Decades of Research Shows That These 5 Practices Drastically Improve Mental Health

Decades of Research Shows That These 5 Practices Drastically Improve Mental Health

I post a lot about happiness and mental health.

And I’m well aware that many of my posts are somewhat repetitive. That is, there’s often considerable overlap in terms of their recommendations.

But that’s not surprising.

Because I mainly share articles that are evidence based, or include science backed tips and strategies, there’s bound to be some repeating because the science repeatedly supports the same (limited number of) recommendations.

This article, once again, highlights a few tried and tested practices; but it’s a great reminder of the simple things we can all do, every do, to boost our happiness and wellbeing and mental health.

Read on for more from Parade magazine …

It’s no surprise that people’s mental health has taken a nosedive since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. For over two years, we’ve lived in a near-constant state of unrest and feeling unsafe, not to mention seeing our loved ones far less than usual. According to a recent survey from Parade in partnership with Cleveland Clinic, this year, 43% of respondents reported anxiety and 36% have faced sadness or depression

But one number from the study was especially troubling: 24% of participants say that they have no idea how to support their mental health.

Dr. Vanessa Kennedy, Director of Psychology at Driftwood Recovery, blames this lack of knowledge on the fact that our culture values functioning at a high level of performance when it comes to juggling many roles, and taking time out for our mental health is, at first glance, at odds with this value. 

“In addition, we may be under the incorrect assumption that ‘taking care of our mental health’ is a big, time-consuming, costly undertaking,” Dr. Kennedy says. “However, taking care of our mental well-being and reducing our stress can be a combination of short, simple strategies that improve our productivity and happiness.”  

Not having the time or the know-how are not viable explanations for why one can’t care for their mental health. Mental self-care can be simplified down to five practices (all supported by research) to aim for every day, no matter what your schedule is. These straightforward building blocks, which can each be done in as little as five minutes a day, as Dr. Kennedy says, can help one achieve improved mental health. 

1. Meditation

Religious leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama have been onto something that we’re only discovering the power of in recent years—meditation is a salve to the nervous system and mental health. As one 2016 study says, 63% of respondents with anxiety, stress, and depression found “a great deal” of relief through meditation. Specifically, meditation deactivates the sympathetic nervous system (which causes the fight or flight response) and decreases emotional reactivity. 

And you don’t have to sit cross-legged for hours on end to harness the benefits. In fact, Kia-Rai M. Prewitt, Ph.D., Psychologist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Cleveland Clinic says that a simple way to practice mindfulness is taking five minutes to focus on your breathing, no om chanting required. 

“Practicing mindfulness involves focusing on the present and noticing your thoughts and feelings without judging yourself for how you’re thinking or feeling,” she says. 

If you do have the time to make like Buddha and devote a portion of your schedule to meditating, you can do your homework and learn about all the different forms of meditation that are out there, and then try some out. 

“Guided imagery is a great place to start, whereas progressive muscle relaxation involves more physical focus on muscle groups,” Dr. Kennedy says. “You might prefer a loving-kindness meditation or a mantra or transcendental style. Trying different types and taking a brief window of time each day to meditate can do wonders for your mood and the way you handle stress.”    

… keep reading the full & original article HERE