Fortunately, mental awareness increases nowadays, although I still think that more could be done to make it more of a priority. Physical health is important too, isn’t it? Your brain is also an organ and it should be taken care of before it is too late and you suffer burnout or depression, or are diagnosed with anxiety or other conditions. Daily habits for mental health are essential. Just like you do regular exercise to keep your body in shape, you should also take action to keep your mental health in good shape.
What are Some Good Habits we can Incorporate into our Daily Schedules?
1. Eat Healthy
Remember how your mom used to scold you as a child when you didn’t eat your veggies? “Eat your broccoli!” “You’re not leaving the table until you finish eating your vegetables!” 😉
Dark green, leafy vegetables are good for the brain, considered brain-protective. So are fruits and omegy-3 fatty acids. Nuts, seeds, and legumes are also excellent for the brain.
What’s the difference between vegetables and legumes? Vegetables are carrots, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, etc. Beans and lentils are legumes.
Isn’t Healthy Food Tasteless and Boring?
Eating healthy has often been associated with light, bland fare that would leave you hungry. Nothing could be further from the truth. Healthy food tastes good and it doesn’t mean that you have to give up on certain comfort foods. Unhealthy ingredients can be replaced.
An example would be the unhealthy burger. The pattie can be replaced with a portobello mushroom (excellent taste and great for burgers), or a nut or lentil pattie (both are full of flavor). Avoid white bread but buy wholegrain bread instead.
Instead of just boiling your veggies as a mandatory side dish, you could use them for a veggie lasagna. Broccoli cream is also easy to make and tastes delicious – it might even convert any broccoli hater into a fan 🙂
Make it a habit of drinking a glass of water in the morning before grabbing that cup of coffee or tea. When we wake up in the mornings our bodies are usually dehydrated and a glass of water will do it a world of good. If you don’t mind the taste of lime or lemon, squeeze half a lime (or lemon) in it for a dose of vitamin C.
2. Go Outside
And I do not mean the bus stop or waiting at the train station for the train to arrive. I am taking about reserving at least half an hour a day for yourself and take a nice, relaxing walk, preferably in nature. Near a lake, river, in a forest, or by the ocean (if you happen to live near there) is always the perfect place to unwind.
Nature has a soothing effect and it clears the mind. If you can’t do half an hour, then make it 15 or 20 minutes, or even 10. The point is that you get out there.
If you can only take a 10-minute walk, then perhaps you could repeat it later in the day. I often get up after working for an hour or two and I take a 5 – 10 minute walk. I repeat this 4 or 5 times a day.
In case you find yourself in the concrete jungle of the city, then perhaps you could find a green area to relax? Maybe a park, a garden, or a green corner at or near the workplace?
3. Be Active
Take up a new class. Have you always wanted to learn to play the guitar but never gotten round to it? How about those dance classes? Dancing salsa is a lot of fun!
Yoga is a great activity for body and mind. Yoga reduces stress and increases body awareness, it also calms the nervous system.
Cycling is also a great sport that lifts the spirits. It forces you to be outdoors. I am talking about getting on a bicycle and ride on cycling paths, preferably in parks or other calming scenarios, not the indoor gym bike.
Of course, I can’t argue against the physical benefits of going to the gym or working out at home. In fact, I am also going to recommend it. Exercise fuels you with energy.
Exercise reduces anxiety and depression and improves mental health.
Going for a run in the morning before driving to work also works wonders. Personally, I don’t like to run, I prefer to walk, swim, or ride the bicycle, but whatever works for you will do.
Take the dog for a walk, and if you don’t live with a dog take yourself out for a walk. If you are thinking about getting a dog, please consider adopting one from a shelter instead of buying. Shelter dogs (and cats) are in desperate need of good, loving homes. (Having rescued animals for 20 years, I just had to throw that in there 🙂 )
4. Get Some Sleep
A good night sleep is extremely important for good mental health. A lack of sleep or few hours of rest in the long term can cause much damage.
Not everyone sleeps like a baby, and some tend to twist and turn for hours before they fall asleep, but here are a few tips that may help you:
- Have a consistent evening routine, i.e. go to bed around the same time every day. In this way you are training your mind when it is time to sleep.
- The bedroom is for sleeping. So, it is better to work on your laptop somewhere else, maybe in your study, kitchen, living room? Reserve the bedroom for sleeping only. When you drop on your bed, do not overthink certain situations and stop worrying. The worrying must be done before you get to bed, so as soon as your head hits the pillow, your brain connects that action with sleep. In other words: make your sleeping routine predictable.
5. Set Boundaries
Make sure you are clear on what you want and set your boundaries for what you do not want. Do not live your life trying to please people, but live according to your values and principles. That doesn’t mean you have to be rude. Although some people may have a hard time accepting that you have your own life, it is – after all – YOUR life and you are living it, no one else is.
Although point nr. 5 comes last in my post, it is one that is incredibly important and often neglected. Setting boundaries is essential for good mental health, not letting others get their way or even take advantage of you.
For example: your neighbor is asking you to buy tickets to support a cause you do not agree with. You do not have to buy those tickets to avoid hurting his or her feelings. It’s OK to say no politely. It won’t make you less of a friend or neighbor.
Poor or unclear boundaries can lead to disappointment, resentment, anger, and even burnout. At work, it is also OK to set boundaries. Years ago I worked really hard at my current job, so hard that I eventually broke down. I never said no. I thought it was expected of me because I worked there, but now I know that sometimes you need to or must say no. Those boundaries will avoid unnecessary stress, burnout, relationship issues, etc. (source: positivepsychology)
Staying healthy is a daily task, physically and mentally. We often tend to neglect the mental side of health – and even the physical one. If we learn to turn tasks into habits, then we will start doing them automatically, like second nature, without another thought.
My daily walks have become such a part of my routine that I do not even have to think about it or remind myself. I always do it. Healthy meals are also a daily habit of mine, although I do like to snack sometimes, but I usually snack on nuts or chocolate; I avoid the chemical laden chips.
Especially now during the lockdowns – since they are still not over – mental health issues have increased alarmingly. It is now in particular that we should focus on our daily habits for a good mental health.
If you have any questions, comments, or more tips, please let me know in the comments below.