7 Simple Ways To Improve Your Mental Wellness

If your lifestyle is anything like mine, finding the time to properly take care of your mental wellness can be a real challenge. After all, time is always of the essence, and it’s usually in short supply, especially since you are a real go-getter with a passion for being the best at whatever you do, whether at work or play.

With all of those flights to catch, deadlines to meet, and loved ones in need of your full and undivided attention, there never seems to be enough time in the day to get it all done. And for most of us overachieving socially conscientious individuals, that usually means working long hard hours building our brands, vigorously networking with potential consumers, overcoming constant objections, and aggressively marketing our goods and services wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself.

First things first. What is mental wellness all about? It essentially refers to properly taking care of your mental health, which includes your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It helps determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make critical decisions in life.

For the most part, it is greatly influenced by environmental life experiences and genetic predisposition. Nevertheless, although you may not be able to genetically erase a family history of depression nor substance abuse for that matter, I am confident that you do have the power to improve the environmental factors that impact your mental health by implementing a variety of practical strategies to do so.

So, let’s take a look at some real-life practical examples of strategies that everyone should be able to work into even the most time-constricted schedule.

1. Talk to Someone

That sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, however, not all of us feel as though we are capable of opening up about our feelings, nor do we have the time to share them constructively with another person. In fact, many people find themselves stuffing their feelings away—deep within the emotional bedrock of underlying and unresolved childhood issues.

Nevertheless, although some people have made a conscious decision to live their lives isolated from others, for the most part, human beings are generally social creatures—instinctually interacting with others, forming friendships, families, and larger communities. That’s one of the reasons why I strongly recommend working with a well-trained professional counselor if you find it difficult to open up and express your feelings and emotions with others.

No matter how automated and technologically advanced your life has become or how off-the-emotional grid you think that you are, there is just no substitute for the psychological benefits that human contact provides. At one point or another in our lives, we all need to know that our voices are truly being heard by another living and breathing person.

Although social media enables us to connect with others anywhere in the world at lightning speed, likes, shares, and instant messaging can never take the place of an intimate human connection through face-to-face conversation. In fact, social media use has been shown to compound the effects of loneliness and depression.[1]

The right professional counselor should be able to help you work through some of your most stubborn personal obstacles by providing feedback and validation to help you maintain mental wellness. And now with multiple on-line counseling platforms available to choose from, you don’t even have to leave your home to make it to your session on time.

2. Read a Book

I know what you’re thinking: Who has the time to read a book? However, studies have shown that reading significantly reduces symptoms of both depression and anxiety.[2]

Reading is like taking your mind on an all-expenses-paid vacation to Tahiti, the Renaissance, the future, and beyond in less than an hour—all from the comfort of your own home. Reading essentially forces you to pay attention to detail, so you don’t miss any of the important plot twists in the story.

So, go ahead, carefully grab a hot cup of cocoa, find the most comfortable and quiet spot in your home, put your phone on vibrate, and read a novel by your favorite author. Although you may not be able to finish it in one sitting, schedule enough time to make it through at least a chapter or two.

More than likely, the more you read, the more engaged you will find yourself in the story, and therefore, the more you will want to continue reading to find out exactly what happens in the end.

3. Go for a Walk

I am neither a cardiologist nor a professional fitness trainer. However, I do know that I feel great after going for a walk. It’s an uplifting and invigorating experience that’s as good for your heart as it is for your mind. Going for a walk can help improve your mental wellness.

As a matter of fact, studies show that walking helps build self-esteem by reducing rates of obesity, stress, and ultimately, symptoms of both depression and anxiety.[3] The only equipment you really need is a comfortable pair of sneakers and a bottle of water so that you can stay properly hydrated.

Once again, the only real obstacle getting in the way of being able to go for a brisk walk for most of us is having the time to actually do it. However, rather than waiting for the perfect time and place to go for a walk, I recommend that you just go for it! There are always going to be issues requiring your immediate, full, and undivided attention.

