Updated: Jan 23
Life can get overwhelming, and it's natural to want a "quick fix" so we can feel better. This article will present three simple ways to "reboot" your mental health. Keep in mind that while these things will not necessarily solve all of life's problems, they will make you feel better overall. And when you feel better, even if slightly, it will allow you to manage problems more effectively and mindfully.
If you can do one thing to improve your mental health, it's getting quality sleep (and enough of it!). The amount of sleep needed varies depending on the person. Research tells us that the average adult needs about 8 hours. Personally, I feel great with 9.
Consistency is key, so try to stick to the same bedtime every night if you can. Additionally, try to rise at the same time every morning. Your body and brain will start to pick up on the cues after a while. It can be helpful to create cues for yourself by adopting a nighttime routine. Think of the five senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell) and try to incorporate something for each into your routine. For example: dimming the lights (vision), turning on a sound machine (hearing), putting on comfy clothing (touch), sipping tea (taste), and lighting a candle or incense (smell).
Exercise is a wonderful way to reboot mental health. Research shows that exercising for 30 minutes a day can be as effective as taking an anti-depressant (University Health, 2017). This is because exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which can improve mood as well as promote nerve cell growth. A study at Duke University found that 30-45 minute aerobic exercises 3x per week was effective in reducing depression.
The type of exercise is up to you, but consistency and intensity are the most important factors. Pick a schedule that works for you, even if it's only a few times a week, and focus on increasing your heart rate. If you can still talk but not sing, you are at an appropriate level of intensity.
A few exercise ideas are taking a yoga class, doing a workout video on YouTube, jogging, hiking, push-ups, jumping jacks, lifting weights, swimming, and playing sports.
I'm not talking about jumping on a diet bandwagon here. When I say "diet" what I mean is being intentional with the food and drink you consume. Everything you consume plays a role in your body's functioning, including your brain.
It's important to eat plenty of fresh foods and drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and full of essential vitamins and minerals. If you crave sugar (like I do!), try replacing candy with a piece of fruit. If you crave salt, try replacing chips with salted almonds. Every little bit counts, so you don't need to change your entire diet to be effective. It starts with little steps and being intentional.
It can also be helpful to "feed" your brain by eating foods that are particularly great for brain health and functioning. Some of these foods include flax seeds, edamame, broccoli, blueberries, turmeric, seaweed, pumpkin seeds, oranges, nuts, coffee, green tea, and dark chocolate (thank goodness!).
It can be difficult to manage life's problems if we don't feel great. By "rebooting" our mental health and focusing on the basics of sleep, exercise, and diet, we can boost our moods and better prepare ourselves for dealing with the problems that arise in life.