No one can deny the increasing concern about the mental health of Americans. It seems in recent years that mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, are on the rise. As a result, people are struggling, sometimes turning to a substance to self-medicate the unpleasant symptoms that accompany emotional discord. This can lead to a secondary, or co-occurring, substance use disorder that only increases the suffering.
Thankfully, there are healthy ways to nourish our mental health. With a commitment to self-care, the concerted efforts and actions that lead to enhanced emotional and physical wellbeing, it is possible to not only effectively manage the symptoms of a mood disorder but to enjoy enhanced quality of life as well.
Self-care encompasses many facets of our being. To be truly effective, self-care must address all aspects of our lives, our mind, body, and spirit, because they are interconnected. A deficit in one area impacts the others. There are so many ways that we can jumpstart all three of these realms, so let’s get to it.
Enhance the Mind
How we think literally controls everything else about us. When we are mired in negative thoughts, worry, and dread, out whole being suffers. Some excellent ways to calm the mind and thereby improve your overall mental wellness include:
- Meditation. Meditation helps us increase awareness of the present moment or activity, training the mind to achieve a calm and relaxed state. There are different types of meditation to explore until you find the one that fits. Guided meditation apps are readily available to assist the individual in focusing on mental images that bring about a sense of serenity and calm.
- Deep breathing. By carving out time for deep breathing, you can curb many of the effects of daily stress and anxiety. Take a very slow, deliberate breath, filling your lungs as full as possible, then hold the breath for the count of five, before slowly releasing the breath to the count of five, exhaling as much as possible. Do this five times in a row and feel the stress drain from your neck, shoulders, and face.
- Mindfulness. You can cultivate a much more relaxed state of being by practicing mindfulness, which simply means focusing on the moment you are in while blocking distracting thoughts. This is done mostly through focusing on your breathing, paying attention to the inhaling and exhaling of oxygen. As you cultivate a more relaxed state of mind you will find yourself fully present in those special moments, accepting them in a nonjudgmental way.
Nurture the Body
- Exercise. Getting regular exercise improves cardiovascular health, builds muscle, produces endorphins, improves cognitive functioning and aids sleep. Physical activity has the added benefit of contributing to enhanced self-confidence, and feelings of accomplishment, especially when fitness goals are set and achieved. Getting a minimum of 3-4 workouts in per week of 30-60 minutes each is optimal.
- Get good sleep. Experiencing quality sleep can be difficult to attain. It seems all the day’s burdens unload on us just as we are trying to relax and get some sleep. Try using a white noise machine, and if your room has too much light, add a sleep mask or black out curtains. Train yourself to stop looking at your phone (texting, social media, news) an hour before bedtime, and resist drinking alcohol or eating heavy meals in the evening.
- Diet. A definite link exists between our mental health and nutrition. Increasingly, doctors and mental health providers are paying closer attention to the role of nutrition in maintaining emotional stability. A diet rich in foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, nuts and seeds, as well as fresh produce, whole grain breads and pastas, lean protein sources, and fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir will lay a foundation for a healthy mind and body. Limit sugars, caffeine, and processed foods to make the most of your healthy diet.
Inspire the Soul
- Keep a journal. The practice of regularly jotting down your feelings and experiences into a journal can have immense mental health benefits. By emptying your thoughts through writing it allows you to process emotions, reduce stress, and start healing. You may be surprised at the new insights you discover about yourself through journaling.
- Stoke your passions. You love dogs? Why not adopt a dog or volunteer at a shelter. You love music? Join a choir, get tickets to a concert, or go see a theater production. You love art? Take a stroll through Michael’s and get inspired to create, or catch a gallery opening. Whatever it is that stirs your soul, embrace it and cultivate that passion.
- Volunteer. Helping others is a sure ticket to improved mental wellness. By offering your services and time to a worthy cause, you not only provide support to others less fortunate, but by exercising compassion you will find that you feel more fulfilled as a person.
By practicing self-care you will reap significant psychological benefits that will seep into all aspects of your being, mind, body, and soul.
Ashley Addiction Treatment provides compassionate support for individuals struggling with a substance use disorder or a dual diagnosis. For more information about our luxury rehab program, please reach out to us today at (866) 313-6307.