Do you find yourself down and depressed? Are the short days and colder nights making you feel more tired and sad? Maybe you just want new ways to boost your mental health starting today.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 1 in 3 men have had feelings of anxiety and/or depression. 1 in 4 men have spoken to a mental health care provider, and 31% of men have reported feeling depressed in their lifetime.
In this post, I will discuss mental health and ways to help boost your mental health today.
Let’s take a look!
Mental Health 101
Mental health has long been a hot topic of discussion. For years, men who displayed signs of mental health issues were labeled as weak. Many men covered up their symptoms in various ways, often times taking their own lives. The suicide rate is 4x higher in men than women, according to the APA. Fortunately, times are changing, and mental health awareness is becoming more widely accepted among society. Top athletes such as Kevin Love, Simone Biles, and Naomi Osaka, have used their platform to speak about their personal struggles with mental health. Having people like this speak on the importance of mental health should only continue to improve society’s acceptance. Luckily, with this shift and wealth of knowledge, more and more treatments are becoming available to those who need help. Let’s dive in to those top 3 ways to improve your mental health today.
Exercise has many physical health benefits including weight management and improved cardiovascular health. Much can also be said about how helpful it is for our mental health too. When we exercise, our body releases a chemical called endorphins, which act as stress and pain relievers. Endorphins have similar properties to opoids, often used in medicine for pain relief. You may have heard of the “runner’s high”, which is pretty accurate for those who’ve experienced it. For years, exercise was thought to provide only short term mental health benefits. But new research is coming out from the APA that suggests exercise now provides long term relief from depression. Not only are researchers finding benefits of exercise on depression, but also anxiety.
Anxiety and Body Positivity
The body responds to anxiety and exercise in many similar ways with both increasing heart rate and perspiration. A study conducted by Jasper Smits, PhD, found improved symptoms of anxiety among 60 volunteers following a 2-week exercise prescription. Exercise can also improve our mental health through a more positive body image. When we geniuinely feel good about our body’s physical image, our mental image tends to improve as well. Feeling good about your body improves confidence levels and our overall well-being.
Types of Exercise
Now the types of exercise are endless. I suggest finding what works best for you. For me, its running, biking, hiking, or really anything that involves getting my butt outside and with nature. In fact, another study conducted by the APA found that more time in nature leads to a more positive mental health. Finding work out groups or exercise classes can be helpful as well. Working out with others build a sense of community as well as provides the benefits of social engagement.
Talk To Someone
Finding A Therapist
I can personally speak to how beneficial speaking to a professional can be. I can also speak to how anxious and nervous I was to open up to a complete stranger. That’s why I recommend setting up a brief phone call to make sure you and the therapist gel together before setting up more formal appointments. I was able to set up a phone call with my therapist and her and I chatted very informally about what I needed to open up about. She was very professional and honest and made sure she would be able to help before we proceeded to the next steps. I promise, once you find your perfect therapist, you will not regret it.
Once I found my therapist, she would give me homework after each session. These assignments would vary from session to session, but each focused on coping stratgegies. For me, it was journaling that I found helped the most. Although I admit I don’t do it every day, I do notice a difference when I make it a routine. For you, it could be finding a new hobby, journaling, or opening up more to a loved one. When we let our feeling build up inside us, it can feel like the whole world is about to come crumbling down. That’s why allowing yourself to open up can feel so liberating. I encourage you to find your perfect therapist and begin finding those coping strategies that work for you.
The first documented text of meditation goes all the way back to 1500 BC! It is estimated that between 200-500 million people practice meditation worldwide. The benefits of meditaion include a lower resting heart rate and decreased blood pressure. I recommend finding a quiet space to get comfortable with little to no distractions. That means switching off your cell phone and any other devices which may interrupt your session. Finding meditation classes which work for you can take time. Some good resources include Peloton, 10 Percent Happier, and Yoga with Adrienne. The latter two are free applications you can easily access from your computer or mobile device. If you already have access to Peloton, I highly recommend taking their meditation classes as well.
Wim Hof Breathing Exercises
Similar to meditation, breathing can help reduce depression and anxiety through lowering heart rate and decreasing blood pressure. I was recently introduced to Wim Hof and his breathing exercises. I accidently jumped right into his more advanced breathing exercises, which include a 2+ minute breath hold. He does offer a beginner class which I found much more my speed to start. The video is 11 minutes long and involves 3 rounds of breathing and breath holds. Make sure you are not in a hurry in order to get the most out of his class. As an added bonus, I find his voice extremely relaxing in itself.
In addition to Wim Hof, I like the box breathing technique, made famous by the Navy Seals. This technique inolves 5 minutes of 4×4 second breathing, like a box. For example, 4 second inhales followed by 4 second holds, then 4 second exhales followed by 4 second holds. While I like Wim Hof’s exercises when I have more time at home, I find box breathing to be useful when I’m on the go. Stuck in traffic? Box breathing. Feeling anxious at a bar? Box breathing. You get the picture.
Well there you have it. I hope the information provided in this post is as helpful to you as it has been for me. Give these ideas a try and see what they can do for your mental health. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Cheers to a happier you!