Think back to a day that you were truly happy and satisfied. What made it so favorable? Was it meeting up with a friend that you had not seen for a couple of months? Did you absolutely crush a workout and push yourself to your limits? Or did you simply just have a fantastic meal that you were craving? Taking the time to understand what made you feel happy is important and can lead to overall a positive mental state of mind.
According to the CDC, mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. Having good mental health decreases your chances of depression and being physically active reduces conditions such as heart disease. Mental health is so important because it helps us not only fight against mental illnesses and conditions, but with life in general. Good mental health allows us cope with stress, have good relationships, feel a sense of community, work productively, and acknowledge our full potential.
When understanding what makes you happy and what is good for your mental health, there are multiple components to factor. All of them are equally as important as if they were ingredients to a recipe. Imagine you were baking cookies. Suddenly you realize you do not have any eggs for your batch of chocolate chip cookies and now your cookies won’t rise. Enabling your entire batch to potentially not turn out. We need all ingredients to successfully make a good cookie. These mental health ingredients are connect, exercise, sleep, mindfulness, eat, and support. Let’s dive into each and discuss the value of having all present in your thoughts to keep up with.
The first, connect is taking the time to socialize with others. Whether it is family members, friends, coworkers, or acquaintances, having a conversation that is meaningful assists with many things that we do not notice. As stated by CMHA National, socializing can lower depression and anxiety, regulates emotions, builds our immune systems, and helps heighten self-esteem. Listening to others and sharing life updates, thoughts, or perspectives, can help with empathy as well.
Exercise is the second ingredient and believe it or not, it does improve mental health. Getting active for at least an hour a day can improve cognitive functions such as memory and thinking. Exercise does not have a direct kind of movement. It can be walking, running, weightlifting, swimming, playing a sport, etc. Even dancing!
Getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night gives the mind enough time to reset and start fresh for the next day. Allowing our bodies to be at rest for that long lets our brains organize the information they have learned to keep moving to retain more for the next day. Sleep is the third important ingredient of good mental health.
Being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations allows us to manage them instead of being overwhelmed by them. We all know no one is perfect, but do we actually believe that when it comes to ourselves? Having the mindset and acknowledging faults in a positive way can help mental health. Mindfulness is the fourth ingredient to our mental health recipe. The person we are the hardest on is ourselves, but paying attention to ourselves does amazing things for us.
My personal favorite of these ingredients is eating if you could not tell by the cookie metaphor throughout this piece. There are tons of different kinds of food out there but when it comes to improving mental health, we are talking about the whole foods. Whole foods generally do not have added sugars, starches, flavorings, or other additions. These include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, etc. These kinds of foods give you the fuel you need to keep going!
The last and final piece of the mental health recipe is support. Support is simply not being afraid to share or talk about your mental health. If you feel that you need to seek council to talk through issues, know that you are not alone, and it is nothing to be ashamed about.
In the end, we are all human. All these ingredients to mental health listed above, at someone’s time in their life have lacked at least one. Others might have not tried some of these such as starting to introduce whole foods. Acknowledging there is room for improvement is completely normal! It is in our best interest to keep moving up the ladder, not backing down. Not for anyone else, but for ourselves. For our mental health.
For those who want to start accomplishing little steps at a time or enjoy checking items off a list, see the Mental Health Checklist below. These are just to get you started, however feel free to add some of your favorite things to the list. Enjoy!