How to boost your mental health

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Annan Boodram - The Caribbean Voice (www.caribvoice.org), a US and Guyana registered volunteer-driven, not for profit NGO focused on suicide and all forms of abuse prevention in Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica and St Vincent & the Grenadines (in partnership with sister NGO ‘Say Enough is Enough Support Group) and the Caribbean Diaspora in North America.

By Annan Boodram – The Caribbean Voice

Talk about your feelings: Expressing your feelings can help you stay healthy mentally and deal with difficult times better. Talking can be a great way to cope with a problem you have been carrying around in your head for a while. Just being heard can help you feel supported and less lonely. As well it is important to discard negativity and instead think and express positivity about yourself. Celebrate each and every success. See every drawback as a learning experience and realize the positive from it. Accept doubts and difficulties as a part of life and more importantly realize that you have come out of them.

Also recognize what helped you, your support system, your own resilience and keep on reminding yourself that the next time you have an up and down, you will be able to recover from the down as well because you’ve done it before and thus the capacity is there.

“Learn the art of progress, not perfection,” said therapist Jennifer Musselman. “We are setting ourselves up for failure from the get-go [when we expect] to ‘have it all’ perfectly balanced. In other words, we will always feel like we are failing.” (20 Ways To Be A Happier Person In 2020, According To Therapists By Fred Jones in the Oaklahama Eagle, Dec. 20, 2019)

Stay active: Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep and feel better. Exercising doesn’t just mean practicing a sport or going to the gym; you go for a walk or pick up running. In fact, “Research in multiple countries show that spending time in green spaces can lift your mood and relieve anxiety in as little as ten minutes,” said Michael Brodsky, a psychiatrist. (20 Ways To Be A Happier Person in 2020, According To Therapists by Dominique Astorino, Huffington Post, 12/13/2019)

A 2019 study found that “forest bathing” – the Japanese practice of spending time among trees – could significantly lower people’s levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, reduce blood pressure, improve concentration and memory. As well exposure to airborne chemicals emitted by plants and trees can boost immunity, which has now being revealed as critical to fighting COVID 19 and other diseases.

Indulge in more activities that bring you joy: For example, if writing in your thing, then get into the habit of writing once a day. Or take some time each day to read. Listen to music or create your own music. Engage in art or sculpture or fashion design or carving. Do some gardening or cooking if that’s your craving. Take trips with family or friends, something as basic as a weekend getaway or a day out. The benefit of these activities is that they help you concentrate on one thing and completely free your mind from other stuff that bothers you and overcrowds your mind. As well they all help to reduce stress and anxiety.

Find one small self-care act that works for you: Pick one self-care activity, at the minimum and practice it regularly. For example try a five-minute meditation session daily. Engage in mindfulness practice or positive, self-affirming visualization. Give up or cut back on one unhealthy habit such as high alcohol or excessive caffeine consumption. Such acts enhance both physical and mental health.

Invest in a quality relationship: “If you want to have good long-term mental and physical health, you need to first see if you have meaningful, loving relationships,” said clinical psychologist Kevin Gilliland. “Who knows you better than anyone and who do you know better than anyone? Have you invested in that relationship by staying in touch and talking on the phone (not just texting)? And when was the last time you got together?”

Gilliland suggests picking one person close to you and spending quality time together. “If we’re not careful, we will end up giving our best in places that aren’t good for our mental health,” he said. “Study after study finds that loving meaningful relationships are good for our mental and physical health.” (20 Ways To Be A Happier Person in 2020, According To Therapists by Dominique Astorino, Huffington Post, 12/13/2019)

Set better boundaries: Did you find yourself feeling chronically overwhelmed and stretched thin in 2019? Time to reel that in and make more space for you by setting boundaries. “This one is more important than people realize, and they have way more control than they realize,” Gilliland said. “If you don’t want to go, then don’t go.”

Consider, is it something you think you “should” do? If so, then why? In the words of a popular therapist joke, stop should-ing yourself. Set those boundaries to thrive; learn to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty and focus more on yourself. As well, to avoid being overwhelmed, prioritize your tasks and focus on one at a time.

Cut back on technology use: So often we view people’s highlight reels on social media. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy in our own lives, according to experts. And given that research shows that spending too much time online is linked to poor mental health, now’s the perfect time to cut back.

“External validation is temporary; it’s difficult to maintain the pressure to chase ‘likes,’” said therapist Jennifer Musselman. “Build your self-esteem from competence of something important to you, and by being of service to others.”

It’s been shown in many studies that too much tech time can negatively impact mental health. So becoming less available via text and email will enable you to not feel emotionally tethered to your phone, and other devices. Opt for screen-free activities ― especially at night ― that help you disconnect from certain social and work stressors.

“While it’s unclear if sedentary screen time is a marker for or risk factor for depression (a correlation has been shown), there appears to be a consistent association of increased screen time in patients with depression and anxiety,” Sussex-Pizula said. (20 Ways To Be A Happier Person in 2020, According To Therapists by Dominique Astorino, Huffington Post, 12/13/2019).

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