10 Easy Ways to Improve your Mental Health!

Por Juan Carlos Dumas, L.M.H.C.*

Simply put, Mental Health is:
Being able to have a positive, balanced self-image and esteem, adequate and well-adjusted behaviors and interactions with others, being satisfied, appreciative, happy, not stressed and optimistic more often than not, and living a healthy and productive life in the company of our family, friends, coworkers and the community at large.

Here are 10 ways to achieve it: 

1. EXERCISE: 

It is clinically proven that when we exercise our bodies react by producing a number of healthy, healing and uplifting substances that enhance our immune system (the one that protects us from illnesses) and our sense of well being. Exercising is not only going to a gym, but also playing and running in the park, doing gardening or construction work, long or brisk walking, biking, skating, swimming, hiking, etc.

2. GOVERN YOUR MIND: 

Who else but you is governing your mind? If you allow negative, stressful, or depressing ideas to “drive” your mind, the subsequent feelings will be negative, discouraging and depressing. If, on the contrary, you focus your attention on positive, uplifting, encouraging things, positive feelings and a good mood will follow.  

3. BE SURROUNDED BY POSITIVE INFLUENCES: 

Often times, and without realizing, we surround ourselves with negative ‘stuff’ from newspapers, the Internet and TV, from people who constantly look for and talk about negative issues, and even from our own negative views about life and living. When we do the opposite and look for positive information, issues and people in our daily lives, our mood becomes much more balanced and health-oriented.

4. PRAY AND MEDITATE:

Psychologists, therapists, and medical doctors have long realized the tremendous impact praying and meditation have on one’s health and wellbeing, regardless of the faith or meditation method. Like with exercising, both improve the overall mind-body functioning, strengthen our immune system, reduce our tensions and support a healthier vision of life and living.  

5. OVERCOME IRRATIONAL THOUGHTS: 

In many occasions our psychological suffering comes from us holding irrational beliefs, ideas or expectations, for example, that “everybody has to like me”, “I can’t fail” or “everything always has to be OK” and “things should go my way all the time.”

These kinds of thoughts and expectations are NOT reasonable because we are human beings, we do make mistakes and err, we do fail sometimes or fall short of our goals and some people will like us while others won’t.

6. MOVE AWAY FROM ANGER:

There are many reasons why people may feel angry at others or at some conflictive situations. However, the more we allow angry feelings and thoughts to ‘stick’ in our minds, the longer it will take for us to overcome them and the more we will carry the physical and emotional consequences of hosting anger including physical problems (tension headaches, stomach or chest pain, hypertension) and emotional ones (irritability, social isolation, aggressiveness, depressed mood).  

7. LOVE: 

Love is THE highest healing feeling. When we love our families, our friends, our coworkers, our partners and ourselves, we are releasing powerful hormonal “medicines” that are stored in our brains and travel to every cell in our body generating a sensation of happiness and wellbeing, reducing our physical and emotional ailments, and improving our socialization and communication with the rest of the world.

8. TRY TO REDUCE CONFLICTS:

Unfortunately, increasing conflicts instead of reducing them has become extremely popular. “Reality shows”, soap operas, and “court TV” make money by inciting the audience with the worst possible scenarios and the lowest, most toxic feelings, displaying human miseries as in a pathetic Circus. As we have the tendency to imitate what we often see on the media and around us, dramatizing situations, exaggerating and increasing conflicts have become a national epidemic. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and move away from it. Try to de-dramatize situations, de-escalate problems and avoid this conflict-prone, catastrophic mentality. 

9. KEEP YOURSELF HEALTHY: 

When Ancient Greeks said: “A healthy mind in a healthy body” they were absolutely right. Because our personalities are intertwined body-and-mind systems, keeping our physical health has a direct impact in the psychology of the mind, in our mood and feelings. Regular visits to the doctor, a healthy diet, avoiding the excessive use of alcohol and the use of drugs and tobacco, all help you maintain your physical fitness and the well-being of your mind.

10. CONSULT WITH A PROFESSIONAL:

Mental Health Professionals (mental health counselors, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists) are trained to help individuals, couples, and families with their questions, stressors and problems whether they are personal, interpersonal, marital or family-related. 

In the same way we seek the assistance of a dentist for periodic cleaning and check-ups or when we have cavities or pain, the mental health professionals evaluate, diagnose, advise and treat emotional and psychological conditions with utmost confidentiality and care for their patients. Do not hesitate to seek the help of a professional on issues pertaining to you, your partner or spouse, your child, or your family as a whole.    

*Juan Carlos Dumas es psicoterapeuta, escritor y profesor universitario de la Long Island University. Consultor en Salud Mental para la Secretaría de Salud y Servicios Humanos, preside el Comité de Asesoramiento en Salud de North Manhattan y el Centro Hispano de Salud Mental en Queens, New York.