The Center for Disease Control estimates that nearly 50% percent of Americans will develop at mental illness during their life. Studies show that anxiety, depression and stress are all on the rise in America.
There are physical things you can do to help support your mental health though. IMPORTANT: If you feel extreme sadness or anger or have feelings of self harm you should seek mental health help immediately. It is no worse to seek medical attention for a mental condition than it is a physical condition such as a cold.
Physical exercise has been shown to ease depression, anxiety and numerous other mental health conditions. A 10 minute walk in natural can boost a persons mood for up to 2 hours! Just 20 minutes of exercise lowers stress levels measurably. After only 7 minutes of physical activity the happy endorphin chemicals are released in to the body.
You can go for a “good walk” with the sole intention of being happier or you can use walking to get fit. If you don’t think you can fit exercise in to your schedule, learn how to make time to exercise.
There has been numerous studies in to the mental health benefits of meditation. Regular meditation practice has been found to help with anxiety and depression. MRI’s have shown decreased activity in the amygdala part of the brain that controls stress and increased activity in the hippocampus part of the brain that controls happiness.
When it comes to meditation “little and often” is much better than “lots rarely.” Five minutes of daily meditation has been shown to have a great effect than 35 minutes of meditation once a week.
A great way to start meditating is to set your alarm 10 minutes earlier in the morning and use that time to meditate. There are a plethora of great apps to guide you through your meditation practice.
Expressing gratitude has been found to help gain more more patience, to improved self-care, to better relationships and to be measurably happier.
One study at the University of California Davis found that the group of people they studied that wrote down what they were grateful for exercised more often, had fewer ailments and were more optimistic about the future than the other group
Another study at the University of Pennsylvania found that people who wrote thank you letters felt happier for a whole month afterwards. The same study also found that writing down three positive things every day for a week boosted happiness for six months.
Scientists studying positive psychology have also found that a one-time act of gratitude produces an immediate 10% increase in happiness and 35% reduction in depressive symptoms.
A couple of ways to make gratitude a habit are:
- Write a reminder to write down three things you are grateful for in a journal after you brush your teeth at bedtime.
- Set a reminder on your phone to email yourself one thing you are grateful for and to send one email letting someone else know that you are thankful for their help at 8.00pm each night.
Learn more about gratitude in this post.