Healthy Connections Spring 2020: Be Healthy

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Pathways to a Positive Outlook

Explore alternative ways of preventing or managing mental health issues

Mental health is a stigmatized topic; many people are reluctant to seek help for themselves and don’t know how to suggest help for others. While some mental illnesses require medication therapies, there are many other ways to deal with or even prevent the onset of disorders. If you or a loved one experience depression, the most commonly reported mental illness in our region, consider these strategies for coping. Self-care means actively taking care of yourself. Whether setting boundaries on your time at work and home or prioritizing the things that really matter to you, self-care is important for maintaining good mental health.

EXERCISE stimulates the release of endorphins, chemicals in the body that create a mild sense of euphoria. Aim for 45 minutes of exercise, three times per week. Exercise doesn’t always have to be aerobic to be beneficial—even though that is best. Choose any activity you enjoy that gets you moving, such as walking, dancing, gardening or yoga.

NUTRITION is especially influential on mental health. For example, sugars found in highly processed foods and drinks create a cycle that can lead to or reinforce depression. Too much sugar upsets the body’s need for a steady supply of glucose, causing emotional highs followed by extreme lows. Try fruits and nuts as healthy alternatives to sugar.

SOCIAL CONNECTIONS have been found to play a significant role in the health and longevity of some of the oldest people on Earth, according to research conducted by National Geographic. Online interactions are not a substitute for face time and may actually contribute to depression, so supplement them with in-person interaction.

SLEEP may be the most important factor of all in mental health. Harvard Medical School advises that missing sleep may increase your risk for the development of some psychiatric disorders. Pay particular attention to “sleep hygiene” by avoiding screen time just before sleep, maintaining a regular sleep schedule and keeping your bedroom dark.

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