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How To Improve Your Mental Health

Sometimes, we feel sad and sometimes we feel happy. At other times, we are angry, upset, amused, or confused. Human emotion in its full range and spectrum is neither good nor bad, but it does impact your mental health, for better or for worse.

If you feel like you are not quite yourself or find yourself slipping into a negative mindset more often than not, you may want to consider the benefits of individual counseling from a licensed therapist.

Today, I want to explore how to improve your mental health so you can make informed changes to improve your mindset and overall health.

How To Improve Your Mental Health

Our emotions are more than just direct responses to the stimuli around us. We are inherently complicated, especially mentally. There are many neurological questions we have not answered yet, but one thing is for sure – the way we act and react depends not only on what is around us but what is inside us, in our minds, consciously and subconsciously.

The way a person feels, thinks, and behaves is a mirror of their mental health, and if a person’s thoughts and behavior start to affect them negatively, there may be cause for concern. Our mental health is a complicated thing, yes, and specific conditions or disorders may arise regardless of how mentally healthy you might have been in the past.  Certain lifestyle choices and tips can uplift your mood, help you cope with negative thoughts and feelings, and help you develop a good quality of life despite your condition.

If you have been feeling strange or down for quite a while, then consult a professional. The occasional bout of sadness, aimlessness or uncertainty in life is quite normal and no cause for serious concern, as it is not natural to feel happy or content all the time. These feelings should fade, or at least respond positively to change in your life – not persist and grow.

You Are Not a Lesser Person

It is important to understand that a disorder or a condition does not define who you are, or what you are. On average, one in five American adults will experience the symptoms of a diagnosable mental illness in any given year. These include illnesses like major depression and general anxiety, or disorders like manic depression and OCD.

Getting sick in the mental sense is not “normal”, but it is common and is not a condemnation of a person’s character, intelligence, or constitution. Like any sickness or injury, it is a treatable condition that most people can (and will) recover from – and with the right treatment and support, recovery can be swift.

Unfortunately, our modern society still struggles with addressing mental health issues in a constructive way. Men are prone to bottling their mental health issues up until they snap, for example. The stigma against people struggling with mental health problems is very much still alive. Many people refuse to acknowledge that they have a problem, out of fear of ostracization, or because it would weaken and break their own self-image.

While medication can help many people lead better lives and cope with the symptoms of their condition, there is much more to fighting mental illnesses than medication. Regardless of whether you are just feeling sad or are battling a diagnosed disorder, there are many ways to improve your mental health completely without medication.

Improve Your Physical Health

Physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand. Just as poor physical health correlates with mental illness and negative feelings, improving your physical health can do wonders for your mental health, outlook, and mood.

Eating healthier and engaging in exercise can lead to a healthier weight, improve your appearance, give you a boost of self-esteem, change your hormone levels, and can quite literally make you happier through a regular boost in endorphins produced through exercise.

Aside from subtly changing the neurotransmitters in your brain and making you a little happier, regular exercise also gives you a way to set and meet goals, boost your confidence, and produce a healthier, more positive self-image.

There is more to physical health than eating your greens and getting a little bit of exercise, of course. Be sure you are getting a full night’s sleep every day. Some people do well with just six hours, others need nine to function fully – find your number and prioritize a good night’s sleep.

Lack of sleep is a big factor in mental health – not only will grogginess bring you down emotionally, but a lack of sleep contributes heavily to the development of depression. Sleep is important for the body and brain to regulate and perform maintenance.  

Watch Your Intake

Eating excessively fatty foods or binge drinking is not conducive to a healthy body – but it is also not good for the mind. Consuming too much fat and sugar can lead to metabolic issues including reactive hypoglycemia or “sugar crashes”, as well as illnesses such as obesity and diabetes. Excessive sugar consumption will sap your energy, disrupt your sleep, and leave you vulnerable to a wider slew of diseases and illnesses due to a compromised immune system and lack of nutrient-rich foods.

There is no one-size-fits-all diet, and one food might fit better in your diet than it might in another person’s diet. However, it is important that you cover your minerals and vitamins, eat enough calories, and consume a variety of foods.

Meanwhile, drugs – including caffeine and alcohol – can have a negative effect on your mental health. Regular coffee drinkers are judged to have a lower chance of developing depression, but excessive caffeine consumption may be a sign of dependence and can lead to jitters and anxiety. Alcohol is a dangerous drug when abused, so refrain from binge drinking and keep your intake to a minimum.

Please Seek Help

It is normal to feel sad, or conflicted, or just not very happy at times.

If your mindset grows more and more negative, however, you may want to consider seeking individual counseling from a licensed therapist as soon as possible. A professional will provide you with a comfortable environment where you can discuss your concerns in private. Your therapist will listen to your concerns and identify the sources impacting your mindset.

Your mental health is not something you should take lightly or ignore. It is not just about feeling bad – developing a depression, for example, can seriously impact not just you but those around you, and diminish your abilities as a friend, parent, or coworker/student.


Chris Massman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Agoura Hills, CA. She graduated Phillips Graduate Institute with a Master of Arts in Psychology in 2014 and received her Chemical Dependency Specialty in 2014. Today, she practices Congnitive-behavioral therapy to help individuals, couples, and families identify and overcome a variety of unique challenges.