving our mental health since reading is to the mind as what a good work out can do for the body. Reading something especially interesting or uplifting builds our concentration and our focus. Reading can protect our brain from mental illness, can encourage our positive self-talk, get our stress levels under control and just make us smarter!

(6) Get a good night's sleep. Sleeping is really so complex and fascinating. Many times we put sleep on the back burner simply because we run out of time. But, everyone gets 24 hours in a day -- so, how do really productive people get so much done you may ask? It is probably because they plan and get enough sleep so as to function well. After all, "the mind -- although operating under reduced activity -- sorts everything out while you are sleeping, so that you can go into the next day with more clarity".

(7) Set achievable short-term goals. If you haven't heard of setting SMART goals, now is a good time to become familiar with them. These goals are an excellent way to improve and maintain our mental health. The acronym SMART stands for goals that are (S) specific to our needs, are (M) measurable or meaningful, (A) achievable or attainable and also (R) realistic or results-based and time-sensitive. By goal setting, we can focus more productively on achieving something rather than remaining in a negative state where nothing is accomplished.

(8) Set long-term goals. Another aspect of SMART goals is setting long-term goals that primarily focus more on what the future holds and remaining optimistic throughout the process. By setting long-term goals, the focus on future achievement and success is a continuous process even when obstacles arise.

(9) Find a hobby. While it is most certainly great to focus on our careers, our families, our obligations, it is also healthy and good to find something we really love to do outside of those things -- like something fun or interesting and for our own personal growth. Maybe it's something you've wanted to do, but just haven't -- like taking a photography or calligraphy class or learning how to ski.

(10) Positive self talk.  How many times have we actually spoken to ourselves in a negative way, especially when preparing for something important like an exam, a job interview or even making Christmas dinner preparations. By focusing on the positive and thinking good thoughts, we prepare our minds for success, and that builds our self-confidence.

We can gain a new perspective on our life in general if we plan ahead, eat well-balanced meals, exercise and give ourselves the positive self-talk we need in order to make our lives a true success story.

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