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Four Ways to Improve Mental Health

The wide range of inputs that contribute to mental health can lead one to guess that it is definitely not easy to achieve a good state of mental health. As such, here are 4 ways that can help you to improve your mental wellness on a daily basis.


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Mental health is more than an absence of mental illnesses or simply feeling happy. Good mental health encompasses many different aspects and includes checkboxes such as the ability to enjoy life, ability to cope with stress, achieving psychological resilience, having perceived self-efficacy and many others. The wide range of inputs that contribute to mental health can lead one to guess that it is definitely not easy to achieve a good state of mental health. As such, here are 4 ways that can help you to improve your mental wellness on a daily basis.

Get Active

Mental health and physical health are definitely not mutually exclusive – evidence shows that there is a link between physically active and good mental wellbeing.

Aerobic exercises including jogging, swimming, walking, dancing or even gardening have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression. Exercise has also been found to reduce symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal. For people that have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, exercise can help with the weight gain that is often associated with antipsychotic medication treatment. It has been shown that only 30 minutes of exercise of moderate intensity (such as brisk walking) for 3 days a week is enough for the effects of exercise to be noticeable. [1]

How can I achieve this?

Regularly check https://www.myactivesg.com/getactivesingapore/events for fun events in Singapore that you can take part in for a fun day out.

Alternatively, head to your nearest public gym for a destressing work out, or swimming pool for a relaxing swim.

 

Eat Well

Research has shown that altering the way you eat and changing your nutrient intake can help to improve one’s mood and mental health. [2]

  1. Reduce intake of sugar. Think twice before reaching for that cupcake or soda– two to three hours after a sugar-rich snack, falling blood sugar levels can cause an increase in blood cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones not only cause you to feel hungry but can induce negative emotions such as feeling angry.
  2. Increase intake of Omega-3 fats, which are found in food such as fatty fishes, nuts, flaked seeds, and leafy vegetables. It is a nutrient crucial for normal brain functioning, mood regulation and can help to protect against mental illnesses such as anxiety by restoring structural integrity to brain cells.
  3. Increase intake of tryptophan containing food such as eggs, cheese, tofu, nuts and seeds, and turkey along with healthy carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes. Tryptophan is an amino acid which is converted by the body to serotonin. Serotonin has been linked to good mood, while tryptophan depletion is common in those with mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Carbohydrates induce the release of the hormone insulin, which helps to induce more amino acid absorption by the body. Thus, more tryptophan remains in the blood for absorption by the brain.

How can I achieve this?

You can keep a food-tracking diary to keep track of your nutrition intake, as well as figure out what eating habits or patterns help you most in maintaining a good mental health.

Adding a notes section where you list down your general feelings for the day and what you feel after each meal can make it easier to find patterns and make connections. For example, you may spot that alcohol intake triggers panic attacks, or that having a meal rich in Omega 3 fats may put you in a better mood for the rest of the day.

However, it is important to note that for some people, tracking what you eat on a daily basis may lead to obsessive behaviours and eating disorders. If you have any concerns about this, do seek a medical professional for advice.

Sleep

Unsurprisingly, sleep deprivation has a negative effect on mental health and makes it difficult for the brain to process and regulate emotions. Sleepless nights are more likely to cause you to overreact to daily challenges that are unlikely to evoke as strong an emotions if you are well rested. [3]

How do I achieve this?

Here are some sleeping tips and tricks as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule where you sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  2. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, including staying away from bright lights such as phones and computers for at least an hour before bed or taking a bath before bed.
  3. Avoid afternoon naps.
  4. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine and heavy meals in the evening, which can disrupt through various means. Heavy meals or spicy food can cause indigestion which makes it uncomfortable to sleep while caffeine can cause insomnia in some.

For a full list of tips, visit: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips/page/0/1

Kindness Makes the World Go Round.

Studies have shown that giving to others make us happy to a greater extent than spending on ourselves. In addition, receiving an act of kindness makes us feel happier, thus encouraging us, the recipients, to perform another act of kindness in return. This positive feedback loop of giving and happiness encourages a cycle of happiness and altruism that has a long-lasting impact within a social group. [4]

Of course, “giving” does not necessarily have to be donations in terms of money or material possessions, nor do they have to be significant in monetary value.

How do I achieve this?

You can start small with acts of kindness such as:

  • saying thank you or kind words to someone who has done something for you.
  • lending a helping hand when you see a stranger struggling with bags or a wheelchair.
  • listening to a friend who is going through a tough time.

When you feel ready and comfortable, you can move on to larger acts of kindness, such as volunteering in the community.

For a list of places that you can volunteer at, visit: http://thesmartlocal.com/read/volunteer-sg and https://www.giving.sg/volunteer.


Written by: Jing Yi

Jing Yi is a currently a medical student who hopes to reach out to people who are afraid to seek help and inspire people to speak up about their experiences by writing.  She strongly believes that there should be no stigma on mental health illnesses, and would be more than happy to offer a hug and a conversation to whoever that needs it.


Resources, Links & Sources:

  1. [1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/
  2. [2] http://www.bbc.com/news/health-39976706
  3. [3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sleep-deprivation-bad-mood_us_5602cb50e4b08820d91b0b85
  4. [4] https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness_makes_you_happy_and_happiness_makes_you_kind



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