Investing in our mental health amasses mental wealth. The principle is simple. Just like in banking, making deposits helps us build wealth, so that in a time of need, we can pay ourselves from our profits or gains. Research has demonstrated where to put those personal investments for the greatest return.
What you eat strongly influences your daily and future mood. Try eating more fatty fish, nuts, berries, colorful veggies, multigrain and leafy greens and cut down on meat.
Take in the good: notice, enjoy and give thanks. Gratitude in the form of journaling also helps foster self-compassion and elevates mood and sense of connection to others. It is expressive and creative.
Mindfulness and meditation
Regular practice increases awareness, mood, and concentration and decreases stress and reactivity. People who make mindfulness a habit have a greater sense of purpose and experience less mental and physical illness.
Spend just five minutes outside and you’ll start to notice changes in mood and sense of self. Green space and getting more light helps us feel connected to nature and others. It reduces unpleasant feelings like stress, anger and fear.
Interacting, talking and sharing increases our cognitive function and research suggests that some of the cognitive boosts may be immediate. Our greatest drive is to belong and connect. When we have strong social ties, we engage in healthier behaviours and actually live longer. A strong social network can be relied upon and makes us more resilient to stress.
The average adult needs 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep per night. A good night’s sleep leads to less irritability and anger and helps us manage stress. But it’s all about the right amount. Oversleeping also contributes to lower mood.
Try something new
Stimulating our brains at any age reduces cognitive decline. It provides opportunity for flow and mastery and in the process we just might find other things that add meaning and purpose to our lives.
Moderate exercise immediately helps us feel more energetic and positive. Exercise has enormous mental and physical health benefits.
Therapy actually works best from a good mood state. Most of us only consider therapy as something we require if we’re down. Therapy fosters awareness, helping us examine our values and what is getting in the way of us living our lives fully. It helps us acquire skills and build stress tolerance, optimism and resilience. We can also process old hurts and traumas so they become life lessons, not life sentences.
Failure and setbacks are part of learning. Thinking of failing as a mistake is a mistake. We learn from our mistakes and knowing where we feel vulnerable helps us know where to put more investments.
Being kind leads to positive feelings and connection. Just one positive act a week can lead to more happiness. And kindness sets up a positive feedback loop; doing a kind deed makes you feel happier and the happier we feel the more likely we are to do another kind act.
The optimist views a setback as a temporary external event. Seeing obstacles as a challenge rather than a personal failure helps us persevere. Try reading Martin Seligman’s book Learned Optimism.
Invest in yourself. Grow mental wealth. It is guaranteed to give you a good return on your investment.
Dr. Maria Patriquin, MD, CCFP, is a family doctor and founder of Living Well Integrative Health Centre in Halifax.