Improving one’s overall health and maintaining that health over the long haul can have a profound impact on quality of life. For example, the Harvard Medical School notes that regular exercise can slow the natural decline in physical performance that occurs as people age. That means routine exercise can serve as something like a fountain of youth that allows people to keep their cardiovascular fitness, metabolism and muscle function on par with their younger counterparts.
When attempting to improve long-term health, it’s important that people emphasize mental health as much as they do their physical health. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America notes the importance and effectiveness of preventive efforts in relation to depression and anxiety. In regard to mental health, prevention efforts can function in much the same way that exercise serves physical health. Routine exercise helps people to maintain healthy weights, reducing their risk for various conditions and diseases. Preventive efforts designed to improve mental health can significantly reduce a person’s risk for anxiety and depression.
Various techniques and strategies can be utilized to promote mental health, and these three are simple and highly effective.
1. Get enough sleep.
According to the Primary Care Collaborative, a not-for-profit member organization dedicated to advancing an effective and efficient health system, sleep and mental health are intimately related. Sleep loss can contribute to emotional instability. The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for humans’ emotional responses. When an individual does not get enough sleep, his or her amygdala goes into overdrive, leading to more intense emotional reactions. The prefrontal cortex is another part of the brain that needs sufficient sleep to function properly. Without it, the prefrontal cortex, which is integral to impulse control, cannot function properly. Adults can speak with their physicians about how much sleep they should be getting each night. Those needs change as individuals age.
2. Eat a balanced diet.
A balanced, healthy diet doesn’t just benefit the waistline. According to the ADAA, a balanced diet that includes protein, healthy non-saturated fats, fiber, and some simple carbohydrates can reduce the likelihood that mental health issues like fatigue, difficulty concentrating and irritability will arise during the day.
3. Volunteer in your community.
A 2020 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that people who volunteered in the past were more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health as much better than people who didn’t volunteer. Perhaps the most noteworthy finding in the study was that people who began volunteering with lower levels of well-being tended to get the biggest boost from volunteering. Volunteering provides opportunities to socialize, which can help ward off the loneliness that can sometimes contribute to anxiety and depression.
Mental health is important, and protecting it should be part of everyone’s health care regimen.