October is National Depression Awareness Month, and it’s easy to show support by sharing facts and figures — like the statistic that 6.9% of adults in the U.S. had at least one major episode of depression in 2015 alone. As we take the time to focus on spreading awareness of this debilitating struggle, though, it’s also critical to focus on solutions as well.
Often the symptoms of mental illnesses can be soothed before they become unmanageable through simple, home-oriented remedies. Here are a few suggestions to foster a daily lifestyle aimed at proactively keeping your mind healthy over the long term.
Watch What You Eat
Junk food is bad for you. No surprise there, right? It can lead to inflammation in your body, which can directly affect your brain’s stress levels and learning ability. If you want to stay mentally healthy, you need to make sure that you’re feeding your mind the nutrients that it needs.
This can be done in many different ways, and there are countless foods and diets designed to help with mental health. The important thing is that you do your research, pick a diet that you feel is right for you, and then stick to it. As is always the case with these kinds of things, it never hurts to ask your doctor for input as you go.
Get Up and Go Outside
One of the tried-and-true methods for keeping a robust mind is to always be incorporating exercise (and by extension, endorphins) into your life. Some common exercising options include:
- Going for a run.
- Working out at the gym.
- Taking a yoga or pilates class.
- Doing a 7-minute workout.
- Going for a walk.
Whatever you choose to do, make an effort to get moving on a regular basis. If possible, try to do so outside, too. Getting outside and engaging with Mother Nature can do wonders for your mind. It can help you relax, find peace, and detox from the endless procession of devices and gadgets that we are continually tethered to.
Get Good Sleep
Poor sleep is always bad for your mind, and it only gets worse if you’re struggling with the symptoms of a mental illness. You can’t sleep poorly all week and then “catch up” on the weekend, and time spent in bed also doesn’t equate to time spent sleeping, either. If you struggle to get adequate sleep, it’s important to take steps to address the issue. You might consider:
- Avoiding naps and caffeine too late in the day.
- Creating a bedtime routine that encourages your body to rest.
- Spending time meditating before you go to sleep.
- Setting up your bedroom as a peaceful, technology-free zone.
Utilize the Oils
While modern medicine can be a Godsend in many situations, often you can address minor mental health concerns with a gentler approach. Essential oils have been heralded for quite a while now as some of the best home-medicinal tools to help care for your mind. Not only that, but different oils can help in various ways.
Frankincense oil, for instance, can relieve anxiety and stress. Lavender can help with sleep, depression, and restlessness. Peppermint oil can improve memory and alertness. All it takes is putting some water and a few drops of your oil of choice into a diffuser, and you can begin to reap the benefits.
Along with essential oils, there is also CBD oil. The increasingly popular over the counter cannabis product is known for its ability to help with mental health. CBD oil can relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. It also helps with sleep and can generally enhance your cognitive function.
Look for Cognitive Distortions
Stress is a normal part of life. Trying to completely eliminate stress in your life is a fool’s errand — and it can seriously affect your mind. Instead of fighting stress, it’s important to learn how to react to it properly. This starts by taking the time to create an integrated approach to treating anxiety.
While this includes things like good sleep, healthy eating, and exercise, it all starts with self-awareness. Take time to study your thought processes and look for harmful cognitive distortions like:
- All-or-nothing thinking.
- Emotional reasoning.
- Discounting the positive.
As you learn about yourself, try to break away from harmful habits of thinking. This will help you release the pressures of stress and anxiety before they build up and become a problem.
Cultivate Your Social Life
Finally, consider spending time building your social life. Mental illnesses flourish in solitude, and having a network of family and friends to lean on can be an essential part of keeping your mind healthy over the long term.
In the modern world, you can do this in numerous ways. Physically visiting with others is still the best way to cultivate relationships. However, you can also make phone calls and even write letters or send text messages. Just make sure you’re genuinely looking to build relationships and aren’t being superficial in your interactions.
Maintain Your Mental Health
Mental illnesses are common, and there’s no shame in needing to look for a medical solution. However, often the extremity of medicine isn’t necessary if a little time is spent beforehand investing in a mentally healthy lifestyle.
From food choices to exercise, quality sleep, coping mechanisms, and a good social life, there are plenty of tools available to ensure that your mind flourishes over the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.