My pillars of mental health
Updated: Jan 21
When it comes to emotional and mental well-being, we require the foundations to create the building blocks for feel-good neurotransmitters, hormones and external emotional support to keep stress at bay and promote emotional resilience. The following points are guidance to the simple steps you can take to find mental well-being, which is achieved by embracing the basic principles to nurture our bodies and is unique to all. It requires practice and effort, but once you find your flow and establish a good routine, this will do wonders for you. Dig deep!
· Exercise – Endorphins? Yes, please. From personal experience, there is no better feeling than completing a workout first thing in the morning to set the tone for the rest of the day. Physical activity increases the “feel good” neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. It may also boost your social interaction and self-esteem, feeling good in your skin. Find the kind of exercise that you enjoy whether it be walking, swimming, cycling doing yoga or going to the gym as this is more likely to sustain your exercise routine long term.
*Remember that if possible, an exercise in the morning as this will enhance your circadian rhythm – exercising late will spike your cortisol and reduce your naturally occurring melatonin which can keep you up at night.
· Proper nutrition – We can't expect to feel good without fueling our bodies to thrive. Become in tune with what foods you notice have an impact on your energy, mood, and concentration. It can be recommended to include a balanced diet high in whole grains, lean meat, green leafy, sustainably caught fish, nuts – high in protein, folate, omega-3, zinc, phytonutrients, b-vitamins, and magnesium (1).
*Remember the 80/20 rule – Enjoy yourself. Aim for healthy food 80% of the time, and 20% enjoy the “naughty” foods you love.
· Relaxation/expression – This one is particularly specific to each. Find time for the things that make you happy. For me, I like to journal, read my book, walk on the beach, listen to music to unwind after a big day. Try putting your phone away while participating in these activities. Practice gratitude everyday.
· Sleep! – Get the amount you need to drive your day. Cortisol responds negatively to a stressful situation when we are sleep deprived as the HPA axis is compromised (2). Try to fall asleep at the same time most nights, ride that wave of sleepiness and reduce screen time before going to bed.
· Appropriate Counseling – We don’t need to deal with the burdens of our emotions alone. Talking to someone about ongoing concerns can help you find improved self-awareness and your ability to cope with everyday life. Utilize the support services at your workplace, schools or university or seek local professional support.
· Give back – Social and community participation gives us a sense of belonging and happiness. Find an organization around you to volunteer at and get involved.
If you or someone you know needs urgent support talk to someone you trust or contact a crisis support service, such as beyondblue on 1300 22 46 36, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or 000 in an emergency.
1. Schwarz, J., Gerhardsson, A., Van Leeuwen, W., Fischer, H., Lekander, M., Kecklund, G., & Åkerstedt, T. (2016). The effect of sleep loss on the response to acute psychosocial stress in young and elderly. In 23rd Congress of the European Sleep Research Society, 13–16 September 2016, Bologna, Italy (Vol. 25, pp. 48-48).
2. Sarris, J., & Wardle, J. (2017). Clinical naturopathy : In practice. Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier. (2017).