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Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

Mental health refers to a person's overall psychological well-being, encompassing their emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It influences how you think, feel, and behave, as well as how you cope with and navigate the challenges and stresses of life.

Mental health is not just the absence of mental conditions or illnesses, but rather a state of wellbeing in which individuals can thrive emotionally, psychologically, and socially. Our mental health can be influenced by various factors, including biological, psychological, and social factors and can be referred to on a continuum, ranging from optimal mental wellbeing to the presence of mental health challenges or disorders.

The prevalence of mental health conditions in New Zealand is significant. According to the New Zealand Health Survey 2018/19, approximately 20% of adults (aged 18 years and older) reported experiencing a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, or both in the past 12 months. However, a lot of these go unreported or diagnosed due to the ability (or lack of) being able to seek willing help or assistance.

Here are some ways that we can hope to improve our mental health and wellbeing, starting with one small step at a time.

Meditation has so many profound benefits to our mental state and can be a powerful tool for managing and reducing stress. It activates the body's relaxation response, reducing the production of stress hormones such as cortisol. Regular meditation practice can help individuals develop resilience and cope more effectively with everyday stressors.

The sunshine vitamin = sunlight! Exposure to sunlight stimulates the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation. Higher serotonin levels can help improve mood, promote feelings of happiness, and alleviate symptoms of depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that help improve mood and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. It can lead to a sense of well-being and increased happiness. Not only that but the social interaction, reduction of stress, increased self-esteem and self-confidence, cognitive benefits and improved sleep qualities all benefit our mental wellbeing.

Getting enough quality sleep contributes to overall well-being and a better quality of life. It supports physical health, mental health, and the ability to engage in daily activities with energy and enthusiasm. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can negatively impact overall functioning and mood which can lead to low energy, low moods and the inability to concentrate or perform tasks well.

Food! Eating a balanced diet helps you get the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Avoid processed foods and choose healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and protein sources. You are what you eat, so eat great food in order to feel great.

There are so many other great benefits to add, but these would be my top 5. Like I said, start small and work your way up and in no time you’ll start feeling more positive and upbeat with your mental health, the key is being consistent and doing the work even when you feel like you're on top of it.

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