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5 easy (evidence-based) tips to improve your mental wellbeing

Forget mind over matter; your mind is what matters.

Everything we do or achieve, from the most complicated calculations in rocket science to everyday rituals like making a pot of coffee, is controlled by our minds. Our brains are our biggest asset (especially during these complicated times), so we’re wise to take care of them.

Fortunately, that care doesn’t have to be complicated. Research shows that our lifestyle choices have an important influence on our psychological wellbeing (Velten, 2018). Read on for some easy ways to take care of your mental health (all of them grounded in science).

1. Move more.

Exercise is both preventive and therapeutic, (Walsh, 2011). Not only does it release endorphins (chemicals your body produces that make you feel happy), it also helps the body and mind to metabolize serotonin. What that means for the brain is a heightened sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem, improved cognitive performance, and the redirection of negative thoughts and chronic muscle tension.

Moving your body also increases brain volume and blood flow to the brain—in animal studies, an increase in the production of neurons and the connections between them has even been observed. While all exercise is good for your brain, studies show that 30 minutes plus is more beneficial than shorter stretches.

2. Practice relaxation.

In today’s hectic, always-on culture, relaxation doesn’t just happen. We have to make a conscious effort to practice it. Making relaxation practices part of our regular routines can help us keep our minds healthy. Moving our focus to our breath with guided deep belly breathing activities like the ones in Foundations can improve our attention and our emotional health, as well as decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, (Xiao Ma, 2017).

Another possibility is starting a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness practices in the workplace have been documented to enhance wellbeing and performance while having positive effects on stress, anxiety, depression and somatisation, wherein psychological distress causes physical symptoms, (Hilton, 2019).

3. Spend more time in nature.

Contact with the great outdoors is linked to positive effects in the areas of cognition, attention and wellbeing. And when you can’t get away, even natural sounds can do the trick and have been associated with reduced pain and improved moods, (Walsh,2011).

Breathing in fresh air in green spaces also lessens the likelihood of depression, anxiety, mental health problems and has even been linked to diminished use of medication for these sorts of problems, (Triguero-Mas, 2015).

Exploring in the woods and spending time in nature is good for your mental wellbeing.

@cristina_gottardi via Unsplash

4. Connect more.

Whether it’s in person or over a video call, connecting and conversing with friends and family, aka, getting social support is very important to your mental wellbeing. These positive relationships with friends, family and colleagues are well worth the effort in wellbeing benefits reaped.

After all, participating in social activities has been noted to improve quality of life, resilience, happiness and cognition (Walsh, 2011). A lack of close social ties, on the other hand, worsens health outcomes, (Tough, 2017).

5. Get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep makes a big difference when it comes to our psychological wellbeing. Related to our capacity for emotional regulation, quality of life and even athletic performance (Watson, 2017), lack of sleep is associated with depression, anxiety and even the deterioration of cognition and memory (Bubu, 2017).

To put it simply, better sleep means feeling better—in fact, a good night’s sleep has been demonstrated to be predictive of happiness the next day! (Kalmbach, 2014). And if you’ve been having trouble getting enough rest because of bad sleep habits, Foundations' Breaking your bad sleep habits program has practical activities designed by experts to help you get better sleep.

Are you ready to get started? Even if you’re feeling strong (mentally and physically), the time is now.

What are some things you do to boost your mental wellbeing when you’re feeling stressed? Let us know at foundations@koahealth.com.