Guest post by Brad Krause
We often think of self-care as simply doing things that benefit the body. But that isn’t all that taking care of yourself can do. When you pay attention to things like what you eat, how much you exercise, and whether or not you’re sleeping, you also improve conditions for your mental health. Here, we’ll look at a few things that matter to your mind and body.
The first rule of exercise is that it has to be fun (really, if it’s not, you won’t want to do it!). But more than just boosting your entertainment time, exercise creates endorphins, which are “happy” chemicals that tell stress to take a hike. Genesight further explains that there are many forms of exercise, and they fall within one of four categories: strength, cardiovascular, flexibility, and balance. But what if you hate exercising?
For those that don’t want to hit the gym every day, consider taking up jogging, walking, or playing basketball. Grab a fitness tracker like the recently released Apple Watch Series 5, which monitors things like your heart rate and sleep patterns, and can even send an SOS if you get into trouble. Wired also recommends the Fitbit Versa Lite, which can show you your distance and heart rate, allowing you to measure your progress from day to day.
No matter how many times you hear that you are what you eat, it never really sinks in how true this statement is. What you put into your mouth fuels everything inside of you. Your eyes, your brain, your emotions…they are all linked to your nutritional intake.
NHS recommends eating between 2,000 and 2,500 calories each day, and stresses that five servings should be fruits or vegetables. If you don’t like the taste of these (or don’t have time to prepare that much food), you can blend smoothies to increase your fresh produce intake. Green smoothies are a healthful and delicious way to eat well, but make sure to choose a blender that will get the job done right.
Up to 80 percent of patients being treated for mental health issues complain of sleep disturbances. It is clear that sleep has an impact on your mental health; lack of takes a toll while getting the right amount of rest gives you a boost. Before you try and settle in under the covers, however, you should get to know your circadian clock.
The circadian clock, or circadian rhythm, is essentially how your body follows a 24-hour pattern. It’s hard wired into our systems, and typically tells us that we need eight hours of sleep each day. To get this, try going to bed about eight hours and 15 minutes before you have to be awake. In the hours prior to lights out, avoid alcohol, bright lights, and stimulating activities. Turn the temperature down, and then ensure that your bed covers are comfy and breathable.
Quiet time matters
Crying children, honking horns, the sound of the office printer… all of this background noise is ever-present. This makes it so hard to simply sit and enjoy a moment of silence. But silence, as they say, is golden.
Giving your mind time away from distractions is a healthy way to get in tune with yourself. And connecting with your feelings, emotions, and thoughts is paramount to your mental health. Even if you aren’t one to meditate, take some time each day to simply be still, quiet, and alone. Listen to your thoughts, and then look for ways to quiet your mind. You might read, take a warm bath, or go for a walk in nature. Do whatever you need to feel at peace.
Small habits, like eating well, exercising, sleeping, and pushing clutter out of your head are all practical ways to beat back poor mental health. While these actions may seem insignificant, trust that they are not. In a matter of days, you will likely see a huge improvement in yourself from the inside out.