You CAN Improve your Health & Well-Being in 2016!

If you think about it, the most important part of your health is actually your mental health. Without it, you don’t have the drive or energy to make changes to your physical or emotional health.

From the World Health Organization to the British Medical Journal, the top global health organization cite numerous studies that show that those with poor mental health are in danger of higher risk of many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and stroke.

How can YOU develop strong mental health?

Factors such as the ability to form strong and healthy relationships top the list. A healthy relationship is one free from violence and one where you can safely express and display emotions and opinions without fear of rejection. Healthy relationships bode well for how you interact with people and have been shown to be a key factor in allowing people to reach their career goals.

A healthy diet and physical fitness are also big on the list of helping to improve your overall mental health. Your brain requires diverse vitamins and nutrients to keep you at optimal mental health so including many aspects of the Mediterranean Diet is a great choice in the New Year. This diet consists of fish, vegetables, fruits, olive oil, eggs, and nuts. And it also allows for moderate amounts of wine or other fermented beverages. But don’t assume this means bland, as vegetables and fish sautéed in olive oil and spices make for a delicious meal. Aim for 5 fruits and veggies a day.

Exercise is also a must for exceptional mental health. Make it a goal to walk at least 20,000 steps a day. Even if you have a desk job, simply walking in place as you talk on the phone can help you reach your daily goal.

Finally, sleep always helps. Having trouble catching those z’s? Making these changes to your night-time ritual will help. Try eliminating caffeine and alcohol. Make sure to take a warm bath or shower, and do a quiet and enjoyable activity such as deep breathing, reading a book, or journaling. A dark, and cooler room (below 69 degrees) are optimal for the best chance of a good night’s sleep. If you find you have trouble falling or staying asleep in a totally quiet room, try adding white noise (there are several inexpensive machines on the market, as well as apps for your smart phone.

Consider taking up a hobby, or learning something new. Studies have shown that people who learn new things are the happiest and most fulfilled. This could also include volunteering or helping others. One of the greatest mental health boosts occur when we offer our services to others.

Avoid these mental health killers!

Sugar is one of the worst contributors to very poor mental health. It can cause or exasperate illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, anxiety, and depression. Try one week without any added sugar and see how much better your look and feel.

Stress is another mental health assassin. Take a stress inventory by writing down the biggest stressors in your life such as work, school, health, etc. Then, think of a few ways to reduce or eliminate the stress. If work is at the top of the list, check to see if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Plan with confidential life counseling. But make sure you are not the cause of the stress. For instance, are you stressed about work because you have been getting there late? Try laying out your clothes the night before, including shoes and accessories. Make sure your purse or wallet, keys and jacket are in consistent place. Pack your lunch the night before and wake up ten minutes earlier if needed.

Social media excess is an emerging mental health disaster. Studies have shown that not only does it cause physical problems, such as neck and shoulder pain, but it also causes people to feel inferior and make poor social choices. When you think others have it all together, you may try to keep up with the Joneses and make unnecessary purchases, which add more stress when you can’t pay your bills.

Other causes of mental health issues are chronic illness, post traumatic stress, and other serious health issues. Never be afraid to get help. If you are not happy with the outcome, find another doctor or clinician. If you need help in finding a health advocate, ask a trusted relative or friend to help.

Do ONE thing every day to boost your mental health!

Every day, decide on one thing that you will focus on to make you a better you. Whether it is walking, volunteering at a soup kitchen, cleaning out a junk drawer, or eating one healthy meal, YOU are the only one who can make a direct positive difference in your life today!

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