Has looking after your mental health been low on your to-do list?
Many of us have spent the last few years soldiering on in the face of a lot of change and adversity. The constant stress, worry and lack of social connection have taken their toll on our nervous systems and our mental health.
The good news is we can start nourishing our nervous system with a few simple hacks.
Putting your mental health at the top of your priority list does not have to be another burden to add to your already stretched mental resources. It’s possible to take small steps that boost and lift your mood – all you need is just 10-15 minutes a day.
Here are three easy-to-implement and proven ways to prioritise and boost your mental well-being.
A 2018 study explored the influence on mental health outcomes using a gratitude journal. In this study, participants were asked to express their gratitude for others in a daily journal. Interestingly, the results were in contrast with another group in the study who were asked to keep a journal expressing their feelings and another with no journaling at all. At the conclusion of the study, those in the study arm who were writing to express their gratitude for others daily, had significantly better mental health outcomes than those who didn’t.
Something so simple that we could all do daily to give our mental health a tangible boost.
Research has shown that having focused sessions of deep breathing practice can have a direct influence on your parasympathetic nervous system and activate the vagus nerve. When we’re operating in highly stressful states, our sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system is dominant. We can counterbalance this with deep breathing to activate the parasympathetic system, which can help us feel calmer and less anxious. The results are not only instantly noticeable, but the effect can be cumulative to soothe a wired and stressed nervous system.
To activate the relaxing benefits of breathing, breathe in for a count of 4, hold it for a count of 4, and exhale for 6. When you make your exhale longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve is stimulated, helping to bring the body into a state of relaxation
If we’re activating our vagus nerve, which is the communication highway linking our gut and our brain, then we need to make sure we’re optimising our gut health and supporting our nutritional needs. An unhappy, inflamed or leaky gut wreaks havoc on our nutritional status, which feeds directly into our ability to manage stress, have stable moods and maintain cellular healing and repair.
Studies have shown that mental health is rapidly affected by poor nutritional status, leaky gut, an unhealthy microbiome and inflammation. Focus on healing and nourishing your gut and feeding your brain and body with high-quality, accessible nutrition to meet those daily physical and mental energy demands.
There you have it. Three simple hacks that you can use right now to achieve a quick boost to your own mental wellbeing.
Taking these small steps towards a lighter, happier mind can drive us to make better overall health decisions on a daily basis. Let’s make mental well-being a priority in 2023.