According to a Poll conducted in mid-July,
53% of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus. This is significantly higher than the 32% reported in March, the first time this question was included in KFF polling.
All of us must have witnessed the irritated, frustrated, and negative change in behaviors of our loved ones and ourselves.
A lot of us knew how to regulate these emotional changes and stabilize our mental health. But so many of us didn’t know this, and we have seen our mental health degrading.
I have seen people around me who had a few daily mental health habits that helped them sail through this pandemic. And I was intrigued about how quickly those people shifted from pandemic-mode to their normal and adjusted lives.
In this post, I’ll mention 5 daily habits that help to boost up our mental health.
Keeping your body in movement
Most of us are not going out too much. The fewer body movements we used to have, like walking from the elevator to our office desk or going to the cafeteria on the 2nd floor, even those body movements were stopped.
We all are familiar with the positive effects of physical exercise on our mental health. In fact, the mentalhealth.org.uk publication mentions,
Physical activity has a huge potential to enhance our wellbeing. Even a short burst of 10 minutes’ brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood.
Participation in regular physical activity can increase our self-esteem and can reduce stress and anxiety.
Although gyms and parks are opening one by one, if they are still inaccessible to you right now, you can start by doing some yoga poses or stretches. Bodyweight strength training like pushups, squats, burpees could also be a great option.
I tried this 20-min full-body workout, and my goodness, it was so intense. Here’s the video —
I have gained 11kg during the last 6 months, and I can understand if you’re also gaining some unhealthy fat around your body parts. Needless to say, we need to be more compassionate for ourselves and others if we see our friends becoming more chubby or physically unfit now.
A healthy gut for a healthy mind
Studies mention that sugar and processed food can cause mood disorders.
A balanced diet can contribute amazingly to your mental health. This would mean including plenty of vegetables, fruits, and lean protein food items.
Here are certain points about food that, if taken seriously, can help you strengthen your mental health —
- Have a glass of lukewarm water with a lemon squeezed in it. This will provide Vit. C to your body and helps improve your immunity.
- Eat a bowl of vegetable salad every day before lunch/dinner. It’s a great source of fiber and aids in digestion.
- Complex carbohydrates present in brown rice and sweet potato are more nutritious and keep you more satiated than simple carbohydrates present in sugar and candies.
- Walnuts and almonds are great sources of fat and directly aids our mental health. Other healthy fat sources are coconut oil and olive oil.
- Mindful and slow eating can directly and positively impact your mental health.
Daily reflection journaling
I met a Buddhist monk Karma Yeshe Rabgye a few weeks ago. He suggested these 4 daily rituals for a more fulfilling life —
- Morning meditation practice
- Living a life of service
- Practicing non-violence in thoughts, words, and actions
- Daily reflection practice
I have been practicing these 4 rituals every day since I met him, and they are life-changing. I am amazed by how many tiny and insightful changes this daily reflection practice has brought in my life.
Points to analyze during contemplation
- What all went right today?
- What all went wrong today?
- How did I feel throughout the day? Was I mindful?
- What can I do better tomorrow?
These sound like perfect journaling prompts. Otherwise, you can sit in silence, relax your body, and ask yourself these questions in a meditative state.
In fact, psychologists also suggest that daily reflection can help in developing other healthy habits too.
Having a good night’s sleep
Everyone has different sleep requirements. Some people need 7.5 hours of daily sleep, while others work best when they sleep at least 9 hours every day.
Harvard health mentions,
Americans are notoriously sleep-deprived, but those with psychiatric conditions are even more likely to be yawning or groggy during the day.
Chronic sleep problems affect 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with 10% to 18% of adults in the general U.S. population.
Sleep problems are particularly common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
This means getting better sleep will directly and positively impact your mental health.
To understand how to sleep better, a YouTube video by Dr. Micheal Breus on Mindvalley was an eye-opener for me. Here’s the video —
The two major takeaways from this video are —
- The ‘8-hour rule of sleep’ is a myth.
- There are 4 major chronotypes of humans based on our sleep, and you can take up this free quiz to check your chronotype. Based on your chronotype, you will calculate the amount and the best time you need for your sleep.
Mindful activities throughout the day
Most of us are already familiar with the positive impacts of daily meditation on our mental health.
But for a lot of people, it could seem scary to sit with your eyes closed for a long time. And that’s okay. We have other options too.
If you want to develop meditation practice over a period of time, you can try one or two minute sessions by sitting in a silent place and observing your breath. You can also try free mobile apps for guided meditation sessions like Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, and Mindhouse.
Apart from your meditation practice, doing daily activities mindfully will also impact your mental health positively.
For instance, mindful eating can rapidly improve your relationship with food. This means if you have a habit of eating unhealthy food or binge eating snacks, mindful eating, and positively influence those habits.
You can try mindful eating by sitting in silence while eating your food, slowing down your chewing speed, and observing your body, reacting to every bite you eat.
You don’t have to do it 100% of the time (mentioning this for my personal note); maybe once a day, you can decide to eat your food mindfully.
Like mindful eating, you can try walking meditation, which has also been proven to improve mental health and regain focus.
In walking meditation, you switch off the distractions and walk peacefully and slowly in a silent environment. Observe how your body shifts the weight from one foot to the other when you walk. That’s it.
Doing daily chores mindfully can positively influence your mental health.
Before you practice any of this
Improving your mental health is a long term game. You will definitely start seeing tiny shifts within the first few days. But developing these habits as a part of your routine — that will make you mentally strong.
A word of caution: practice self-compassion when you work on your mental health. It could get frustrating, too sometimes. Self-compassion will help you go through (and grow through) those times of frustration.