How to Build Better Mental Health?

Your mental health has a significant impact on your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It plays a crucial role in your ability to manage stress, face challenges, establish meaningful relationships, and recover from setbacks in life.

Good mental health is not just about the absence of mental health problems. It’s much more than being free of conditions like depression, anxiety, or any other psychological issues. Rather than the lack of mental illness, mental health refers to the presence of positive qualities.

Mentally healthy people demonstrate:

  • Contentment and a sense of humor
  • Resilience and effective stress management
  • Meaningful activities and relationships
  • Adaptability and continuous learning
  • Balance between work and personal life
  • Fulfilled relationships
  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem

There are many ways to take control of your mental health, whether you're handling a specific mental health problem or looking to feel more positive and energetic.

The relationship between resilience and mental health

Having good mental health doesn't mean that you'll never face bad times. We all go through changes, losses, and disappointments, and though these are normal parts of life, they can still cause anxiety, stress, and sadness. People with strong mental health are better equipped to bounce back from stress, adversity, and trauma. This capacity is known as resilience.

Individuals who are emotionally and mentally resilient have the necessary tools to cope with challenging situations and maintain a positive outlook. They remain productive, focused, and adaptable in both good and bad times. Their resilience also makes them less afraid of new experiences or an uncertain future.

How to boost your mental health

Mental or emotional health problems can affect anyone, and in fact, most of us will experience them at some point in our lives. Despite the prevalence of these issues, many people fail to take steps to improve their mental health.

We often ignore the emotional messages that indicate something is not right and try to cope with it by distracting ourselves from self-medicating or engaging in self-destructive behaviors. We expect that our situation will eventually get better on its own. Or we may give up, convincing ourselves that this is "just the way we are."

But the good news is you don't have to feel bad all the time. By adopting certain practices, you can improve your mood, become more resilient, and enjoy life more. Just like physical health, maintaining good mental health requires effort. Nowadays, we need to work harder to ensure strong mental health because life can take a toll on our emotional well-being in many ways.

Why do we often neglect our mental health needs

Mental health needs are often neglected in our modern world due to societal stigma, which views emotional issues as weak or self-inflicted. Many people mistakenly believe that mental problems can simply be "snapped out of," especially among men who may choose to bottle up their feelings.

In our fast-paced lives, we often seek quick fixes like social media or pills to boost our mood without addressing underlying issues. Many people hesitate to seek help, fearing limited options for medication or expensive therapy. However, there are accessible steps that can be taken to improve mental well-being and dispel these misconceptions. By taking these steps, anyone can start their journey towards better mental health today.

Make social connection a priority—especially face-to-face

It doesn't matter how long you spend working on improving your mental and emotional well-being, you will still require the presence of others to feel and perform your best. Humans are social beings with emotional necessities for connections and positive interactions with others. We are not designed to survive, let alone flourish, in solitude. Our social brains yearn for companionship, even when past experiences have made us shy and untrusting of others.

Why is face-to-face connection so important?

Interacting with people in person has a lot of benefits for our mental health. While phone calls and social networks are useful, nothing can beat the stress-relieving and mood-boosting power of quality face-to-face communication. To get the most out of it, find someone who is a good listener. This should be someone you can meet and talk to regularly, who will listen to you without imposing their own beliefs or judgments on you.

Don't be afraid to reach out to people. It's not a sign of weakness, and most people will be happy that you trust them enough to confide in them. If you feel like you don't have anyone to talk to, there are ways to build new friendships and support networks. In the meantime, you can still benefit from interacting with people you meet during the day, such as neighbors, people in the checkout line, or the person serving you coffee. Make eye contact, smile, say hello, or engage in small talk. These little interactions can go a long way in making you feel more connected with others.

Tips for connecting with others

  • Reach out to a friend or loved one to schedule a meetup. If your schedules are tight, suggest running errands or exercising together. Try to make it a regular occurrence.
  • If you're feeling lonely and don't have anyone to talk to, try reaching out to people you know. Many people feel the same way about making new friends, so don't be afraid to take the first step. You can reconnect with an old friend, ask a coworker to have lunch with you or invite a neighbor for a cup of coffee.
  • Join networking, social, or special interest groups that meet regularly to connect with people who share common interests.
  • Don't be afraid to smile and say hello to strangers you cross paths with. Making a connection is beneficial to both of you—and you never know where it may lead!

Staying active is good for the brain

The mind and body have a close relationship. Improving your physical health can enhance your mental and emotional well-being. Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, which are potent chemicals that can boost your mood and energy levels. Engaging in regular exercise or other physical activities can significantly reduce mental and emotional health problems, alleviate stress, enhance memory, and improve sleep quality.

Tips for starting an exercise routine

  • Aim to be active for at least 30 minutes every day. If that seems difficult, three 10-minute sessions can be as effective. Begin by taking a stroll or dancing to your favorite song.
  • Engage in rhythmic exercises that involve both your arms and legs, such as walking, running, swimming, weightlifting, martial arts, or dancing.
  • Consider incorporating mindfulness into your exercise routine. Rather than concentrating on your thoughts, pay attention to the physical sensations in your body as you move. For instance, notice the way your feet make contact with the ground, the pace of your breathing, or the sensation of the breeze on your skin.

Eat a brain-healthy diet to support strong mental health

If you haven't attempted to change your diet in the past, you may not be aware of how much your food choices can impact your mood and brain function. An unhealthy diet can negatively affect your brain and mood, disturb your sleep, decrease your energy levels, and weaken your immune system. Switching to a healthy diet, low in sugar and high in healthy fats, can boost your energy levels, enhance your sleep and mood, and help you look and feel your best.

People may react differently to certain foods, depending on their genetics and other health factors. Therefore, it is advisable to experiment with the food you consume and observe how it changes the way you feel. It is recommended to start by eliminating unhealthy fats that can negatively impact your mood and outlook and replacing them with healthy fats that support brain health.

Foods that boost mood

  • Fatty fish rich in Omega-3s.
  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Flaxseed
  • Beans
  • Leafy greens
  • Fresh fruit

Foods that have a negative impact on mood

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Trans fats or anything with “partially hydrogenated” oil
  • Foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones
  • Sugary snacks
  • Refined carbs
  • Fried items

Don't skimp on sleep

If you lead a busy life, you might think that cutting back on sleep is a smart move. However, when it comes to your mental health, getting enough sleep is not a luxury but rather a necessity. Even skipping a few hours here and there can take a toll on your mood, energy, mental sharpness, and ability to handle stress.

You should aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night. However, it's often unrealistic to expect sleep to come the moment you lay down and close your eyes. Your brain needs time to unwind at the end of the day. This means taking a break from the stimulation of screens, such as TV, phone, tablet, or computer, in the two hours before bedtime. You should also put aside work and postpone any arguments, worrying, or brainstorming until the next day.

When to seek professional help

If you have been making consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health, but you still feel that you are not functioning optimally at home, work, or in your relationships, it may be time to seek professional help. However, continuing to follow these self-help steps can still benefit you. In fact, consulting with a caring and supportive professional can often motivate us to take better care of ourselves.