Some mental health conditions are biologically based due to physical trauma, injury, genetics, exposure to toxic substances, such as lead, or physical disease. In these cases, medication and other treatments are generally required to manage the symptoms.
Other aspects of mental health are believed to be highly susceptible to environmental influences. This means that we can contribute to good mental health based on our choices.
Mental Health America suggests the following:
- Maintain Social Support – Staying connected to a network of people, groups, and organizations that are supportive and/or fun is imperative to good mental health. This may include church, bridge club, book clubs, friends, volunteer opportunities, support groups, neighbors, community events, and extended family members.
- Eat a Healthy Diet – The food we eat can support or impair brain function resulting in emotional and behavioral health or illness. While there are many opinions about food and diet, most agree that eating plenty of fruit and veggies, lean protein, and moderate carbohydrates is ideal for most people. Those with special dietary needs should discuss the best nutritional options with a medical provider.
- Use Supplements – Mental Health America recommends certain supplements, such as Omega-3 or fish oil. The National Institute of Health has a division dedicated to complementary and alternative medicine; check with a knowledgeable medical provider about supplements, follow the recommendations, and be cautious of interactions with other drugs.
- Learn to Manage Stress – Coping with stress effectively can prevent a multitude of problems. Basic life skills such as planning, prioritizing, organizing, and time management are critical to stress management. Exercise and good nutrition are also important, as well as adequate sleep and much-needed downtime and relaxation.
- Rest, Relaxation, and Exercise – As noted above, rest, relaxation, and exercise are important in stress management and overall mental health. Exercise is recommended to manage and/or prevent anxiety and depression, as well as other mental and physical health.
- Avoid Alcohol and Recreational Drug Use and Abuse – Alcohol use in moderation has been reported to have some health benefits. However, many are susceptible to misuse or addiction, which can have devastating results. Alcohol use can negatively affect your sleep and may cause depression as it is a central nervous system depressant. An occasional glass of wine at special events is probably safe for most people. Those who have a family history of alcohol dependence should abstain to be totally safe. Recreational drug use, including misuse of prescription drugs, can be dangerous and should be avoided completely.
- Ask for Help During Difficult Times – Know when to ask for and how to receive help during difficult times. Depending on the circumstances, reaching out to talk about it with family or friends may be sufficient. Other times, professional helpers may be useful. Whatever the need, reach out and connect with others for support.
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To Your Health,