Eating Cleaner, Moving More, & Other Ways to Help Improve Your Mental Health

Between the stresses of everyday life and tragedies broadcasted in the media and online, it can feel impossible to maintain a positive and healthy state of mind. Achieving long-term and sustainable positive mental health may feel like an impossible dream. But it doesn’t have to be! In some cases improving your mental health can be as simple as adding a few healthy lifestyle choices to your everyday routine. Let’s dive into our tips on how to improve your mental health. Keep in mind that no matter how effortless a method may seem, it will still need consistency and determination. Change can be difficult at first, but your future self will thank you for sticking it out. 

6 holistic tips for improving your mental health

So, how exactly can you start getting into a better state of mind?

1. Focus on nutrient-dense foods

Most people already know that maintaining a nutritious and balanced diet is good for the body’s long-term physical health. But did you know eating, or avoiding, certain types of food can affect your mental health too? Clinical studies say that consuming large amounts of refined carbohydrates can increase depressive episodes and one’s risk of depression and anxiety.

Man and woman cooking at home

Additionally, specific diets may also help reduce depressive symptoms. For example, randomized controlled trials have found that prolonged adherence to the Mediterranean diet may have anti-inflammatory effects. This may help ease depressive symptoms linked to elevated inflammation. 

Furthermore, eating patterns can affect your gut microbiome. This is an umbrella term for the microbial organisms that live in the human gut—bacteria, viruses, archaea. They interact with the brain and can impact your mood. For instance, a 2019 study suggests that ingesting probiotics, which benefit gut health, can influence your attention span and minimize depressive symptoms.

2. Keep your body moving

Taking a walk can help you in a number of ways. It boosts your cardiovascular health, plus improves your mental health! Aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming, and dancing can help decrease anxiety and depression. They can also relieve symptoms of social withdrawal and low self-esteem. These improvements may be due to the exercise-induced increase in blood flow and release of endorphins.. 

Exercise has a diverse and well-documented history of benefiting a person’s overall mood. In a  2004 study conducted on patients suffering with a mental health illness found that those who participated in a three-month physical conditioning program experienced higher perceived levels of energy on top of physical health improvements like better weight control, lower blood pressure levels, and improved exercise tolerance.

3. Spend time with your pets

Pet therapy is a popular, proven, and effective way of improving mental health. Many medical settings take advantage of this benefit by incorporating pets into their environments. . This includes hospitals, long-term care facilities, and hospice centers. These therapy animals can range from common household pets like cats, dogs, and rabbits, to less common but equally friendly animals like horses and donkeys.

woman holding dog outside

The benefits of pet therapy include helping patients cope with their injuries or illnesses. It can also decrease symptoms of isolation and loneliness and improve levels of self-esteem and energy. Plus, it might lower symptoms of depression. 

Additionally, pets are helpful for older adults. A survey on healthy aging found that adults over the age of 50 reported feeling less stressed, having a better sense of purpose, and improved social connection through pets. 

Are you interested in having an emotional support animal (ESA)? The next step is to speak with a licensed mental health professional. Start by completing our free emotional assessment.

4. Keep a journal

Keeping a journal can help you release and manage feelings. It can even help you remember milestones and memories and develop self-awareness. But putting a physical pen to paper doesn’t strike everyone’s fancy, luckily there are also many web based apps that allow people to journal online

journal laying open in bed

A 2018 study looked at the effects of web-based positive affect journaling on psychological distress and quality of life. After a month, the results indicated that positive affect journaling can be linked to lower levels of mental distress, fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, and higher levels of wellbeing. 

5. Zen out with meditation

Meditating is well-regarded as a form of self-care. And science backs up its claims and benefits. For instance, a 2018 systematic review delved into the potential value of mantra meditation in promoting positive mental health and affirmed that it may be a useful tool in wellbeing programs for schools or workplaces. 

woman meditating at home

6. Strike a work-life balance

It may be challenging for many to achieve and sustain a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives. It’s often difficult not to bow down to deadlines or succumb to pressure and stress. But work-life balance is essential to one’s long-term mental health. 

Pushing yourself too much at work can lead to burnout. This is marked by detachment and cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and a lack of sense of achievement. It can also involve “compassion fatigue,” or the loss of the capacity to care for others. 

Here are some tips for better work-life balance: 

  • Exercise good time management.
  • Set boundaries at work.
  • Consider your finances. (Do you need to work overtime, or can you save money somehow and go home a bit earlier?)
  • Be conscious of your health. 

These may be easier said than done, but a little goes a long way.

Remember this old adage: You can’t pour from an empty cup. Focus on your mental health, and everything else will start to fall into place.

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