Research has shown that there are a number of ways to naturally improve your mental health. This is great news for anyone who struggles with any level of anxiety or depression on a daily basis and doesn’t want to take medication to help treat it. As we go into the new year and you’re thinking about resolutions, perhaps taking control of your mental health is on that list of yours. If so, I hope you try out some of these tips!
1. Practice Mindfulness
This may seem odd to those of you who are unfamiliar with mindfulness, but research has shown time and time again what great benefits come from a regular mindfulness practice. In fact, in just 8 short weeks of engaging in a consistent mindfulness practice, you will actually be changing the way your brain operates! That could mean less anxiety, depression and insecurity and improved overall well-being!
Perhaps the ‘typical’ mindfulness practice is shown as a formal meditation; however, there are so many other ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life! Check out my previous post about the little ways to practice this skill: https://www.katiemariecounseling.com/blog/mindfulness-how-to-be-present-in-a-fast-paced-world
2. Engage in Regular Physical Activity
Exercise doesn’t just help out your heart and body, it gives your brain a boost too! Research shows that getting exercise on a regular basis is actually just as effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression as the usually-prescribed anti-depressant medication is. So next time you decide to go for a jog or lift some weights, know that you aren’t just helping out your muscles, you are giving your mental health some TLC too!
3. Make Sure You are Getting Enough Sleep
When was the last time you actually got the recommended 8 hours of sleep? Thats not just a number pulled out of thin air. Sleep studies have shown slower cognitive functioning and an impaired immune system from getting just 7 hours or less! Your body actually needs that 8 to 9 hours every night in order to function properly. Do your brain, and your body, a favor and get some quality Z’s tonight.
4. Fuel Your Body
A not-so-well-known fact about mental health is that the neurotransmitters that impact our moods are actually created in our gut. What does this mean, you ask? Basically, the foods we eat can directly impact the way we think and feel. I actually found this out first hand so I’ll share some of my own story here. I used to suffer from depression back in the day and truly never thought I would get out from underneath that dark cloud. One day, I decided to stop eating wheat due to some other health reasons and found that I actually had energy, mental clarity and the gloomy fog had begun to lift. Now this isn’t to say that wheat/gluten is the root of all evil - but for me and my body, cutting it out of my diet was a miracle helper. Every body is different. Paying attention to your body’s unique cues can go a long way to helping you make nutrition choices that will actually do your mental health a great deal of good.
My challenge to you: Start keeping a log with number of hours you slept, how much exercise you got, what you ate and how you felt, and how often you practice being mindful. You might be surprised with the connections between your mental state and taking part in these natural remedies.
With all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easier than one might expect to get in a funk. To-do lists get bigger, finances get smaller, family expectations are looming and the pressure of ending the year with a bang is at an apex. If the ‘Happiest time of the year’ isn’t so happy for you, you’ve come to the right blog post.
While some find great joy in the holiday season, I am here to tell you that you are not alone if you aren’t one of these people. There are great pressures upon us this time of year and without many messages telling us that not everyone has a picture-perfect life, it’s easy to begin feeling as though we are the odd one out. I’m not going to go into details of the possible downward spiral this disconnection could lead to, as I trust you get the picture.
We may not be able to change the pressures or the circumstances or the reactions of our family members…but we can effect change within ourselves.
“Whatever do you mean, Katie?”
Well, I’m glad you asked! Here are my 3 quick tips for getting through the Holiday season:
**If you find other mental notes of acceptance which you have found helpful, I would love to hear them!
Wishing a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all who come across these words!
This may not be something many of us think about on a regular basis (or even at all), but our words have so much power in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Oftentimes it's much easier to be kind to others than it is to be kind to ourself. Perhaps we don't think it matters much the words we say to ourselves throughout the day. I have even heard from some that being stern or mean to oneself acts as a way to motivate. While I may understand the intended logic, research shows quite the opposite view. If you check out Kristin Neff's work on Self-Compassion , you will find all of the information you need to see the benefits of being kind with yourself instead of being so critical.
As we come to the end of masks and ghouls and step into the season of thankfulness, I wonder if we can be a bit more intentional with the words we say to ourselves and to all those who we come in contact with.
Katie Alexander, MA LPC
This research goes hand-in-hand with what we know about how the brain functions. I understand the want for difficult emotions (like anxiety and depression) to be gone in the blink of an eye; however this is simply not how the brain works. It takes time and repetition for the brain to learn a new way to operate. Imagine the self-compassion that would be experienced if we accepted how our brains function and became curious about the ways we attempt to manage those difficult emotions rather than judging ourselves for a 'lack of progress’.