The topic of mental health has become a passion of mine as I it is something I prioritize within myself. But it is also becoming increasingly apparent that our culture does not place the same emphasis on the importance of it.
While I do believe there are many nutritional steps you can take to feel better mentally, there are also countless lifestyle hacks to get you there as well. In fact, lifestyle and nutrition are the two biggest factors in whether you can take charge of your mental health.
No prescription can cure all your ailments. Sure it may give you relief of symptoms, but it will never fix the root issue. Actually, if taking medicine is right for you, you can increase your chances of feeling better that much more with the right lifestyle adjustments.
Before I get into the hacks, I want to dive a little deeper into why mental health is so important to me. For my entire my life I struggled with anxiety, and even bouts of depression. I could never figure out why I felt out of place, worried, scared, and just uneasy every minute of the day.
Through adolescence, I would turn to numbing agents in order to feel better and give my mind a break. This lead me to relying on alcohol, junk food, caffeine, and sugar in order to feel some sort of rest from the usual chatter in my mind.
But what I didn’t realize is that even though these things gave me temporary relief, they were actually making me feel worse in the long run. Coming down from a sugar high or night of drinking made me feel miserable, mentally and physically.
It wasn’t until I took matters into my own hands to take ownership of my health that I really started to see relief. Deep, meaningful healing. I knew from that point on that lifestyle tweaks should never be undermined or taken for granted.
My anxiety is pretty much nonexistent now, but if does come back around I always check in within myself to make sure I am taking proper care of myself.
Self care is the ultimate expression of self empowerment and love. As you read the below lifestyle tips start to question how they are playing out in your own life. And how you can start giving more love and care to yourself.
These will help anyone in feeling better and more in control of their life, but especially if you struggle from anxiety and depression these will be even more meaningful for you.
Quality sleep is the king of all nutritional and lifestyle tweaks. No matter how healthy your diet is, or how fit you are, the amount of quality sleep you get is the most important. Especially when it comes to mental health and happiness, sleep is the number 1 player.
Somewhere in our culture, being busy and multitasking became idealized. The more you accomplished in 24 hours was related to your self worth. But as the health of our culture declined, it was time to take a hard look at our lifestyle.
Thankfully, the conversation is changing and sleep is once again being cherished for its mood boosting abilities. I’m sure you have heard that driving while sleep impaired is just like, or worse, than driving drunk.
A well-rested brain, is able to produce endorphins that help you feel good. A brain that is sleep deprived, is constantly on alert in “fight or flight” mode which wreaks havoc for anxiety.
A sleep-deprived brain is also looking for quick energy, so it will trigger sugar cravings to stay alert. The brain has a big job of governing the entire body systems, it needs to make ensure its own reserves of energy.
So if you do anything in order to feel happier, make sure you are getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep. Give your brain a much deserved break so it can help you feel happy and content.
CONNECT WITH PEOPLE
One of the primary drivers behind depression is that we all spend too much time in our head. Our brain is wired to constantly analyze every minute of the day.
The problem becomes when we internalize everything to the point of exhaustion. What is seemingly a misunderstanding with someone or a perceived “failure” become catastrophic in our head.
And the sad fact is that most of us think we are alone in what we are feeling. No one else possibly feels this stressed out or this sad.
Clearly I am the only person dealing with these feelings of self loathing or loneliness. Sound familiar?
I prescribed to all these feelings for so long. Adopting the persona that I had everything together but would have a constant battle in my head.
But that all turned around once I really started opening up to people. Having deeper conversations with friends and family, opening up to more people in my community. I realized that we are all sharing the same human experience.
Not only will you feel more connected, but you will feel more peace knowing that you are not alone in whatever you are feeling.
Something I strongly recommend is seeking therapy if your anxiety really becomes unbearable. You will never escape anxiety if there is a deep and underlying fear that is driving it. Even if you have never experienced trauma or think you have it together, we all have experiences that have shaped our current selves.
Talk to friends, family, therapist, anyone when you are feeling overwhelmed. Humans are hard wired to connect so don’t discredit your right to connection.
SAVOR ALONE TIME
Now this point seems contradictory to the one above, but with the great benefit of connection we also need time for ourselves. Being at peace even by yourself is the greatest secret to feeling happier and more empowered.
We are often taught to put others first, to give all we can, to say yes to every opportunity thrown our way. And while we do need community and helping others can be truly powerful, we need to take care of ourselves first and foremost. Fill our cups up with love first so we can give our best selves to those we love.
Self care is going to look different for everyone but the central theme is the same. Doing the things that make us feel alive, happy, present, and energized. Being unapologetic in taking an hour to ourselves, in saying no to what doesn’t serve us, and setting healthy boundaries.
The reason why we turn to unhealthy food and relationships is because we aren’t respecting ourselves and our deepest desires. The secret is to finding a daily practice for ourselves, and sticking to it no matter what.
Once you started committing to it you will attract better opportunities, feel a new level of confidence, and to connect to those around you on a deeper level.
Build some quiet time into your day to be reflective and check in with your emotions. Whether it be waking up earlier to meditate, writing in a journal, taking a walk, or just closing your eyes for five minutes. Anything that will bring you to the present moment and connect with yourself.
With the influx of notifications and media coming our way every second, we need time to get grounded and connect to what really matters.
Develop a morning ritual. This is my favorite piece of advice by far and something that truly has transformed my life. Without my usual start to the day I don’t have the opportunity to quell my anxiety.
How you start the day sets the tone for everything else. I like to cook a satisfying breakfast, do some stretching, take time getting dressed, etc. I used to rush through everything as soon as my alarm rang but then wondered why I felt stressed constantly.
Decide the activities you want to accomplish every morning that will make you feel at peace and commit to them. Whether your ritual be 20 minutes or two hours, honor it.
Do more of what makes you happy: Identify the things throughout your day that really make you smile. Do more of them. When we do things that light us up we are receptive to more good things coming our way, creating a positive energy.
FIND YOUR CREATIVITY
As humans, we are all born with a creative side. Children are the best examples of this, as they create rich imaginary worlds and spend endless time creating.
Creativity is how we learn to express ourselves and find pleasure in life. But as we grow up we lose our creative side. School and work emphasize rationality and results.
Time to just create and be artistic is rarely given. In a results driven world, we feel pressure to be constantly achieving every second of the day. This is not healthy because it leads to burnout and depression.
Our self esteem plummets if we are not constantly striving and earning rewards. And when we do earn the next promotion, get better clothing, or move into a bigger house, we still aren’t happy.
This is because we lost sight of ourselves in the process. We didn’t allow time for joy and presence while we were busy competing with ourselves and everyone around else.
A creative outlet is the answer to this problem. Being creative means to be truly in the moment, expression yourself and feeling genuine happiness.
Most people just think they aren’t creative but that simply isn’t true. We all have that side to us that wants to unleashed.
So how do we find more ways to be creative?
1. Think about what you truly enjoyed as a child and run with it. Whether it be painting, writing, rock climbing, acting, just start exploring that world again and see where it goes.
2. Realize that being creative is not about competition or recognition. If you start a hobby with the pressure of turning it into a business right away you will quickly begin to no longer enjoy it.
3. Schedule it into your day. In today’s world it is so easy to let the day get ahead of us without allowing time for enjoyment. So schedule that art class, write for 30 minutes after work, spend all Saturday getting lost in a novel.
Just remember that there are no rules or right and wrong when it comes to being creative. It is about finding your inner child and allowing more joy into your life. If we just go through the motions everyday we will risk losing ourselves to our schedules.
So now time to turn the question over to you, are you ready to take full ownership of your life and happiness?