Today marks the 24th annual World Mental Health Day, a day first celebrated in 1992 as an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health.
Each October, thousands of people across the world bring awareness to issues surrounding mental health which impact 43.8 million Americans—or 1 in 5—each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. When people think of mental health, they often think of mood disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or others but often don’t recognize that more commonly experienced symptoms, like anxiety, also have to do with mental health.
Anxiety and depression have experienced an increase among Americans for the first time in 80 years. This is attributed to a variety of factors, including the demands of stress in our modern-day world, the increase of comparison among social media and a stalled economy.
Although you can’t control external factors, there are a few ways you can contribute to your mental health. Just like the body needs exercise and movement in order to be healthy, the mind requires similar attention. Here are 5 ways to invest in your own mental health today.
1. Remember where your roots are.
Struggling with mental health can often make you feel isolated or detached from the rest of the world. Surrounding yourself with people you have solid relationships with, like your best friends or family members, is an excellent way to reconnect to your sense of belonging.
It is tempting to isolate yourself when things aren’t going right but studies show that connection spurs serotonin, the feel-good chemical in your brain. Take 20 minutes today to call up your best friend who lives across the country or see if your roommate is available for dinner.
2. Work out
Exercise eases the symptoms of anxiety and depression by reducing immune system chemicals that harm the body, releasing brain activity that also increases feel-good chemicals and if you have access to an outdoor park or area to work out in, spending time in nature has been linked to an increased sense of mindfulness and calm.
It can be overwhelming to experience the effects of emotion that mental health symptoms can bring. Another way to increase your sense of self over these emotions would be to journal about them and let them to pass through your thoughts with unfiltered ease. No one is judging you for what you write; write freely!
Writing can be a cathartic release. Studies show that writing about yourself and your experiences can actually improve mood disorders and even boost memory.
4. Practice self-care
Self-care is a term that has gained popularity in recent years. To put it simply, self-care means the conscious act of investing in your own emotional well-being, or refilling your resiliency reserves so to speak.
What makes you feel great? Do you like going for a drive with no particular destination in mind? Do you enjoy baking for the sake of it? Baths, dancing, painting, buying a new candle, unplugging from social media for a few hours, climbing a tree. These are all things that different people have found to replenish them. When’s the last time you did something you enjoyed just for the sake of it? Maybe today’s the day you start again.
Many times, prayer can be the most difficult thing we do when you’re feeling low. Research has shown that people who pray are more securely able to navigate their emotions than those who don’t.
Prayer also leads to mindfulness which can often help put challenges in new perspective. This isn’t to say medical advice shouldn’t be sought out or followed when it comes to managing mood disorders or other mental health challenges but adding prayer can let you regenerate and find some peace in the presence of God.
As Jamie Tworkowski shared in light of Kid Cudi’s recent announcement about his battle with depression, prioritizing your mental health is never shameful. In contrary, taking the steps you need to in order to be healthy is the bravest you can be.