Millions of people worldwide suffer from a variety of different mental illnesses, with the most common mental disorders being anxiety and depression. The most comprehensive mental health study about anxiety and depression to date was published in the journal Psychological Medicine, and was performed by researchers from the University of Queensland.
After poring over surveys from 91 different countries involving more than 480,000 people, they found that 1 in 13 people globally suffers from anxiety, and 1 in 21 people will have major depression at some point in their life.
When it comes to mental health and mental disorders, each person responds differently to coping mechanisms and healing techniques. If you want to improve your mental health, you can do a few simple things that have no harmful side effects like pharmaceutical pills do, and work toward fixing the underlying problem instead of covering it up with a temporary fix.
Here are 10 ways to avoid depression and anxiety:
1. Change your diet.
In Western countries in particular, our diets have been inundated with heavily processed, chemical-laden, nutritionally-lacking “food-like substances.” If you want to experience better mental health, go to the source first.
Once you start feeding your body with nutrient-dense, high quality foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and starches, you will notice a great shift in your mental health.
If you’d like to read more about the relationship between our gut and our brain, refer to our article here.
2. Find hobbies that you truly enjoy.
Oftentimes in life, we tend to choose activities that will increase our productivity and benefit our lives in the long-term. Productivity and goal-setting have been so ingrained in our culture that allowing ourselves the time to have experiences for our own personal enjoyment seems like a ludicrous idea. Frankly, we work too much and play far too little.
Put yourself first for a change, forget about work for a bit, and do something that makes you feel absolutely free. In our search for ways to help people with anxiety and depression, maybe we should look at how much time they allot themselves for having fun, instead of just prescribing another pill.
3. Another way to improve your mental health is to set goals.
Contrary to our last point, having some sort of goals can definitely add to your mental wellness. Of course, this needs to be offset by plenty of time for self-care, self-love, and self-expression, but at least some of your time should be spent on what you’d like to accomplish in your life. You don’t have to have some grandiose goal in mind, but just having something to work towards, even if it’s cutting out watching TV before bed, can improve your mental health.
We all want to feel good, and reaching our goals and facing challenges can definitely help improve our moods.
4. Volunteer for a cause you believe in.
Not to discount anxiety and depression at all, but many people spend so much time focusing on themselves and how they feel, that they leave very little time for helping others.
A study performed by researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in England found that volunteers reported decreased depression, higher levels of satisfaction, and an increase in well-being.
5. Adjust your self-talk.
Many times, we beat ourselves up for no reason. Having positive conversations with yourself can uplift your mood and increase your self-esteem, which will help you have a brighter outlook on yourself and life in general. Try to recite an encouraging mantra each morning to get your day started on the right foot, and repeat positive affirmations to yourself throughout the day to keep the good vibes flowing!
6. Don’t fight your emotions.
In regard to mental health and mental disorders, many sufferers continue to fight their feelings instead of simply allowing them. Don’t stuff your emotions down in an attempt to get rid of them; this will only enhance mental illness. Start treating yourself with compassion, and don’t expect perfection – no one feels 100% balanced and mentally healthy all the time, so don’t expect yourself to.
Express your emotions in a healthy way, whether through talking with someone, journaling, drawing, singing, or whatever means feels right to you.
7. A great natural treatment for anxiety and depression is to spend more time outdoors.
Make sure you get enough sunshine. We have been told by doctors and mainstream media to fear the sun because it might cause skin cancer, but just as we shouldn’t lay out in the sun all day, we also shouldn’t avoid it completely. In modern times, many people have very little access to the outdoors, which can lead to a Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D helps to regulate our moods and helps other vital bodily functions, so make sure to spend at least 30 minutes a day outdoors to improve your mental health.
8. Work through your fears.
Instead of running from your fears, go in the opposite direction. Take steps each day to overcome your fears, and once you come face-to-face with them, they won’t seem so scary. Simply put, to improve our mental health, we need to actively learn and grow each day. Instead of living in fear, live in love and passion. Look at life as an endless learning tool, and it won’t seem so scary anymore. Life provides plenty of opportunities to feel good, we just have to be willing to take them.
9. Make sure to get adequate sleep.
Oftentimes, a poor sleeping schedule can lead to even worse mental health. Try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night for a natural way to help mental illness.
10. Don’t feel bad for saying no.
Don’t take on more than you can handle; start getting comfortable saying no. No one can possibly do everything that people ask of them, so don’t try. Being a people-pleaser means you put yourself on the back burner regularly, which leads to burnout eventually. Say yes to yourself more, and you will start to see your mental health improve.