Mental health is as crucial as physical health. Unfortunately, our mental health is being taken for granted just because symptoms of mental health are not as ‘visible’ as a scar on the body. Due to this, I have been suffering in silence for so long and finally, it took a therapist to help me start taking care of myself mentally. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure where or how to begin, but starting small always makes things easier. To help you get started, here are tips to improve your mental health (supported by research evidence + personal experience)❤️
A 2018 study by researchers found that people who drank less water had a higher risk of depression and anxiety. Similarly, a 2014 study discovered that individuals who reduced their water intake were more agitated, overwhelmed, and more likely to experience dissatisfaction. Those who consistently drank more water were a lot calmer and have a more grateful attitude.
Therefore, it is important for all of us to stay hydrated for mood improvement. More often than not, people might not realize that they are dehydrated and forgot to drink water altogether. There are 2 ways to solve this problem:
- Install a water app to remind about drinking water.
- Identify the symptoms of dehydration:
- Dry mouth
- Chapped lips
- Mood swings
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Do you feel more agitated or moody if you don’t get enough sleep? It’s because sleep is very important when it comes to affecting your emotions. According to Harvard, sleep deprivations are found to be common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It was also stated by Harvard that “sleep problems affect 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice.”
So how many hours of sleep do we need? According to researchers, the average adult needs around 7 to 9 hours of sleep. However, when it comes to women, it was found that women tend to sleep longer than men. Unfortunately, despite the fact that women sleep longer, it was also found that women generally tend to experience more sleep problems than men. So babes, please stop binge-watching that Netflix tonight and try to head to bed earlier!
We are literally what we eat, not only physically but also mentally. It was found in 21 research studies conducted in 10 different countries that a diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, and low-fat dairy was associated with a lower chance of depression. This makes perfect sense as our brain is a complex organ that requires lots of nutrients to ‘perform’ optimally.
This is just not another cliché notion that ‘healthy eating’ means only eating boiled chicken breasts and salad. Eating healthy should be a delicious experience! I have a variety of healthy recipes, feel free to try them out!
DON’T FRET OVER SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media is the quickest and most convenient to connect with others, especially during the pandemic season. At the same time, social media feeds us contents from creators all over the world.
Despite the benefits, have you ever felt worst after spending time on social media? According to Jacqueline Sperling (instructor at Harvard Medical School), the problem is not with the social media platform—it’s the way we’re using it!
I totally agree as I’ve experienced it for myself. I realized that each time scrolled Instagram and Snapchat, my self-esteem takes a nose dive. It’s clear why—after being exposed to influencers and celebrities who seem to have everything I don’t have, I feel bad for being who I am. My mental health improved significantly when I started ‘unfollowing’ accounts that share unrealistic goals or maybe just didn’t make me feel good. I even started ‘unfriending’ some people on Facebook who share nothing but toxic rants or spread ‘fake’ news.
It’s time to take a breather and treat social media as what it is: just a tool for communication and cat videos.
ROLL OUT THAT YOGA MAT
Exercises have been proven by researchers and doctors to improve overall mood by decreasing stress hormones while increasing happy hormones (endorphins). At the same time, yoga also increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) – a chemical that helps lower anxiety.
When I first started doing yoga on YouTube, I realized that I’m struggling because:
- The videos are too difficult for me (even though they claim to be ‘beginner’ classes) and I ended up with physical pain because no one is there to guide me when I do the wrong form.
- It can also be very demotivating when you’ve stumbled upon a tutorial that you can’t follow. This will lead to inconsistency in practising, and then leads to putting off doing yoga altogether – yup, I’ve been there.
So I highly suggest signing up for a class with a trained yoga instructor. If time or finance is an issue, don’t give up! When I first started years ago, I spent quite some time testing out different Yoga tutorials online until I found some that are suitable even for beginners who have no experience at all. Here’s a list I used to practise when I first get started. You can try and see if they’re suitable for you too:
Don’t Be Afraid To Get Help
Last but not least, always get help if things get tough. I used to be embarrassed when it comes to my mental health, as some people in the past judged me negatively. Unfortunately, it deterred me from talking about my issues or even getting the right help for years. Everything changed for the better when I finally open up to my boyfriend (now loving husband) and after he helped me find a certified therapist.
So please do not prevent yourself from getting the help you need—your future self will thank you for it.