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Tips for Improving Your Mental Health

When we think of New Year’s resolutions, usually it is to improve our physical health, however, maintaining good mental and emotional habits are just as important. If you have had a challenging year in 2015, it is time to reevaluate why and what you can do differently for 2016. Being mentally healthy means that you have a sense of wellbeing, you are able to function with everyday life and meet challenges in confidence.

Risk factors that can compromise your emotional health:

1.                  Poor connection/attachment to your primary caregiver early in life.
2.                  Childhood trauma and/or early losses through death, divorce, etc.
3.                  Learned helplessness. Believing that you are helpless and can do little to change your situations.
4.                  Physical illness that is long-term or debilitating.
5.                  Substance abuse. This can lead to initially having a release of “feel good” chemicals, but the long-term effects of chronic use can deplete these chemicals.

All of these risk factors can be counteracted with protective factors. There are steps that you can take to improve your emotional wellbeing. Your brain can actually manufacture its own “feel good” chemicals, called endorphins.

In addition to exercise, endorphins can be released naturally by:

1.      Eating chocolate, but choose dark chocolate. Chocolate contains the endorphin anandamide, which helps you relax. Eat (1) 4oz. piece daily.
2.      Find ways to laugh. The act of laughing helps you feel good instantly.
3.      Smiling, but only a true smile will do.
4.      Eating spicy foods.
5.      Thinking positive, and limiting unhealthy mental habits like worrying. Negative thoughts drain your energy and trigger feelings of anxiety, fear, and depression.
6.      Exposure to 10-15 minutes of daily sunlight.
7.      Use all of your senses. View beautiful artwork, listen to your favorite music, smell your favorite scents, or walk barefoot.
8.      Interacting with others that are healthy and positive for you.
9.      Engage in creative work, such as painting, building, gardening, or writing.
10.  Take time to enjoy life and do things that simulate you such as a walk in the park, going to the movies, or reading a book.
11.  Volunteer or be active in your community/church.
12.  Rest and refresh. Sleep restores your mind as well as your body. However, feelings of fatigue will set in if you are constantly rushed and overwhelmed. Allow yourself to have unfocused time each day to refresh.

People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their emotions.

Ask yourself these following questions to see if you need a boost in your emotional health?

1.      Do you have a sense of contentment?
2.      Are you able to enjoy life, have times of fun and relaxation, and not take life so seriously?
3.      Can you bounce back from setbacks/difficulties fairly quickly?
4.      Do you have meaning and purpose in your life?
5.      Are your relationships healthy? And do you have times of social interaction with them?
6.      Are you flexible with change?
7.      Do you have a balance of work, play, rest, and time with God?
8.      Do you think positive about yourself?

If you answered yes to most of the questions above, you can more readily cope when faced with life’s challenges and stresses. Being emotionally and mentally healthy does not mean that you will never go through tough times or experience emotional problems. We can still at times feel sadness, anxiety and stress. The difference is your ability to bounce back after adversity, and not remain stuck in the hardships. This ability is called resilience. People who have resilience have “tools” for coping in difficult times. They are able to stay focused, flexible, and maintain a good outlook.

Are you ready for a healthier mental/emotional you for 2016? Let me know about it.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts by troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”


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