Mental Health Month: Five Tips for a More Balanced Mind

Posted on May 2, 2016 by admin
Two girls doing handstands on a beach.
Wellness doesn’t mean being able to do handstands… But it does require balance!

Usually, the words “mental health” bring to mind “mental illness” instead. Mental health, however, is a legitimate thing, and it is more than simply the absence of illness—just like “wellness” is. For people without a mental health condition, there re steps that can be taken every day to improve your mental wellbeing—but, even if you have a mental health condition, like depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, following your treatment plan doesn’t have to be where you stop becoming more healthy.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To follow our previous post on tips for creating more psychologically resilient kids, here are five steps adults can take to focus more on maintaining and improving their mental health.
  • Be more social! Harvard Public Health and Harvard Medicine have done numerous studies that share benefits of social interaction on our health [1]. The closer our relationship to a person, the more their affect (observable, or observed, emotions [2]) will have an impact on us—this goes for behaviours as well [3]—so, you’re more likely to be happy hanging out with happy people, and, you’re more likely adopt healthy behaviours if you hang out with people who do healthy things. A personal example—when I was in a class on exercise psychology and physical activity promotion, I was more active during the course, being around people who were frequently at the gym, and being surrounded by discussions about physical activity, than I was following the course! Check out my own graph here. A research example from Harvard—if you have a friend who changes their habits that becomes obese, you are 57% more likely to become obese yourself [4]. You probably have examples of this in your own life—be aware of these things!
    The greater number of social connections you have with positive-minded people who enjoy positive mental health, the better chances you will have of being happier and more balanced yourself.
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword, but I think it’s also lost some of its fluffy, hippy, connotation. Being harnessed by powerful business executives, mindfulness is simply the act of being present in a given moment, and learning how to engage fully with what maters most at a given time.
    One of my favourite resources to share, is a free guided meditation app called Smiling Mind. In addition to meditations, it provides quick recorded lessons on how to become more present in daily activities, and reconnect with your body to stay grounded in the moment.
  • Learn about stress in your world. This is something we talk about a lot here—but because it’s so true! If you know how stress affects you, and how to handle it, you are likely to be less physically and mentally affected by it in the long term. Read our post about stress management from April to learn more.
  • Exercise and nutrition. Yes, it’s true, how much you move and what you eat play a role in your mental wellbeing, too! Exercise helps by releasing hormones that increase alertness, happiness (think of a “runner’s high” experienced by athletes—I mean, why else would people run, right? ;)). And, eating a more nutritious diet gives you the energy your body needs to push through both the good and bad in life, without the energy—and mood—crash associated with a diet too high in fatty foods and refined sugars [5]. Learn more from the Mayo Clinic.
  • Talk to someone! If you are concerned about things—whether it’s your mental health, your physical health, your finances, or anything else… Talk to someone about it! Choosing not to bear the burdens we all encounter in life, albeit differently, keeps you in better control, and will only help to provide better solutions to keep you balanced, or help you right yourself if you’ve begun to topple!
It’s also noted that being happier may not actually help you live longer… However, would you rather live to 120 and feel angry and miserable, or, would you rather be 120 with a peaceful smile and enjoying life? I know my answer!

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