If you’re stressed out, anxious, unhappy, in a funk, looking for a boost in happiness or just some relief from the madness of life, rest at ease. You can improve your mental well-being, usually without resorting to medication. After all, most of our anxiety and misery has roots – many times related to causes we misidentify. Here are 3 ways to immediately improve your mental well-being and, if practiced over time, drastically improve your life for the better.
#1 – You Are Not Your Thoughts
To immediately get sanctuary from miserable moods, start watching your thoughts and putting distance between you and them. Have you ever noticed that we are our own worst roommate? Hardly anyone talks down to us, gets on our case or mentally and emotionally abuses us like we can. What am I talking about?
We all have an inner voice ceaselessly talking in our heads and we identify completely with it and believe everything it says. For a lot of unhappy people, this internal self-talk is toxic. It’s a constant refrain about how useless, helpless, victimized, ugly, stupid, unworthy, unloved, unappreciated, misunderstood, etc. they are. We would hopefully never talk this way to anyone else so why do we act this way toward ourselves?
To immediately boost your mental well-being, realize this inner monologue and pattern of thoughts is merely that – an inner babbling. The conversation can change but we have to first realize these thoughts aren’t actually us but patterns and impressions we have picked up from others or situations over time. Who we are at heart is a beautiful, worthy person doing the best they can to make this life somehow meaningful and worthwhile.
Once we start catching out our thoughts, we can start putting distance between us and negative thoughts and change the dialogue. When I first started noticing how abusive and self-defeating my thoughts were, I’d use tricks to derail the harassment – whether it was over a missed bus, dropped spoon, or work error. I’d thank my mind for the comment, tell it to focus on finding solutions or the good in situations, and move on. I’d remind my overly critically brain that its job was not to tear me or anything else down but to be helpful and kind so that I could move forward on my goals and dreams. In this way, I diffused all the negative self-talk making my inner life miserable and enlisted my mind as a useful partner on my journey.
Our minds are creative, active things. Left to run on default, they will turn increasingly inward upon us to become our biggest enemy, critic and stumbling block. Taught how to be useful, helpful and insightful, our mind and thoughts will be our biggest ally, friend and helper. But we must train it rather than letting it run off leash to bite us and everyone else. Check out my articles The #1 Secret Behind Emotional Well-Being and What It Takes to Find Peace.
#2 – Eat Better Food
Most people never realize that one of the most important influences on their moods and happiness is their diet. Scientists are seeing more and more the connection between the quality of the food we eat and our mental heath (1).
Junk food and processed food are not just detrimental to our bodies, they also tear down our nervous systems and minds. What we eat matters. We receive nutrition from the food and drink we consume in order to run, repair and maintain our bodies and minds. If that food and drink contains little nutrition and also works like poison by hurting our systems, our mental and emotional health will suffer.
Today, Americans eat the worst diet in history – 62% alone is processed food and only 12% is life-supporting fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, pulses, tubers and whole grains. And of this 12%, half of it is consumed as nutritionally devoid French fries. Is it any wonder we have growing rates of depression and suicide? If our food isn’t healthy, our minds won’t be either.
Eat to live. Choose real foods over processed foods, junk foods, fast food, the heat and serve meals, and so much other junk masquerading as food that litters our grocery store shelves. Real food is not a mix. It’s not even pasta and sandwich bread – two of the most common but highly processed “foods” we love to eat. Real food is strawberries, tomatoes, barley, almonds, spinach, oats, sweet potatoes and everything else that was just picked and packed.
When you start eating and cooking with real food, your energy and vitality increases, your mind sharpens, your moods settle and your anxiety eases. Your emotional baseline shifts higher as a result! This is the power of real food. It’s extraordinary. It’s one of the reasons that healthy food loving people have lower Alzheimer’s rates (Research-based Health News: Diet’s effect on gut bacteria could play role in reducing Alzheimer’s risk).
Drop the processed foods and pick up the life-giving foods your great-grandmother used to get from the garden, farm or local farmers’ market. These are whole foods that nourish us. Your body and mind will thank you.
#3 – Physical Activity & Sunlight
You don’t have to run 20 miles a week but physical activity is a great mood booster. Gym memberships are mostly an invention of the 20th century. Few people before our modern sedentary culture worried about going to the gym or having a good workout. People were more active than us and they were outside far more. Now we just sit in our houses, commute and work indoors. Not a lot of that is physical activity or getting mood-boosting, real vitamin D from the sun and not via a synthetic pill or chemical fortification.
Today we resort to intensive workouts but a gentler change of lifestyles to more active would probably bring more life satisfaction. But never underestimate the marvels of a good workout. Endorphins are a fast way to an improved mood. That’s why runners love their runner’s high. Exercise increases oxygen flow through the body and mind, making for better concentration, alertness and elevated moods.
When we’re down, the last thing we want to do is exercise or even go for a walk. I know I never did but once I got out the door, my mood always changed for the better. Being in the sun also helps and studies have shown that being in nature improves mood – just 2 hours a week can make a big difference in our happiness levels (see Researched-Backed Health News: Two hours a week is key dose of nature for health and wellbeing and Researched-Based Health News: Seeing greenery linked to less intense or frequent cravings for alcohol, cigarettes and harmful foods.
So go for a walk outside or get exercising to release those feel good endorphins, increase your happiness and lessen self-defeating habits like alcohol, cigarettes and junk food consumption.
Causes, Not Symptoms
We have soaring rates of depression and anxiety in modern society. In 99% of cases, taking medication only treats symptoms, not causes and comes with side effects. Most of our misery is a combination of factors – past trauma we haven’t dealt with, living our lives to other people’s expectations rather than living the ones we want, our self-sabotaging self-talk we mistake for who we are, the detrimental food we’re eating, and our sedentary lifestyles. Handling it all at once is usually more than anyone can take on for starters but we can gain massive changes by doing these three things:
- Take back control of our thoughts and inner dialogue from its current default
- Change to a mind and health supporting diet
- Get physical activity and sunlight
You’ll be shocked like I was at how much these three things alone impact our quality of life – and they are changes we can start making now, today. They’re free or cheap and within our control. Don’t let your mental well-being slide or become chronically miserable. We can impact our happiness levels immensely but it takes some key changes. Try these three suggestions and you won’t at all be disappointed with the results. Instead you’ll be liberated.
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