Mental Notes

Checking in on Your Behavioral Health and Mindfulness Strategies

By Amanda Blair

Is your life stressful right now, or is it serene? Either way, having mental health and mindfulness strategies in place can be invaluable. Plus, these tactics may be doubly beneficial, boosting physical health too. Review the below information, assess what you do currently, and see how you might bolster this aspect of your life.

First, eat foods that help your brain. Our diet has a significant impact on our emotional state. Foods that contribute to stronger brain health include fresh blueberries, kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, avocados, beans, flaxseed, sardines, salmon, mackerel, peanuts, walnuts, and cashews. Avoid fried food, sugar, white flour (choose whole-grain flour instead), white rice (choose brown rice instead), artificial additives, partially hydrogenated oils (which are trans fats), and caffeine.

Anything toxic we consume gets in the way of our ability to feel our best. This applies to alcohol too. While often considered a harmless way to de-stress, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Rather than resolving mental issues, alcohol tends to compound them.

Move away from monotony. Life can feel humdrum and depressing if we never make adjustments. Reintroduce color and flavor into your life with new activities. Try putting up some new artwork in your home. You could visit a park across town or alter your jogging route.

Mindfulness deserves special attention. This self-care approach is a nonjudgmental way to pay attention in the present, says Marsha Lucas, Ph.D. We have a natural tendency to want to have a perspective on everything. We take reality and add our interpretation. This activity is often detrimental and can become compulsive. Stop yourself when you start applying your view rather than simply experiencing. Next, think about how different it feels to interpret your life versus simply being in the moment. Work toward a mindful response by default.

Check-in with yourself throughout the day, but also carve out moments to drop everything. You may feel you do not have time to meditate. Actually, short bursts of mindfulness are more powerful than longer ones. Put away your phone or even turn it off. Sit in peace. Clear your mind. If you get distracted, focus on the sensations in different parts of your body. Try it for five minutes a few times daily, gradually expanding to 20 minute sessions.

Also, try incorporating belly breathing exercises. Find a comfortable spot to sit or lie down. Put one hand on your chest and the other right beneath your ribs. Inhale deeply with your mouth closed and feel your belly expand. You do not want any movement in your chest. Purse your lips and exhale as if whistling. Repeat three to 10 times.

Mental health and mindfulness are often tricky. By practicing the above methods, you are already improving your awareness. Be kind to yourself as you reorient toward a brighter and healthier outlook. 

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