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How to improve your mental health

Published On: Jan 31 2013 01:06:36 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 12 2013 11:16:19 AM CST


By Barbara Floria, Pure Matters

How is your mental health? Have you ever wondered if it’s as good as it could be? Or what you could do to improve or strengthen it?

If not, you may be surprised to learn there’s a lot you can do to attain and maintain good mental equilibrium.

“Most Americans are eager to optimize their physical health but tend to ignore the state of their mental well-being, which is unfortunate because there’s much that can be done to maintain mental health,” says Alan Keck, Psy.D., a psychologist in Altamonte Springs, Fla., and a spokesman for the Florida Psychological Association.

Mental health depends on many factors, some of them beyond a person’s control.

“Even so, a mentally healthy person demonstrates resilience in the face of adversity,” Dr. Keck says. “And being proactive by taking steps to support your mental and emotional health can help you maintain it even in times of duress.”

Maintain balance in your life

“The demands created by 24/7 e-mail and cell phone calls aren’t conducive to good mental health or family life,” Dr. Keck says. “It’s important at some point in the day to disconnect from your electronic gadgets and be in the moment.”

Of course, work is important, but by respecting your personal time and creating boundaries between work and home, you create a richer life experience and a place to retreat.

Connect with others

The social support of friends and family can provide a buffer to loneliness, depression, stress, and isolation, all of which can impair mental health.

Keep the lines of communication open and maintain good relationships with loved ones. Talk to them about your challenges, and listen to what they have to say.

Stay physically healthy

Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, and don’t abuse alcohol or illegal and prescription drugs.

“The mind and body aren’t separate and are inextricably linked,” Dr. Keck says. Poor physical health can impair mental health -- and mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety, can affect physical health.

Take time off

In addition to being fun, vacations that disengage you from work and your day-to-day stressors are important in maintaining mental stability.

Manage the stress in your life

There’s no way to remove all the difficulties you face, but you can respond proactively.

“Decades of research have confirmed that people who have a daily routine to help them decompress are healthier mentally and physically than those who don’t,” Dr. Keck says. “For many Americans, taking 15 to 20 minutes once a day to meditate and clear their minds of worries and distractions is an effective and practical way to deal with pressure.”

Seek help

Talk with your health care provider or a mental health professional if you believe you could be suffering from depression, anxiety, or another mental health problem. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can return to wholeness.

“Having good mental health takes determination, commitment, and recognition of the things you can do to support it,” Dr. Keck says. “As is true of the body, it’s easier to prevent a mental illness than to cure one. Making choices everyday that strengthen your mental and emotional health is worth the effort.”



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