Today, more people than ever are suffering with a mental health condition. During the past year, there was an estimated 25% increase in the prevalence of depression and anxiety worldwide. According to a scientific brief from the World Health Organization in March 2022, “In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%.”
Many of us put time and effort into improving our physical health. But mental health often falls to the wayside. Remember – you need to take care of both to feel your best.
- Practice mindfulness – Start by identifying something you’re grateful for every day. Identifying what’s good in your life is a way to be mindful of what’s happening around you. Focused breathing is another example of practicing mindfulness. For example, take 30 seconds to be mindful of your breathing and concentrate on how you feel in the moment.
- Connect with a loved one – Withdrawal and isolation are two factors that can lead to depression. Connecting with your loved ones can help you feel less alone. It can be as simple as sending a text message or making a phone call. Meeting up in person for a walk or sharing a meal are other great options.
- Get moving – Move your body and elevate your heart rate to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise is great because it forces you to put your focus on physical movements instead of repetitive negative thoughts. Aim for five, 30-minute workouts each week, but even a short walk several times a week can result in mental health benefits.
- Eat healthy foods – Existing research in the field of nutritional psychiatry suggests that our diet can affect our mental and emotional health. Food we eat affects our gastrointestinal systems, which are directly tied to our brains and the ways we process emotions. Building meals and snacks around vegetables and fruit, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats can be beneficial for your mental health in addition to your physical health.
- Keep a gratitude journal – It’s easy to forget the number of positive things that happen every day. A gratitude journal helps pull us out of that negative mindset by focusing our thoughts on what went well and what there is to be grateful about. Over time, this will help you get to a mindset that feels more positive.
- Get good sleep – Depression and anxiety often lead to poor sleep. But recent research findings have also indicated that poor sleep can lead to more depression or anxiety. Improving sleep often relies on practicing better sleep hygiene. This includes going to bed at the same time every night, having a bedtime routine, making sure your sleep environment is cool and dark and limiting screen time prior to going to bed. To learn more about improving your quality of sleep, read Eight Tips for Better Sleep.
- Unplug from social media – Many people mindlessly scroll through their social media feeds and then end up feeling worse after they log off. Reducing the time you spend on social media can be beneficial to your mental health. This might mean less time in general or unplugging from a specific platform. Some people may benefit from a total detox. Pay attention to how you feel after you reduce your time on social media – you might find you feel better when you’re consuming less content and living more in the moment.
- Get outside – Fresh air and sunshine can do a lot to boost your mental health. Being outdoors is a good way to feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself. The key takeaway is to be present while you’re in nature, take in how you’re feeling and be open to the experience.
If you’re struggling with managing your mental health, make an appointment with your primary care provider. He or she can direct you to the right resources to help you feel better. If you are really struggling and need more immediate care, consider calling the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.
Swedish Hospital is another great resource for people who are struggling with a mental health condition. We provide the full spectrum of care from wellness services to more directed outpatient care for mental health issues.