There is no time like the present to start putting your mental health first by getting some good old-fashioned cardiovascular exercise. Nevertheless, if you are unable to go outside for a walk due to inclement weather or perhaps an unexpected quarantine due to a global pandemic, I recommend mapping out a trail in or around your home with as much open space as possible. You might even want to consider investing in a sturdy treadmill depending upon your budget.

4. Listen to Music

A few hundred years ago, the English playwright William Congreve wrote, “music has the power to enchant even the roughest of people.” No matter what genre of music you’re into, whether it’s by Metallica, Moby, Post Malone, Mozart, or Thelonious Monk, most of us would agree that music affects our mood and both our productivity and creativity.

Studies have shown that listening to music helps people relax, reflect, and even recover from both mental illness and substance abuse.[4]

If you happen to think that BTS is dynamite, Harry Styles is golden, or you just have the desire to listen to some classic U2 on a beautiful day, listening to your favorite song can actually improve your mood tremendously. So, if you’re really ready for some sound healing, I suggest that you close the windows, pull down the shades, crank up the volume, and just sing right along to your favorite song whether you know all the words or not.

5. Eat Right

I have to admit that I love to eat pasta, pancakes, and pizza. However, I also know that too much of a good thing—especially foods high in fat, sodium, preservatives, carbohydrates, and calories—can be very bad for you. Studies have shown that eating a well-balanced diet can improve your mental health. Researchers believe that there is a direct connection between what you eat, and how you feel about yourself.[5]

Diets rich in vitamins, protein, fiber, and antioxidants have been clinically proven to improve your overall health, thereby reducing symptoms of mental illness associated with chronic medical conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

The idea is to eat foods that can strengthen your immune system, regulate digestion, and at the same time, elevate your mood while calming your nerves. Try to eat as healthy as possible to maintain mental wellness.

6. Keep a Journal

Although you may never sign a multi-million dollar book deal or write a best-selling novel, your life story is awesome because it’s yours! No one can document your thoughts and express your feelings better than you.

Keeping a journal helps you maintain a more accurate record of significant chapters in your life making it easier to process your feelings about those events when the time is right. But perhaps the most significant benefit that journaling provides is that it helps you declutter lingering thoughts in your mind, effectively freeing up precious headspace.

How many times have you had so many things going on in your mind that you didn’t even know where to get started? Journaling your thoughts makes it easier to prioritize them in the headspace.

7. Sleep Well

Can you remember the last time you slept for a full 8 hours? Sleep is an essential part of maintaining the body’s equilibrium. It helps us essentially re-energize our physical, emotional, and cognitive batteries. When I don’t get enough sleep at night, I am usually cranky, lethargic, and significantly less productive the following day.

Perhaps you have experienced the same thing? Research has shown that both sleep deprivation and disturbed patterns of sleep can lead to a whole host of mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and even psychotic episodes with delusions and hallucinations.[6]

One of the easiest ways to improve the quality of your sleep is to try to stay as active as possible during the day and then wind things down in the evening. I don’t know about you, but it’s super hard for me to fall asleep with a mind full of unresolved tasks.

Consider practicing mindful meditation before going to bed so that you can release all of your stress by actively strengthening your spiritual energies. Although you can speak with your physician about prescription sleep aids, you may want to explore more holistic natural remedies first, such as camomile tea and melatonin supplements.

Finally, try to stay as far away from caffeine, nicotine, sugar, and over-stimulating activities, such as video games at night if possible. Having a good night’s sleep is essential to maintaining mental wellness.

Final Thoughts

No matter where you are from or what you do for a living, I know everyone would agree that having a clear mind is an essential part of being able to make decisive and prudent decisions. Similar to servicing your vehicle to keep it running at peak performance, you should take the time to periodically tune up your mind with some simple strategies to improve your mental wellness.

