We often care so deeply about our physical health that we forget to look after the part that matters the most: the mind.
Mental health is an oft-ignored subject. There are reams upon reams of material on staying fit, losing weight, and gaining muscle. But wellness remains a footnote, something we always put off for tomorrow.
In truth, staying mentally healthy will have as big, if not bigger, impact on your sense of well-being as staying physically fit. An hour of meditation will leave you feeling perhaps more refreshed and happy than an hour of crossfit.
Keeping this mind, I’m going to share some of my favorite – and easy to adopt – wellness habits:
1. Learn a Musical Instrument
The science is clear: music improves our sense of well-being. A slew of studies have shown that listening to or playing music improves cognition, memory, sleep, and overall mental health. Other studies show that trained musicians perform better than non-musicians at memory and cognition-related tasks.
You don’t need to read dozens of scientific studies to know this, of course. You probably know that playing the guitar or the piano simply feels good.
The good news for you is that learning a musical instrument is easier than ever. You can buy a cheap digital piano, find some music lessons on YouTube, and get started right away. Your total investment will be less than $100, and you’ll pick a habit that will give you joy and happiness for years to come.
2. Start Meditating
Can I say anything about the benefits of meditation that hasn’t already been said? From improving concentration to changing your mood, meditation has tremendous benefits.
Just consider some of the scientifically proven positive effects of meditation:
- Improves cognitive functions
- Reduces stress
- Increases self-awareness
- Increases happiness
- Slows aging
- Benefits cardiovascular health, immunity and breathing
Meditation is also much easier to pick up today than it used to be. Guided meditation apps can help you get started in as little as 10 minutes a day. Start today to transform your mental health.
3. Keep a “Gratitude Journal”
Jennice Vilhauer, director of Emory University’s adult psychotherapy program, says that “one of the fundamental elements of emotional well-being is self-compassion.”
Self-compassion, of course, is the process of being compassionate towards yourself. We’re often far too critical of ourselves and feel that unless we’re working harder, faster, better, we’re falling behind some imaginary goals. This creates stress, anxiety, and depression.
One solution to this problem is to keep a “gratitude journal”. This is simply a diary (example of a 2019 diary here) where you record positive experiences, achievements, and say “thanks” for any good that might have happened to you.
Your goal is to show gratitude for all that you have. Once you make this a habit, you’ll notice all the friends, good health, career, and other great things you do have going in your favour.
Essentially, it turns you into a more positive, glass-half-full person. That can’t be too bad for your mental health, can it?
4. Follow a Diet & Exercise Regimen
I know we’re supposed to talk about mental health here, but the body and the mind are so interconnected that it is hard to separate the two. How you feel about your body will affect how you feel about yourself. If you’re healthy, eating well, and working out regularly, it will have a noticeable and positive impact on your sense of well-being.
There is lots of evidence backing this up, of course. Studies suggest that even a modest amount of exercise reduces anxiety and depression. A workout session as short as 20 minutes increases dopamine production (aka the “happy” chemical).
There is evidence that rather than the duration of the workout, what matters is the regularity of it. If you workout once in a week for 5 hours, it won’t have as much effect as working out once every day for 20 minutes.
Complement your exercise regimen with a solid diet and you’ll find yourself happier and healthier.
Improving mental health isn’t hard. Following a few simple habits can have a transformative effect on the way you feel and think about yourself. Start by adopting these four habits and you’ll see a noticeable improvement in your sense of well-being.