You may know how much factors such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep can benefit your physical health. But those same practices can help your mental health, too.
Research suggests environmental factors can cause mental health impacts. According to a report in Neurospychiatric Diseases and Treatment, unhealthy lifestyles — lacking diet, exercise, and sleep — can have a negative effect on people’s mental health. In the opposite direction, healthy habits can benefit both your physical and mental well-being.
How to Create a Healthy Routine
A well-rounded healthy routine should cover several different factors:
- Diet: Consuming a diet high in sugars, unhealthy fats, and sodium can lead to obesity and related conditions, such as heart disease. Your brain also needs the right nutrients. Try following a diet that includes all five major food groups — grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy — and is low in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat. Make sure to consume the appropriate amount of calories for your age and fitness level.
- Exercise: The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-level cardio activity each week for physical health. But fitness can help our minds, too. Studies show that regular exercise can improve your mood and lessen the effects of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and stress.
- Sleep: Sleep deprivation and/or fatigue often is a symptom of and associated with mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you may need to examine your sleep habits. Try to stick to a sleep schedule, keep your room at a comfortable temperature, and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and electronics before going to bed.
How to Keep a Healthy Routine
It can be difficult to build healthy habits. It can take months for an activity to become a habit. But if you keep working at it, eventually you can build a healthy routine.
- Start slow: Examine your current routine when you decide to begin a new one. Aim to improve in small increments, increasing the size of the steps as you become more comfortable. Assess what’s working well and what needs to change, and then take it from there. You can set small, achievable goals for yourself in terms of swapping out not-so-great habits for better ones.
- Be patient: Don’t expect a radical transformation overnight. Creating routines and becoming healthier both physically and mentally can take time. It can be easy to get frustrated and give up because it’s hard to build healthy habits. It takes patience, it takes work, it takes practice, and it takes time.
- Celebrate small victories: Make sure you recognize achievements along the way, even if they seem small on the surface: an extra few minutes of exercise, or a further distance.
- Don’t beat yourself up: If you miss a day of exercise, have a bad night of sleep, or slip in your diet, don’t let that cause you extra anguish. Creating a healthy routine doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. Just try to do your best.
- Plan ahead: Planning out your day — when you’ll exercise, what you’ll eat, and when you’ll sleep — can make it easier to follow your routine.
- Don’t do it alone: Following a routine can be difficult on your own, so enlist family members, friends, co-workers, or others to join you. You can track each other’s progress and hold each other accountable.
- Take a break: If something is causing you a negative mental impact, like anxiety, sometimes stepping away for a few moments can be helpful. Doing simple things like spending a couple minutes outside and getting a breath of fresh air can make a huge difference.
At the Medical Exercise and Wellness Center of UPMC Institute for Health Chianciano Terme is available a customized healthy lifestyle program based on nutritional and physical exercise plans. Psychological consults are also available.