More Articles About Mental Wellness

  • How to Compartmentalize Emotions for Mental Wellbeing
  • 3 Reasons Why Mental Health Is So Important
  • 5 Sleep Therapy Techniques for Better Overall Health And Wellness

Reference

NCBI: Social Media Use and Its Connection to Mental Health: A Systematic Review
NCBI: The introduction of a healthy reading scheme for people with mental health problems: usage and experiences of health professionals and library staff
News-Medical: Does Walking Help with Mental Health Problems?
Nature: The effects of playing music on mental health outcomes
Harvard Health Publishing: Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food
Harvard Health Publishing: Sleep and mental health

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If you suffer from depression or suddenly experience bouts of sadness that seem to come out of nowhere, you probably wonder why this is happening. The truth is that there are several possibilities, and you aren’t alone. According to the World Health Organization, in January of 2020, more than 264 million people were diagnosed with depression and is the leading cause of disability worldwide.[1] In this article, I will answer the question: why am I depressed if my life is fine?” I will discuss what depression is and what the possible causes of depression are. Additionally, I will offer some solutions to consider as you navigate the depression you are experiencing.

The question of why you are depressed if your life is fine is one that I can personally identify with, as I can remember a time when I went through an intense depression even though, in many ways, my life couldn’t have been much better. I was financially secure, had a good family, lived in a beautiful place, had a pretty adventurous and exciting life, but none of that could have prevented a serious and prolonged battle with depression.

Given that you are here reading this article now, you will hopefully be able to identify the problem early and get the support you need to fend off any significant depressive episodes, as this can make a huge difference in your battle with depression.

Furthermore, you don’t have to live with depression! Despite the debilitating effects of depression, with the right treatment and support, it is also one of the more “curable” mental health disorders and you can overcome it.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, irritability, and in the worst cases, despair and suicidality.

Depression from a clinical perspective is classified into a few distinctive categories, two of the more common categories are; major depression and dysthymia. According to the DSM 5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual—which governs the diagnosis of psychiatric and mental health disorders—major depression is classified as experiencing five or more symptoms in the same two-week period and must include a loss in pleasure as well as a depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.[2]

The criteria are:

  • Loss of pleasure or joy
  • Intense feelings of sadness and depressed mood most of the day, almost every day
  • Difficulty sleeping or disturbed sleep
  • Change in appetite (increased or decreased appetite) and a 5% change in body weight
  • Difficulty focusing, poor concentration
  • Psychomotor agitation or slowing down
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Persistent thoughts of death, dying, and suicide

Dysthymia is an ongoing or persistent depressed mood for a period of two years where you feel sadness more days than not. It will include at least two of the following symptoms when depressed:

  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (having more sleep than usual)
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor concentration
  • Feeling of hopelessness

The above symptoms of dysthymia can coincide with the symptoms of major depression.

Causes of Depression

Depression happens for several reasons that I categorize into three: biology, environment, and situation. Depression also tends to occur in more sensitive people, tend to overthink, and get stuck in their thoughts, which—more times than not—are negative.

Biological causes of depression are related to how your body produces neurotransmitters that impact your moods, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Some people might have a biological predisposition for depression and never experience any significant symptoms but when confronted with a challenging life situation, such as a loss or disappointment, it can send them into a tailspin of despondency and intense feelings of low and sad mood.

Depression caused by one’s environment is more about those you might have grown up with, your family, and your home environment, which could also be connected to heredity. Regardless of your biological predisposition, you learn how to handle challenges in life by observing those around you.

Adults, in particular, are role models for children and will likely deal with life in similar ways as to what they observed. For example, a child who grows up witnessing partner abuse between their parents is at increased risk of either being a victim or perpetrator of violence in an intimate relationship as an adult.[3]

Situational depression, as I mentioned above, can be seen as more of a cause-and-effect relationship. When you are confronted with a particular life challenge or change, such as job loss, geographic relocation, or family and financial stress, these situations can cause you to fall into a temporary or prolonged depression.

In some cases, depression can be a combination of all of the above.

Examples of Causes of Depression

Below are some examples of situations that might lead you to experience a prolonged period of depression.

Grief

The loss of a loved one, especially when sudden and traumatic, can bring about intense feelings of loss and sadness, which can lead to clinical depression. This includes the death of pets.

Medical Issue or Diagnosis

Being diagnosed with a medical issue, especially if chronic and progressive, is much like any other loss you might experience. It represents the loss of a life you had. Very often, there will need to be changes made in one’s life that will not allow for a lifestyle previously enjoyed.

