4 Habits Everyone Needs for Better Mental Health

Mental Health

Avnish Mishra, Counseling Psychologist, BetterLYF Wellness

Imagine yourself going on a road trip.

✅ Packing – Checked.
✅ Food supplies – Checked.
✅ Fuel in the Car – Checked.
✅ Headlights and Wipers – Checked.
✅ Tyre Pressure – Checked.

In fact, you have kept an extra tyre as well, as a precautionary measure. But what about the engine, the brakes, the gearbox and other important aspects of the car? Why is that not as important as everything else? It is imperative that we take care of the car from the inside as well but when it comes to our own selves, our mental health takes a backseat, isn’t it? Oh, by the way, have you packed some camping materials along with you for the trip? No?

I suggest, please do so for safety because we never know how far an unserviced car will take us as it might break down because internally, it is not at its best. Skipped a beat? Well, we’ve been doing that all along for our mental health, isn’t it?

Imagine going about your daily life, the tough days, tougher days, days when you don’t get out of your bed, without caring for yourself, mentally. It’s time we assign some time from the day to our mental health as well so as to function at our optimum like we would do for our car to avoid a ‘brake’down, we should avoid a mental breakdown as well.

Here are four uncommon yet important mental health habits –

1.    Think about your thinking. 

Often, we don’t know why we did what we did. When we start getting curious about how our mind is processing information around us and try to understand why is it reacting the way it is, we engage ourselves in a process called Metacognition which essentially means, thinking about your thoughts, and emotional responses thereafter. 

For example, when we have an exam, we feel nervous, isn’t it? Yes, we do. And it is valid, but have you ever wondered were we anxious about the exam or the results? Are we fearing heights, or are we fearful of falling? Interesting isn’t it?

2.    Self Compassion. 

Compassion is the key to feeling good about self. We need to be kind to ourselves, the same way we are to people around us. It helps us give ourselves the space to let our emotions out to us, and not suppress them and bottle them up for some time later. Being there for ourselves is a true self-compassionate behaviour.

For example, When we score poorly on our tests, we criticize ourselves for not studying, for spending too much time scrolling through social media or for doing other things that now seem unimportant because there is self-compassion. But if a friend comes up with the same score we encourage them to work harder the next time and what happens and that they are allowed to make mistakes. That’s great, but having said that, is belittling yourself for the same okay?

3.    Practice Gratitude. 

The key to having no or minimum baggage of emotions lies in this small practice of counting blessings than burdens. Being grateful to someone or something or a moment we are in makes us live in the moment and feel good about being present there. There was this beautiful dialogue by Arthur in the movie “Passengers” – 

“You can’t get hung up with where you would rather be, that you forget making the most of where you are.”

Try maintaining a gratitude journal on a daily basis and write about at least 5 good things from the day that you’re grateful for. How do we do that? We don’t have big moments every day. 

Agreed, but is it important to have a big moment to be happy, to smile and enjoy and be grateful for it? Or do you have something to be grateful for at work? Do you have a relationship you are grateful for? Is there anyone you would want to thank? Do you smile when reading a book? Can’t we savour these little moments and be grateful for them? We can, we should.

4.    Eat, Sleep and Meditate well. 

Firstly, It is very important to keep a tab on what we are eating. Junk food makes us lethargic while healthy food helps us stay active and alert. It helps our mind and body function well. Eating well and drinking a sufficient amount of water is important.

2019 review of 56 studies found an association between a high intake of healthy foods, such as olive oil, fish, nuts, legumes, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables, and a reduced risk of depression during adolescence. Secondly, Good sleep is a must. In a cross-sectional study in 2021, inadequate sleep (Less than 6 hours) was associated with significantly increased odds of frequent mental distress. 

Hitting the gym is great but did you know that hitting the gym with sleep deprivation can increase your chances of exhaustion and reduce your endurance? Try balancing your routine in a way where you can accommodate at least 7-8 hours of sleep a day. 

Thirdly, mindfulness-based meditation helps us stay more aware of our body, our thoughts and triggers and the emotions invoked thereafter which in turn helps us manoeuvre well.

In the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, “The only journey is the journey within.”

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