Behavioral Health Wellness
Do it yourself behavioral health. Being mentally healthy means more than being diagnosis free. Stress, anxiety, depression, and over-tiredness are all things that the average person experiences in day-to-day life that can wear away on your mental wellness, and can lead to more serious conditions if they aren’t treated. Just like your physical wellness, there are preventative measures you can take to maintain and manage your mental health.
Here a few tips you can follow to keep your mind as healthy as the rest of you:
Breathe. You simply can’t underestimate the restorative power of breath. Quick, short, breaths increase your blood pressure, make your heart beat faster, and can lead your body to believe that your emotional stress is physical stress. Taking ten seconds to breathe slowly and mindfully slows your heart rate, relaxes your body, and gives you time to regroup. Ten seconds may not seem like much, but by actively deciding to guide your breath, you are refocusing your mind towards something that’s simple and positive, allowing you to take on life’s stressors with composure and purpose.
Spend Time in Nature. Sometimes called nature therapy, or eco-therapy, spending time in nature has been shown by health care researchers and providers to be a regenerative source of wellness, improving mood, easing anxiety and stress, and lessening the symptoms of depression. In fact, some health care providers even prescribe nature therapy to treat physical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. A 2007 study from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom found that a walk outside reduced depression in 71% of its participants. They also found that as little as five minutes in a natural setting improved mood, self-esteem, and motivation.2
Meditate. Meditation is a practice in which an individual trains the mind to focus on a particular mode of consciousness. In layman’s terms, it means directed thinking. Rather than being helpless to the content of our minds, meditation teaches us to focus on one thing. You can focus on a particular emotion, really flushing out why you feel it and what’s causing it, or focus on nothing at all. Meditation is difficult at first, but just like playing the piano or learning a foreign language, you get better with practice. Meditation is an effective treatment for high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and many other ailments, both mental and physical. There’s a good guide for beginners at zenhabits.
Exercise. You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again. Exercise is one of the best things you can possibly do for your body, including your mind. Exercising releases endorphins, the neurotransmitters that resemble opiates in their ability to produce a feeling of well-being in the brain. Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean an hour at the gym or a 3-mile run. Any sort of movement will do! Walking just 20 minutes a day has been proven to show significant improvement in many aspects of your health. Dancing to music in your living room, following a ten minute yoga video on Youtube, walking through a forest preserve in your area, and taking 5 minutes out of your day to stretch are all excellent ways to move your body that don’t feel like “working out” but bring similar health benefits.
Pet Therapy. Maybe it’s because they are soft and fluffy, maybe because they don’t judge us the way we judge ourselves, or maybe just because they can be so cute, animals make us feel better. Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) – or when service animals visit hospitals- has been shown to increase the mental well-being of people in long-term care facilities, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer patients, and people suffering from many other conditions.1 If you don’t have your own pet, spend time with a friend who does, or volunteer at a local animal shelter.
DO Something. Many people underestimate the power of self-actualization. Choosing what you want, making it happen, and sharing your success with others may seem like a small thing, but it can do more for your mental health than you realize. Being proactive about getting what you want sets the stage for building healthy habits. It can be so difficult to feel motivated at times that even the littlest thing can make a huge difference in the way you feel. Go for the short run you keep thinking you should do, learn to make your favorite food. Try making a list of things you’d like to get done in the next year, big things like visiting a national park and small things like organizing a pile of papers on your desk. Use your list as a motivating tool for those days when you can’t seem to get anything done. Accomplishing something small on those days will help you re-vamp your motivation for other things.
Ask for Help. While it’s normal to have ups and downs in your day-to-day life, be aware of changing patterns in the way you feel over extended periods of time. If you notice an unusual tendency in yourself to feel nervous, depressed, paranoid, hyperactive, etc. that is interfering with your ability to live your life, consider seeing a behavioral health provider for a consultation. No one expects you to handle everything yourself. If you had a fever for more than a few days, wouldn’t you see a doctor? Behavioral health care providers exist because mental wellness is just as real a concern as physical wellness. Sometimes, the do-it-yourself route may lead you to asking for help.