A Feeling of Failure or Perceived Shortcomings

As I mentioned, people who experience depression tend to be sensitive and self-critical. You might be struggling with not getting a job promotion or failing to progress in the way you imagined for yourself, but this doesn’t mean that you are not progressing in some other way.

Sudden Life Change

Changes—even good changes and welcomed changes—are hard. Sometimes, these changes can have an impact on your role and status in society like marriage or parenthood, which are both wonderful changes yet fraught with many challenges and new social roles.

Feeling Trapped or With Limited Options

Having options is both a blessing and a curse. We know that the more options we have, the less happy we are and the more anxious we might tend to feel, wanting and needing to make the right decision. However, on the flip side, the idea that you don’t have any options can also lead to feeling trapped and feeling that your life circumstances are already written in stone.

Burnout

Job stress, being overworked and underpaid, or the lack of fulfillment in your profession can lead to depression, which might also coincide with the feeling of being trapped and feeling as though you don’t have many options in your life and career.

What Can You Do If You Experience Depression?

It may sometimes feel as though, out of nowhere, that you are hit with depression, and this is true for many people who have a biologically based depression. However, I would argue that whenever there is something like depression or anxiety—which are defense mechanisms—there is something in your life that is not 100% congruent with who you are and where your life is at or going.

This essentially means that it’s time to take a step back and reassess a few things in life. It doesn’t mean that you will be able to wright the ship entirely. However, you might be able to make some small changes that will help you feel more in control of your life and the direction that you are going in.

1. Consider Therapy

Therapy will help you take stock and think about what is happening in your life and where you might be able to make some changes. Needless to say, you will also have the support you need to embark on making those changes. It could also be a chance to identify what it is in your life that is causing the depression. A therapist can also help you connect to other supports that might help you as you work through this period in your life.

2. Group Support Network

Processing hurt and pain through the group experience is a powerful method of connecting with yourself and others who might be experiencing similar challenges. Part of the value of group experience is knowing that you are not alone and that you have support not just from professionals but also from other people just like you.

3. Self Assessment

Self-assessment involves assessing where you are in your life in relation to your life goals, your relationships, and the direction that you are headed. Maybe it is time to make a pivot and change course, which could be a very scary thing. Bringing this kind of information to therapy will be very valuable and will assist you in the therapeutic process.

4. Take Some Time Off

Taking some time off will be and can be helpful in many ways. If you are experiencing burnout, this will give you more time for self-care and help you give yourself a break. Moreover, taking a time off gives you more time to do some of the things I described above in therapy, group work, and self-assessment.

5. Are You Bored?

Sometimes, when we lack stimulation or work in a job for which we are overqualified, we might find ourselves feeling underutilized and as if we are not meeting our potential. This would, hopefully, come out in a self-assessment and could indicate the need to make a change in your work life.

Depression and Suicide

Depression is a serious mental health disorder. Thirty to seventy percent of deaths by suicide are attributed to major depression or bipolar disorder.[4] If you or someone you love is experiencing depression and expresses thoughts or statements about death and suicide, consult with your medical professional or mental health counselor. People who receive treatment for depression have an 80 to 90% rate of success from therapy and/or medication.

Suffice to say, if you get the treatment you need for depression, your chances of recovering skyrocket. Again, as I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to live with depression. Get the right treatment,[5] and you can have a whole new lease on life.

Final Thoughts

Depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by feelings of sadness for a long period of time. Many people throughout their lives will experience some depression in varying degrees. If you notice that what you are experiencing resembles any of what I have described above, please know that you can make changes and you can live a life free of depression. Getting help, support, and treatment is essential to addressing the depression or changes in your life that might need to be considered.

More Tips on Coping With Depression

  • 15 Simple (And Practical) Ways to Overcome Depression
  • 20 Things to Remember If You Love A Person With Depression

Reference

The World Health Organization: Depression
NCBI: The DSM-5: Classification and Criteria Changes
OASH: Office on women’s Health: Effects of domestic violence on children
Mental Health America: Suicide
Upside Down Flan: The Best Treatment for Depression

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