5 Ways to Support Mental Health and Wellbeing
May is Mental Health Awareness month. This critically-important facet of wellness is needed more than ever before.
The pandemic has spurred a wake-up call of the need for better support for mental well-being worldwide. The global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25% during the first year of the pandemic, according to a brief from the World Health Organization.
According to the CDC, about 1 in 5 Americans experience a mental illness in a given year. And more than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime.
So it’s always a good time to start building habits that can support a healthier mindset and promote better moods. These five methods can help you and your clients support mental well-being and mindfulness.
Turn Off Social Media
Scientific research has found that social media can actually make you feel more anxious, depressed, and ironically, less connected to your community. A 2018 British study found that adolescents who use social media have disrupted and decreased sleep, which is associated with depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance.
You can help clients (and yourself) reduce social media use by having them limit their app usage on their phones. They can use the intermittent fasting timer in their MBODY360 app to do a “social media fast” or limit time on their social media “diet.” YOu can also have them delete social media apps.
If you need to use social media for your practice, you can limit it by using social posting software to automatically update your social channels for you. And if you need to look at your channels, you can limit yourself to a small time window to comment or check.
Spend Time in Nature
Hiking in the woods, running through a field, or walking down the beach can do wonders for your mental wellbeing. According to a recent review of studies, people who spent at least 120 minutes in nature during a week were significantly more likely to report feeling physically and mentally well.
The health benefits are not just from being surrounded by “greenness.” It’s also because of the organic compounds that trees and plants provide. They release terpenes — aromatic compounds that can sometimes activate the endocannbinoid system. Compounds like fresh pinine and lemonine help regulate our immune and other bodily systems.
The lack of straight lines and organic patterns in nature shifts the functioning of the brain. Plants also provide oxygen, and breathing in the air increases oxygen in the blood and brain.
With slight exertion, the body will also activate the endogenous endocannabinoid and opioid systems to release endogenous cannabinoids – now considered to be the source of the oft-reported “runner’s high”. These are the body’s pain relievers, muscle relaxers tranquilizers, and anti-inflammatory responses.
You can advise your clients to add more “green” into their days by carving out time to be around nature. It doesn’t matter if they have just 5-10 minutes to go outside to a park or in the backyard, or whether they can take a full day off to be in nature. Any amount of time outside can and will support their wellness.
Adding “nature breaks” into your schedule can help you feel happier and more productive in your workday.
Write in a Journal
Ruminating about worries is unproductive. Chronic worry causes stress, raises cortisol levels and can disrupt sleep and alter gut bacteria.
You can help clients manage their worries by having them write their thoughts down in a journal. This is especially useful before getting ready for bed as it helps you “download” all the things on your mind, which may make falling to sleep easier.
Writing on paper helps take the ruminating thoughts out of the head so that they can be reviewed and examined. When clients can see what is bothering them in written words, it can give them perspective. Maybe they see that some of their thoughts aren’t really true, and this can provide relief. They might also see that some of the worries are not as big as they believed — that they were making mountains out of molehills.
The MBODY360 app brings the client journal into the 21st century by making it easy for clients to record their thoughts anytime. They can easily type or dictate an entry, and you can easily review their notes in the practitioner portal. You can even provide a prompting question for them to respond to. Even just a few sentences per day can give you insight into how your clients are feeling and how you can support them.
If you find yourself worrying excessively, you can use the same techniques to tame your ruminating thoughts.
Focusing on the present moment has many benefits besides reducing stress. It can help lower resting blood pressure, lower resting heart rate, and improve sleep quality.
Some of the many ways clients can practice mindfulness are by pausing and taking several slow, deep breaths, and practicing breathing in and out for 5 or 10 minutes per day. Other methods include meditating while reciting a mantra or walking mindfully.
The MBODY360 app has a meditation timer that clients can use to practice mindfulness. You can have clients start with a very short meditation — just 1 or 2 minutes. As they get used to meditating, they can add minutes to each session and expand their mindfulness practice.
If you have a favorite guided meditation video, you can add it to the plan under the videos section. Your clients can then use the video in conjunction with the timer for their meditation sessions.
If you also find yourself spending a lot of time in the past or the future, you can apply these same mindfulness practices to your day to bring you back to the present.
Several studies have shown that exercise benefits go well beyond physical fitness. People who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional well-being. They are also less likely to develop a mental illness. Exercise can also help in treating anxiety and depression.
Hiking, running, bicycling, swimming, hiking, playing games like tennis or pickleball… any of these physical activities can support better mental wellness. If your clients are not regularly active, they can start slowly. Even walking outside regularly can support better emotional health.
Your clients can track their movement using the MBODY360 app. They can sync the app with Apple Health, Google Fit, or FitBit devices. So they can use their favorite fitness tracker, watch, or device to record activity automatically, and you can view the relevant data right in your practitioner portal.
Adding movement to your day can support your own emotional wellness. Exercise can also help you feel more focused at work, too.
Of course, if a client has a more serious or long-term psychological condition, they should consult a licensed mental health practitioner — psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist.
As a health coach, your work can offer support in tandem with other professional support that they receive from a mental health practitioner. You can teach clients to support their emotional health so that they practice building their own resilience.