Mental health is more than just a diagnosis. It’s a person’s overall well-being. A person’s psychological well-being affects how they feel about themselves and others and how they deal with their feelings. Beyond just seeking support and professional health (which both are important), there are other steps one can take to improve their emotional health. For example, one way is to change a diet, and for many, the keto diet has improved their mental health. Learn more about this high fat, low carb diet’s benefits in the Body Reboot book. Besides going on the right diet to manage moods (which we go into more in depth below), there are other changes to make that will pay off in all aspects of life. Below are 7 simple, proven ways to work on your mental health:
1. Get moving
If you have a sedentary job, then it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not exercise. U.S. News says you need to make time to get and make time to move, however, because it affects how you think and how you feel.
You might not want to sit down for this. “Physical exercise is very important in preventing or reducing mental health problems,” Klitzman says, which include depression. “When we exercise, our body releases endorphins – natural opiates that improve our mood and make us feel good. Exercise can also help cognitive functioning – how well we think.”
Psychology Today expands on U.S. News comments on how exercise can improve mental health below:
Your body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting endorphins before and after you work out, which is why exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. Look for small ways to add activity to your day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going on a short walk. To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, and try to do it outdoors. Exposure to sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which increases your level of serotonin in the brain. Plus, time in nature is a proven stress reducer.
2. Try a high fat, low-carb diet
If you haven’t heard of the keto diet, then you should know that this high fat, low carb diet (which we briefly mentioned above), may help with your mental health. The Diet Doctor has interviewed various people on his site who have experienced improvement in their symptoms and there are many other people who suggest that this diet may help improve your overall mental health as well.
What has happened to individuals with diagnosed, serious mental health conditions who have adopted an LCHF or ketogenic diet? Some of the anecdotes are inspiring.
“I feel better than I can ever remember,” said Scheto, 34, diagnosed with schizophrenia in his late teens, who was amazed by the ketogenic diet’s impact on his brain. “My brain is firing better than it has in years, but astonishingly the symptoms (voices) have lessened by what must be 90%. My brain is silent again and I can concentrate.”
The Diet Doctor site, too, has had a number of testimonials. Symptoms of bipolar illness improved in Asa, Sharon and Allison. Depression and/or anxiety eased for Tim, Kara and Tonya.
Definitely bipolar, depression, anxiety, OCD, are all much, much better on a low-carb diet– Dr. Ted Naiman
Earlier this year Seattle family doctor Dr. Ted Naiman, who has been helping patients with low-carb or ketogenic diets for 20 years, described how his own obsessive compulsive disorder was resolved almost instantly — never returning — on a low-carb high-fat diet. Naiman over the years has seen dramatic mental health improvements in his patients who adopt low carb ketogenic diet. “Definitely bipolar, depression, anxiety, OCD, are all much, much better on a low-carb diet,” he says.
3. Watch your weight
Coinciding with trying a low carb diet, U.S. News recommends watching your weight. Being overweight makes it difficult to exercise and can also make you feel sad. Don’t allow your weight to get out of hand but if it already is there is a way to lose weight and feel better. Make better decisions about your health and find a way to eat healthy and filling meals.
Being sedentary, by contrast, can prove a double whammy, since we don’t get the mental jolt from exercise – and we’re more likely to pack on pounds. Putting on extra weight, research shows, can weigh down our mental health, too. Obesity and diabetes increase the risk for depression, says psychiatrist Dr. Mahendra Bhati, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
4. Don’t skimp on sleep
Help Guide reminds us that sleep is very important, so whatever you do, make sure you’re getting enough of it. It may seem alright to skip a few hours once and while, but don’t make it into a regular habit. After a while, it can affect how you feel and act. Get enough sleep and you shouldn’t have to worry about that happening.
If you lead a busy life, cutting back on sleep may seem like a smart move. But when it comes to your mental health, getting enough sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Skipping even a few hours here and there can take a toll on your mood, energy, mental sharpness, and ability to handle stress. And over the long-term, chronic sleep loss can wreak havoc on your health and outlook.
While adults should aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night, 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. That means taking a break from the stimulation of screens—TV, phone, tablet, computer—in the two hours before bedtime, putting aside work, and postponing arguments, worrying, or brainstorming until the next day.
5. Focus on the present
Psychology Today recommends focusing on the present instead of the past. To do this, you can write down what you’re thankful for daily and start being thankful for the little things such as the sunshine or hugging a child. Keep a mind present and you’ll find much to be thankful for.
Being mindful of the present moment allows us to let go of negative or difficult emotions from past experiences that weigh us down. Start by bringing awareness to routine activities, such as taking a shower, eating lunch, or walking home. Paying attention to the physical sensations, sounds, smells, or tastes of these experiences helps you focus. When your mind wanders, just bring it back to what you are doing.
6. Find meaning and purpose
Everyone wants to see meaning and purpose in life, which is why Help Guide says to feel good about yourself and live a happy life it’s imperative to discover what makes you feel alive. It may not always be easy, but figuring out what makes you happy and what you’d like to do with your life can help tremendously.
Everyone derives meaning and purpose in different ways that involve benefitting others, as well as yourself. You may think of it as a way to feel needed, feel good about yourself, a purpose that drives you on, or simply a reason to get out of bed in the morning. In biological terms, finding meaning and purpose is essential to brain health as it can help generate new cells and create new neural pathways in the brain. It can also strengthen your immune system, alleviate pain, relieve stress, and keep you motivated to pursue the other steps to improve mental and emotional health. However you derive meaning and purpose in life, it’s important to do it every day.
What gives you meaning and purpose?
Engaging work that provides meaning to yourself and others. Partake in activities that challenge your creativity and make you feel productive, whether or not you get paid for them. Some ideas are gardening, drawing, writing, playing an instrument, or building something in your workshop.
Relationships. Spending quality time where you give of yourself to people who matter to you, whether they’re friends, grandkids, or elderly relatives, can support both your health and theirs, while also providing a sense of purpose.
Caring for a pet. Yes, pets are a responsibility, but caring for one makes you feel needed and loved. There’s no love quite as unconditional as the love a pet can give. Animals can also get you out of the house for exercise and expose you to new people and places.
Volunteering. Just as we’re hard-wired to be social, we’re also hard-wired to give to others. The meaning and purpose derived from helping others or the community can enrich and expand your life—and make you happier. There’s no limit to the individual and group volunteer opportunities you can explore. Schools, churches, nonprofits, and charitable organizations of all sorts depend on volunteers for their survival.
Caregiving. Taking care of an aging parent, a handicapped spouse, or a child with a physical or mental illness is an act of kindness, love, and loyalty—and can be as rewarding and meaningful as it is challenging.
7. Get help when you need it
Last but certainly not least, there is no shame in getting help. If you’re unhappy and depressed and aren’t sure why it’s okay to seek help. Depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses are real, and it’s okay to get treatment. University of Michigan Health Service reminds us that getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Seeking help is a sign of strength — not a weakness. And it is important to remember that treatment is effective. People who get appropriate care can recover from mental illness and addiction and lead full, rewarding lives.
A diet has a lot to do with how someone feels, and luckily the keto diet is helping many people feel incredible both inside and out. You can learn more about this high fat, low-carb keto diet and its benefits in the Body Reboot book. Help us cover the cost of shipping and visit this page to get a free copy before they’re gone.
Sources: U.S. News, Diet Doctor, Psychology Today, University of Michigan Health Service, Help Guide
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