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You know that you need to eat right and exercise to take care of your physical health. What can you do to safeguard your brain? The best ways to prevent mental illness could help.
Adopting the right habits and mindset can go far to keeping you balanced, well-adjusted and mentally healthy. Here are ten ways to prevent mental illness — adopt one or more today.
1. Find Your “Why”
The German philosopher Nietzche once wrote, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Holocaust survivor, neurologist and psychologist Viktor Frankl echoes this principle in his work “Man’s Search for Meaning.” If you’re prone to depression, finding your purpose can keep you going through the darkest times.
What is your purpose for being here? Find something that you believe in enough to do or work toward, no matter how low you feel. Some might find meaning in raising their children or doing their best at work. Others might live to help others through volunteering, starting a compassionate business or even a non-profit.
2. Do Something For You Every Day
The hectic modern pace of life sometimes means putting self-care on the back burner. However, going hard without a break can lead to burnout and adverse mental health effects.
The solution? Set aside 30 minutes each day to do something for you. Sometimes, it might look like taking the time to work out or cook a healthy meal. On others, you might meditate, go for a walk or relax in a luxurious bubble bath. Hold this time as sacred. You are your infrastructure — you have to take care of your mental and physical health to perform at your best.
3. Build a Positive Social Network
The company you keep can influence your mood. Try to surround yourself with positive people who support your goals and believe in your dreams.
How can you make new friends? Look for opportunities to join clubs and campus or alumni organizations with others who share your interests. However, avoid limiting yourself — you might find the most fascinating connections come from people with very different worldviews but a similar mindset that anything is possible with hard work and courage.
Performing an act of kindness for others benefits you, too. How? It sets off a flood of positive neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin in your brain, making you feel terrific.
If you adore animals, but your school’s policy says “no pets,” why not sign up as a dog walker or kitty socializer with a local rescue? You can also find volunteering opportunities from home if you’re still isolated due to Covid concerns. 2022 is an election year, and political groups will seek no end of volunteers for phone and text banks.
5. Practice Yoga
If you’re at risk for PTSD or CPTSD because of trauma, yoga might be your ultimate healer. This practice helps you restore a sense of agency over your body.
Moving through certain poses also helps you process the emotions associated with your experience instead of stuffing them down with drugs and alcohol. Your feelings often manifest as tightness or stiffness in certain areas, and yoga allows you to release them in a safe space.
Dancing makes you smile, improving your mood. It could also help you retain your cognitive abilities.
Researchers investigated the effects of various activities, from biking to crossword puzzles, for their preventative effects on Alzheimer’s disease. Dance emerged as the hands-down winner because of the neuroplasticity involved in following the steps combined with physical activity.
7. Change Your Diet
The food you choose impacts your mood. Some researchers theorize that a lack of micronutrients in the modern American diet may fuel some of the more aggressive political discourse seen so often today.
The solution? Eat more whole, plant-based foods and avoid ultra-processed items. For example, snacking on nuts instead of chips provides you with micronutrients like magnesium, selenium and zinc, vital for proper neurological functioning. Consuming plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in every color ensures you intake various antioxidants crucial for health.
8. Get Outside
Research suggests that going outside improves your mood and boosts productivity. The sun helps you generate natural vitamin D, a hormone that impacts your mental outlook.
Furthermore, going outdoors encourages you to partake in physical activity, like walking. Doing so increases endorphins, natural body chemicals that make you feel good.
9. Connect With a Support Group
There are few substitutes for talking with others who can genuinely understand your situation because they’ve been there themselves. You can support groups for nearly any mental health condition or lifestyle concern. Joining them makes you feel less alone and can foster lifelong friendships.
The pandemic did bring some good news. You can now find online meetings for many such groups. If you’re shy, you no longer have to step out from behind the screen to connect with others who share your concerns.
10. Find a Therapist
There’s no stigma in seeking therapy. You can work through many of life’s challenges with professional guidance, even if you don’t feel mentally ill.
Your primary care physician or insurance company is your first stop for a referral. If you’re enrolled in school, check with your campus health center. Many institutions offer therapy services as a part of your tuition — take full advantage of this resource.
10 Ways to Prevent Mental Illness
We live in an increasingly stressful world. Tight deadlines and changing life circumstances can throw you an emotional curveball. However, you can train your mind like you do your body. Incorporate one or more of these ten ways to prevent mental illness into your routine and reap the benefits of improved well-being.