“There is no health without mental health,” said U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher more than two decades ago when he released the first ever surgeon general’s report on mental health. This quote leaves me pondering how far we’ve come in our understanding and acceptance of mental health as a vital part of our overall health and well-being.
Today is World Mental Health Day — an annual observance to raise awareness in the global community about the critical mental health agendas with a unifying voice through collaboration, and a time to take action to create lasting change.
The 2022 World Mental Health Day theme, “Making Mental Health and Well-Being for All a Global Priority” provides an opportunity to re-kindle our efforts to protect and improve mental health throughout the world and strive to make it a better place.
Here are eight action steps you can take to honor your mental health for World Mental Health Day and beyond:
- Move your body. Studies have shown that physical activity may play an important role in the management of mild to moderate mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety. Finding a way to move your body by participating in some sort of physical activity you enjoy can be beneficial to both your mental and physical health.
- Eat a nutritious and delicious meal. We’ve all heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” There are certain foods that can help give you energy and support overall brain and body function. If you like to cook, try a new recipe with lots of fresh, whole ingredients or treat yourself to a healthy meal out.
- Get outside in nature. Most of us feel better when we’ve had some time outdoors and research confirms that spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and well-being. Whether you’re going on a walk, sitting outside in a park, or spending time at the beach or in the mountains, something about the fresh air and experience of being in nature boosts our moods and makes us more aware of the splendor of our surroundings.
- Connect with a loved one. Creating a sense of connection with another person — perhaps a friend, colleague, family member or neighbor — helps us feel seen and valued. Being able to reach out to someone when we are having a tough day and share our emotions or tell good news to someone so they can celebrate and be happy alongside us can make a big difference in our mental health. It helps us know we are not alone.
- Minimize media intake. The last couple of years have been particularly challenging for many, if not all of us. It’s easy to feel discouraged or weighed down by the circumstances of the world. Consuming the news 24/7 or constantly engaging on social media can take a toll emotionally and mentally. Sometimes it’s okay to set a boundary around our media intake. Perhaps this means limiting the amount of time we spend watching the news, taking a fast from social media or eliminating media alerts on our phones.
- Show kindness to others. According to the American Psychological Association, kindness toward others can boost our own physical and mental health. Showing kindness in big and small ways helps give us a sense of purpose and takes the focus off ourselves and puts it on those around us. As you go throughout your day, try to find ways to extend kindness to others — often we benefit far more than we imagined.
- Express gratitude. Studies have shown that gratitude can decrease depression and anxiety and has several other mental and physical benefits. Shifting our focus to things we can be grateful for and taking account of the favorable moments from the day helps us redirect our thoughts to things that are positive and not take for granted the things we should be thankful for. Practically, start a gratitude journal where you list out something you are grateful for each day. After you’ve formed the habit, increase the number of things you’re grateful for during the day and include them in the journal.
- Talk to a mental health professional. Part of honoring our mental health is recognizing that reaching out for help and support may require professional care. Taking that courageous step to find a trustworthy support team is an integral part of the healing journey. The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides tips on how to find a mental health professional and what to look for when seeking care.
To join the conversation and share how you’re making mental health and well-being for all a global priority, use the hashtag #WorldMentalHealthDay on social media.