Each year, millions of people experience the reality of living with a mental health condition. Mental illness can affect anyone either directly or indirectly. Despite mental illnesses’ prevalence and impact on our society, stigma and misunderstanding remain widespread.
1 in 5 Americans will have a mental health condition in a given year.
During Mental Health Month, people across the country raise awareness of mental illness and discuss mental health. This involves fighting the stigma attached to mental illness and educating the public about avenues of support.
1 in 4 people globally will experience a mental health issue at some point in his or her life.
Even if you aren’t facing an issue like anxiety or depression, focusing on your mental well-being can still have a dramatic impact on your life. Mental health affects how you think, feel and act on a daily basis, as well as influences how you handle stress, make decisions and connect with others. While our society at large often dismisses the importance of self-care, emotional well-being is a priority for everyone.
Here are some ways to make mental health a priority:
- Talk to your doctor.
Consult a medical professional about the appropriate steps to take. General physicians are able to offer depression screenings and mental health consultations – in fact, many recommend it. Talking with a doctor is the first step in finding the care you need. Doctors can refer people to the appropriate mental health professional capable of helping you with recovery.
- Try meditation.
Meditation has a host of health benefits, from better concentration to improved mental well-being. There are many ways to meditate in order to improve your mental health. The practice doesn’t have to be complicated: Begin by setting aside a few minutes for meditation when you wake up or before you go to bed. This can help you start or end your day on a positive note.
- Practice gratitude.
Research suggests that expressing what you’re thankful for — from your family to your favorite outdoor activity — can improve your mental well-being. Make a list. Remind yourself of the positive things in your life.
- Try some journaling.
Putting pen to paper can be a cathartic experience that helps you connect with your emotional and spiritual self. Keeping a journal can be as simple as exploring your day on paper. Experts also suggest writing when your worries are keeping you up at night or using the evening to review your day on a regular basis.
- Go to therapy.
We know that we should see doctors for physical illnesses. The same standard should apply to mental illness. There are many types of therapy: from talk therapy to cognitive behavioral therapy. A mental health professional can help you figure out what modality works best for you.
- Exercise at least a few times per week.
When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins which can boost your mood. Taking your workout outdoors or working out with a friend has an added benefit. Research suggests group walks in nature can relieve the symptoms of depression.
- Lean on your support system.
Many mental illnesses thrive on isolation. Spending time with friends or loved ones can bust isolation and reduce stress. Developing and maintaining social connections is imperative to mental health.
- Be of service.
Want to feel good yourself? Focus your attention on brightening someone else’s day. Even the smallest act of kindness can make a difference. Paying it forward can make you a happier person.
- Educate yourself about mental health.
Fight the stigma of mental illness by learning more about how they affect the mind and body. Some disorders may be genetic. Other conditions may manifest with physical symptoms. Learn about what you’re dealing with or what your loved ones are experiencing.
- Adopt a well-balanced diet.
Eating well is key to overall health and can have an impact on your mental well-being. Incorporate healthy foods into your diet – and add a few brain-boosting foods like almonds and kale, as well!
- Get the right amount of sleep.
Who doesn’t love an excuse to sleep in? A lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your mental health. Sleep deprivation can make it difficult to concentrate and regulate their emotions. Poor sleep is also a sign of more serious mental health problems and can be a symptom of depression. Work your way up to a healthy amount of sleep.
- Talk to others about mental health.
You never know who you may be helping by opening up about your own experience. Today, celebrities are sharing their stories and giving people the power to own their struggles and recovery.
Don’t keep mental illness to yourself. There is power in sharing your experience with others.
The only way our culture is going to be eradicated from the stigma of mental illness is if the conversation continues. Be a part of the change by discussing mental health with others.