I previously wrote about the symptoms of depression and provided a guide to treat depression. However, many of the same behavioral activation techniques that are used in the treatment of depression can improve your mental wellness even if you do not suffer from depression. Changing your habits and daily routine to include activities that are known to improve mood, energy and physical and mental health is easy and can be very enjoyable. You do not need to buy anything, you do not need to take medication, and you can start feeling better today!
These are four easy things you can do to make yourself more mentally and physically well:
1) Upgrade Your Diet:
What we put into our bodies is the fuel that we use to run on. Just as there are different octanes of gasoline available at the gas station, you, too, can fuel yourself with higher-octane foods.
Step 1: Cut out fried foods, excessive carbohydrates, sweets and prepackaged foods high in preservatives to improve your energy and health.
Step 2: Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, which make you look and feel better.
The Result: When you take the time to pick out fruits, veggies and meats and prepare a well-balanced meal, you are investing that time in yourself. The process makes you feel accomplished and the upgrade to your diet will make you feel even better.
Pro Tip: If your schedule does not allow nightly food preparation, consider using a crockpot that can stay on and cook food while you are at work or preparing multiple meals for the coming week during the weekend.
2) Improve Your Fitness:
Exercise improves your physical and mental health. Physical activity can decrease stress, depression and anxiety symptoms. If aerobic exercise is not part of your daily routine you are not feeling as good as you have the potential to.
Step 1: The key to exercise is to pace yourself. If you have not been active in some time you should to take small steps and set goals that are realistic. When you ease into fitness it can be both enjoyable and highly motivating to achieve your goals. If you set the bar too high you can injure yourself and become increasingly frustrated by lack of progress. Even 30 minutes of walking can improve your health and decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke. No matter how cold it gets this winter, you can go to your local mall and walk! Start by walking from one end, to the other end, and back. Next time do this twice. You can walk around your block, bike around the neighborhood or join a local YMCA or another gym.
Step Two: Increase the intensity or frequency of your routine.
Pro Tip: If you are have trouble sleeping, burning calories and working out during the day can burn excess energy and lower stress levels, both of which can improve sleep.
3) Maintain Hygiene:
Taking care of yourself physically can make you feel more comfortable and confident, which can improve your mood. Many times when people are depressed they neglect common things such as shaving, getting haircuts or manicures, and bathing can become more infrequent, as can doing laundry.
Step 1: Take an inventory of how well you are caring for yourself right now.
Step 2: Getting a haircut or manicure can help you to feel better because you are investing in yourself. If you put care into how you look, others will take notice, as well. When you take the time to shave, wear clean and ironed clothes, you will feel better.
4) Create Achievable Goals:
Checking things off of a to-do list and achieving personal goals can be very rewarding. Maybe your goal is to get through a long-neglected pile of mail, return a long overdue phone call or to pay the bills on time this month. Each time you complete a challenge you will feel better and more empowered.
Step 1: If you find yourself in a rut, it is important to set goals that you can realistically achieve. Setting a goal to clean out a box in the garage is likely much more realistic than the goal of cleaning the entire garage. Once you accomplish your first goal and cross it off the to-do list, you will feel good.
Step 2: Now you can build on that momentum and take on a larger goal. For example, you can aim to clean out two more boxes. Before you know it you will have accomplished several small goals which add up to cleaning out the entire garage. Once you begin to achieve your goals it will become part of your routine and you will soon find that that the rut you were in is now a thing of the past.
As you improve the fuel you put into your body, your fitness, the way you take care of yourself and start accomplishing your goals you will begin to feel better. Your new behaviors will become a new healthier lifestyle. Activating these four areas of your behavior, and investing the time and energy in yourself, will improve your physical and mental wellness.
The new year brings the opportunity to set resolutions to help start the year off on the right foot. The key is continuing these healthy habits all year so you always feel physically and mentally well. A great way to engage and learn more about mental health is through Twitter. Last Thursday, at 2 p.m. EST, Stamp Out Stigma held their first #SOSChat of the year on Twitter. The topic was "Mental Wellness & Mental Health Resolutions." Search #SOSChat on Twitter to review what others reported keeping them mentally and physically well and learn ways to improve your wellness. You can read more about Stamp Out Stigma here. Follow me (@docgoldenberg) on Twitter for updates about future chats and news and updates on Mental Health topics.