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8 steps to support your mental health

July 7th, 2022 | 9 min. read

8 steps to support your mental health

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8 steps to support your mental health

 

If Covid has taught us anything at all, it taught us how important mental health is to everyone.

 

The era of Covid brought to the forefront of the world’s attention how stress about housing, school, work, family, and health risks combined with social isolation, negatively impacts people across all socio-economic, geographic, gender, and age divides.

 

A study published in January 2021 showed that 41% of adults were experiencing symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder. Another study from the same time period indicated that 37% of teens experience poor mental health

 

Though restrictions are lifting and there is more and more opportunity to engage in social connections at work, school, and community centers, not all mental health struggles have abated.

 

Mental health issues are complex. Getting help from professionals is a critical part of the journey toward wellness. But there are steps that you can take to bring more balance, wellness, and joy into your life.

 

At Paseo Club, we have been a resource for fitness and community for 19 years. We know that feeling a sense of belonging is a vital mental health concept

 

In this article, we will explore the best 8 steps anyone can take to support their mental health. By the end of the article, you will have your own “checklist” to refer to anytime you are feeling burdened by worries or are simply having a tough day.

 

8 steps to support your mental health

 

  1. Exercise

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that regular exercise supports mental health. The rewards from exercising are multifold:  

 

  • Reduces stress
  • Improves memory
  • Enhances the quality of sleep
  • Releases endorphins (your body’s “feel-good” hormones)
  • Improves self-esteem

 

  1. Sleep

For many people, being busy with work, family, friends, hobbies, and exercise is the most effective way to keep stress at bay. 

 

But how many of us are struggling with racing minds and repetitive thoughts the moment our head touches the pillow? 

 

Getting a good night’s sleep makes a huge difference in your mood

 

But getting a good night’s sleep is often harder to achieve than it looks. There are different tricks that can make the difference:

 

  • Turn off screens one hour before bed (no matter how great that Netflix show is)
  • Go to bed at a similar time every night
  • Make sure your room is dark 
  • Obtain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom
  • Practice a little stretching or deep breathing before bed to help your body and mind unwind from the day
  • Try to make your room quiet or use a white noise machine 

 

  1. Eat well

Food can be one of life’s greatest pleasures and a comfort when we are struggling. Though sweets and treats can bring us an immediate flush of gratification, the feeling doesn’t last long. According to Sutter Health, eating poorly can actually aggravate mental health problems, including:

 

  • Fatigue 
  • Impaired decision-making
  • Slow reaction time
  • Stress 
  • Depression

 

Eating a balanced diet, in the long run, helps regulate our metabolism and blood sugar levels, supporting good moods, concentration, and motivation.

 

 

  1. Spend time with friends

Even when it was outside, with masks, six feet apart, and in inclement weather, Covid showed us at what extremes people went to to spend time with their friends. 

 

According to the Mayo Clinic, friends prevent feeling a sense of isolation and loneliness.

 

Whether it is an exercise buddy, someone to tell jokes and laugh with, or the person you confide in your innermost thoughts, friendship is one of the most significant components of maintaining good mental health.

 

 

 

  1. Be in nature

The fancy term used these days for being in nature is “forest bathing.” But you need not pay hundreds of dollars for a retreat to walk in the woods (by the sea. through a field, or in a city park). 

 

Being in nature is one of the most pleasant and relaxing ways to calm the mind and recharge the spirit. We are actually nurtured by nature.

 

The benefits of being in nature are:

 

  • Improved attention
  • Lower stress 
  • Better mood 
  • Reduced risk of psychiatric disorders 
  • Increased empathy 
  • Increased cooperation

 

  1. Relaxation practice 

Having a relaxation practice can help manage stress. Techniques for relaxation not only improve mental health but also change the body’s physiology. Some advantages include:

 

  • Slowing heart rate
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Slowing breathing rate
  • Improving digestion
  • Controlling blood sugar levels
  • Reducing the activity of stress hormones
  • Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain

Notice, we did not say you need to practice meditation. Sitting on a special pillow, lighting incense, and chanting is a wonderful (and effective) relaxation tool. But it is not the only method that can be used. 

 

Try yoga, lying down with an eye pillow over your eyes, journaling, floating in the pool, or mindful walking. 

 

  1. Volunteer

When you are at your lowest, the idea of helping others may sound farfetched. But research shows that volunteering increases physical and mental health. It provides a feeling of appreciation and a sense of meaning for both the giver and the receiver

 

Doing volunteer work can be done weekly, monthly, or even annually. Young people, families, and seniors can get involved. Some places in your community that might need help are:

 

  • Food banks
  • Hospitals
  • Senior care centers
  • Library
  • Animal shelter
  • Community arts center
  • Schools
  • Parks

 

  1. Engage in a hobby

During the peak periods of Covid, many people had more time on their hands at home. Turning to new hobbies was a great way of “making lemonade from lemons.” Whether it was bread baking, watercolor painting, puppy training, or woodworking, people discovered gratification in trying something new.

 

Continue in this movement by carving out a little bit of time each week to attend to a favorite hobby because (surprise, surprise) participating in a hobby helps you feel more relaxed and happier.

 

One more bonus step in supporting your mental health…

We couldn’t resist adding one more bonus step to help you with your health and wellbeing — and this one might be our favorite.

 

Participate in group activities

Participating in group activities provides you with a whole host of benefits.

 

    • Improved communication skills
    • Better relationships with others
    • Improved social skills
    • Improved academic performance
    • Positive attitude
    • Enhanced self-esteem
    • Reduced risk of illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
    • Reduced risk for mental disorders, such as depression
    • Better brain health
  • Overall happier and healthier lifestyle

Where to get involved in group activities

There is a wide range of group activities available in most areas. Look to hobby groups, political organizations, volunteer organizations, team sports, or social clubs. 

The most important consideration is to choose an activity that you love and to be engaged with it as regularly and consistently as possible.

Closing thoughts

Mental health affects everyone. Learning to take care of ourselves as we navigate life’s challenges is a daily practice.

Now that you’ve read this article, you will hopefully have a few more “tools” in your “toolbox.” Remember, you don’t have to do all the steps every day. Try one or a few steps throughout the week to help support your mood and overall wellbeing.

At Paseo Club, we have members that have been with us for more than a decade because they love our fitness options, but even more so, they love the sense of community they find here.

If you are in the Santa Clarita Valley and want to enhance your connection with others, come take a tour of Paseo Club to see if we are a good fit for you.

Are you interested in trying out the relaxation practice of yoga? Reserve your spot for a class today.