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DIY Steps for Improving Mental Health. If you want to improve your mental health, there are some simple do-it-yourself (DIY) steps you can take. Professional help may be necessary to deal with more serious mental health conditions, but for general mood tuning, science has some suggestions that may help people overcome unhealthy patterns of thinking.
Here are some approaches which scientific research has identified for improving mental health.
Establishing achievable objectives is critical to success, but it's important not to go too far. Striving for excellence can be the initial stride toward achievement, however, fixating on perfectionism has been associated with negative health effects and a decreased lifespan. Perfectionism has two sides: individuals with this trait typically set high standards for themselves, yet they also frequently experience distress if they do not attain the utmost levels of performance.
The real issue is not with the high objectives themselves, but rather with the negative feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness that accompany failing to reach them, which can have a harmful impact on mental health. According to Andrew Hill, a sports psychologist at York St. John University in England, setting small and manageable objectives instead of one significant goal might be a way to avoid falling into the perfectionism trap. This approach reduces the possibility of failure and the self-criticism that is associated with all-or-nothing thinking.
It is essential to spend time outdoors regularly, even in unpleasant weather, to maintain good mental health. In a study published in June, researchers discovered that spending 90 minutes walking in nature can decrease brain activity in a region called the subgenual prefrontal cortex, which is active during negative thoughts. However, walking along a busy road did not produce the same effect. Furthermore, a 2010 study found that spending five minutes in a green space can boost self-esteem, while a 2001 study found that spending time in green spaces can improve ADHD symptoms in children.
Numerous studies have indicated that meditation can have positive effects on mental health. One example is a 2012 study published in PLOS One, which demonstrated that individuals who practiced meditation for six weeks showed less cognitive inflexibility compared to those who did not meditate. This implies that meditation could help individuals with depression or anxiety to redirect their thinking away from harmful patterns. Other studies suggest that meditation can modify the brain by slowing the thinning of the frontal cortex that typically occurs with age and reducing activity in pain-related brain regions. Additionally, a 2008 study indicated that individuals trained in Zen meditation were better at clearing their minds after a distraction, which could potentially benefit individuals with depression or anxiety who commonly experience distracting thoughts.
According to a 2012 Neurology study that used magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of 638 participants in their early 70s, physical exercise was found to be more beneficial than mental exercises in staving off the signs of aging in the brain. Participants who walked or did other exercises a few times a week exhibited less brain shrinkage and stronger brain connections than those who did not move as much. In addition, a 2014 review in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed that physical activity reduced the symptoms of depression in people with mental illness and even reduced symptoms of schizophrenia. Furthermore, a 2014 study revealed that adding an exercise program to treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder reduced patients' symptoms and improved their sleep.
According to research, being generous in a relationship leads to greater satisfaction and fulfillment, as revealed in a 2011 publication in the Journal of Marriage and Family. The study indicated that couples who demonstrated high levels of generosity were more content with their marriages and reported greater sexual satisfaction. Additionally, a 2012 study showed that individuals in the initial stages of a marriage or a cohabiting relationship experience temporary happiness and reduced depression levels, possibly due to higher commitment.
In general, having social connections has been found to be associated with better mental health. However, there are potential downsides to maintaining friendships solely over social media platforms like Facebook. Research has shown that reading positive status updates from others can lead to feelings of inadequacy and exacerbate depression. To avoid this, it may be helpful to limit your friend list to close acquaintances, as opposed to those who may appear to have a "perfect" life. While social media can offer a sense of community, it has also been linked to depressive symptoms in some studies. To balance the benefits and drawbacks, it's recommended to use social media for connectivity while also maintaining in-person social relationships.
Engaging in activities that hold personal significance and meaning contributes to greater happiness than pursuing pure pleasure, according to a 2007 study. Researchers at the University of Louisville surveyed undergraduate students daily for three weeks about their activities, happiness levels, and overall life satisfaction. The study revealed that individuals who participated in meaningful activities such as pursuing important goals or helping others experienced higher levels of satisfaction and happiness. On the other hand, seeking pleasure alone did not increase happiness.
Excessive worrying is a common experience, but if it becomes a persistent issue, research recommends scheduling it into your day.
According to a study published in the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, designating a 30-minute block of time each day as "worry time" can reduce concerns over time. Participants were instructed to identify their worries throughout the day and postpone them to a prearranged time slot.
The study discovered that merely recognizing the worry helped individuals calm down. However, setting aside the worrying and postponing it to a later time was the most effective approach.
Sharing stress, on the other hand, seems to worsen people's perceptions of life. As a result, designate a worry time and stick to it.
Small daily irritations are a common part of life, but they can negatively impact mental health over time. According to a 2013 study based on data from two national surveys, individuals who responded more negatively to minor issues, such as traffic jams or disagreements with their partner, were more likely to experience anxiety and distress a decade later.
"It's essential to not allow daily issues to ruin your experiences," noted Susan Charles, a psychologist at the University of California at Irvine and one of the study's authors. "Remember, moments make up days, and days make up years."
There is a bidirectional relationship between mental health and bone health. Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders have been linked to decreased bone density, increased risk of fractures, and osteoporosis. This is thought to be due to factors such as decreased physical activity, poor nutrition, altered hormonal balance, and medication use.
On the other hand, physical symptoms of poor bone health such as fractures and chronic pain can contribute to the development of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Furthermore, the psychological impact of having a chronic condition such as osteoporosis can lead to decreased quality of life and increased stress, which can further exacerbate mental health problems.
One potential mechanism which explains the relationship between mental health and bone health is through the stress response. When we experience chronic stress, our bodies release the hormone cortisol, which can lead to a breakdown of bone tissue over time. Improved mental health, on the other hand, may help to reduce chronic stress levels and lower cortisol production, which could potentially promote bone health.
Additionally, some research has found that depression and anxiety may be associated with lower bone density, particularly in older adults. This may be due in part to lifestyle factors such as reduced physical activity or poorer nutrition, but it's possible that there may also be direct effects of mental health on bone health.
There is evidence which suggests that improved mental health can promote bone health.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that greater psychological well-being was associated with higher bone mineral density in both men and women.
Overall, it is important to address both mental health and bone health in order to promote overall well-being and prevent long-term negative outcomes.