Positive psychological (mental) health is essential for our survival, but it can easily be disturbed by the stress of jobs, kids and mortgages. When our minds are constantly distracted with these responsibilities, it becomes difficult to maintain an uplifted mood.
By improving your mental health, you can conquer these daily distractions and strengthen your mental skills to become more happy and successful in both your home and work life.
Fortunately, there are several natural ways, like the ones listed below, to improve mental health so that you can stay productive and successful throughout the day!
Exercise is one of the easiest and most effective ways to naturally improve your mental well-being. Not only does physical activity help decrease the chances of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, it also boosts your mood by increasing the body’s production of the “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins, which help the body to relax and stress less.
Make exercise fun and motivating by signing up for local fitness classes, train for a 5k mud run, or even join a CrossFit box. The key is to find what you enjoy and aim to for at 30 minutes of exercise 3-4 times each week to strengthen your body inside and out!
Mud runs are a great way to meet fun & active individuals
Clean Up Your Diet
A healthy diet will enhance your psychological health by improving physical health. Excessive consumption of certain foods, such as salt, sugar and saturated fat not only wreak havoc on your physical well-being, but it can also worsen depression and anxiety. On the other hand, eating nutritious, wholesome foods, such as fresh, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains, has proven to help improve mental health. Clean up your diet by treating yourself to healthy, nourishing foods to boost your mood and to keep your body young, fit and disease-free!
Some of my favorite foods to stay healthy and positive throughout the day
Volunteering is a great way to help others while providing personal fulfillment. Some awarding volunteer opportunities include serving as a mentor for troubled children, participating in local charities, or working at a food bank. There are tons of organizations out there who would absolutely love your help, so research your interests and to quote Alice Hocker, “You’re greatness is not what you have, but in what you give.”
Working at a nutrition outreach center allows me to share my passion of healthy living with others
Foster Positive Social Contacts:
Fostering positive social contacts, whether with family, friends or colleagues, is very important for our psychological needs. Everyone needs some type of social interaction, and it is best to find individuals with similar values and interests. One goal to try improve your mental health could be to make and maintain at least one new and positive social contact each year. Again, think about your hobbies and try to meet people through those venues to keep yourself happy and interactive!
Bonding with some of the amazing AT Ambassadors
Keep a “Positivity” Journal:
You can help improve your intellectual health by keeping a daily journal or diary. Some people find it calming and motivating to write down positive thoughts or goals for the day.1 Not to mention, it can be extremely uplifting to look back through the journal to see your accomplishments and remind yourself of what an amazing person you are!
Writing down positive thoughts and goals is a healthy way to start to the day
Get Adequate Sleep:
Getting enough sleep is very important for both your physical and psychological well-being. Studies have shown that 7-9 hours is optimal for mental health, but of course the exact quantity depends on the individual.4 To ensure you are getting adequate, interrupted sleep, try to go to bed at the same time each night, turn off all your electronics at least one hour before bedtime and keep a cool, dark bedroom. For more information on healthy sleep habits check out the AT blog, The Science of Sleep.
Set Achievable Goals
Setting goals can be stressful, especially when you are trying to improve your psychological health. Here are some tips to set goals that you can achieve without stressing yourself out over them.
Determine your BIG GOAL – then create smaller steps to reach them. Check the small steps off as you accomplish them to keep you progressive and motivated.
ONE BIG GOAL
Having one big goal is important because it can be your compass pointing you in the right direction. When it is hard to stick to your plan that day, you can look to this big goal as your “why”. For Ben, it was to win the CrossFit Games in 2010 (and presumably each year it has been that goal until he finally reached it in 2015!).
For me, it is to qualify for the CrossFit Games in 2016. That’s my one Big Goal to keep me moving through my smaller, daily goals.
SMALLER SPECIFIC, OBSERVABLE AND MEASURABLE GOALS
This is the meat of goal setting. Goals should be specific, observable and measurable. However, many times our true desires aren’t as simple as that. Often, we want to “be healthier”, “get in shape”, “win (insert title) competition” , “get stronger”, “have more energy” etc. To decide on how I should approach my goal, I ask myself, “What steps do I need to take to get there?”
Much like Ben, I also have a list of measurable goals that I believe will put me in the best position for achieving my big goal of qualifying for the 2016 CrossFit Games, such as “be able to handstand walk 120 feet unbroken” or “snatch 180#”. If your goal is health related rather than competition related, use specific markers to measure your health – it could be physiological such as blood pressure or body composition, lifestyle choices such as getting 8 hours of sleep or physical activity goals such as exercising 4x a week, among many others.
This year my training is about doing things I’ve never done before and pushing past personal barriers.
MAKE A PLAN ON HOW YOU WILL ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS
Enlisting the help of experts. Coaches, doctors, chiros or PTs can all be great resources for not only goal achievement but also goal setting. Often, I have gone to a coach with my bigger goal, for example – snatch 180# and in declaring that goal have come away with many micro goals (lift 5x a week, shoulder mobility exercises, be able to overhead squat 220#, etc.) designed to achieve that.
Make the time for the activities that support your goal. Setting a goal can help you prioritize activities, for example, sleeping 8 hours versus catching up on Instagram. (we’re all guilty of that one)
Set dates for when you will check in on your progress or achieve your goal. One of my favorite parts about Ben’s list is the goals that are crossed off and a date added next to them of when he achieved them. Writing a list of goals is great as long as you check back in frequently to see where you’re at. Its important to see how much further you have to go, or if you can check one off the list! (talk about a morale booster!)
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity
STAY THE COURSE
There may be times when you aren’t successful in meeting your Big Goal in the timeframe you had planned. This is an opportunity to check in and evaluate some things. This year, my Big Goal was to place top five at Regionals in order to qualify for the CrossFit Games. I placed 6th and did not qualify. Because my training year was made up of many smaller, measurable training goals that I was able to achieve, I not only feel accomplished despite not meeting my Big Goal, I’m able to road map the path for success next year (and, like Ben, stay the course until I get there).
The best questions I have asked myself when I need motivation to “stay the course” are:
First, what progress have I made and what are some of the smaller goals that I was able to achieve? Seeing the progress you have made along the way can reinforce that you are on the right track.
Second, is my goal still a valuable pursuit and my journey towards it worthwhile and meaningful? It is a cliché, but you have to enjoy the journey! Any goal worthy of pursuing will be hard work at times but should be contributing to the quality of your life, not detracting from it.
To repeat a common – but true – quote, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”, so get out there & set your goals!
Alters, S., Schiff, W. (2011) Stress and its management. Essential Concepts for Healthy Living: 35-36.Find all citations by this author (default).Or filter your current search
Dunn, A.L., Trivedi, M.H., & O’Neal, H.A. (2001). Physical activity dose-response effects on outcomes of depression and anxiety. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33 (6 Suppl): S587-S597.
Jacka FN, Pasco JA, Mykletun A, Williams LJ, Hodge AM, et al. (2010) Association between western and traditional diets and depression and anxiety in women. Am J Psychiatry 167: 305–311.
Kaneita, Y., Ohida, T., Oisaki, Y., Minowa, M., Suzuki, K., Wada, K., Kanda, H., Hayashi, K., (2007) Association between mental health status and sleep status among adolescents in Japan: a nationwide cross-sectional survey. Department of Public Health, School of Medicine, Nihon University, Tokyo, Japan. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry: 1426-1435.