Emotional Health · Health

Dr. Pat Consults: 5 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Health That Don’t Come From a Bottle

  1. Exercise: You mentioned you have already started an exercise plan—this is definitely a two-for-one because, in addition to all the benefits to your physical health, exercise can boost your mental health as well. Feeling stressed and frazzled? Even a five-minute walk can help clear your thoughts. For those who have already struggled with low mood in the past, regular exercise has been associated with decreased risk of relapse of depression. On top of alleviating anxiety and depression, exercise has been shown to improve self-esteem and mental clarity. All that for the price of gym shoes.

Your first step: Want the best step in following through with your exercise plans? Consider eliciting a friend to join you. No time? Take 15 minutes out of your lunch break—going outside and getting your heart pumping may be just what your mind needs to end the day strong.

  1. Write it down: The pen may be mightier than the sword and it may be mightier than the pill bottle as well. Studies have shown that writing about stressful or emotional events helps individuals to work through the experiences. Merely writing on a topic for 15 to 20 minutes three to five times has been shown to have both physical and psychological benefits. Writing can give a safe space to explore emotional issues. Also, once a problem is put on paper, it can feel less foreboding. Studies looking at long-term benefits of expressive writing have found it decreases stress-related trips to the physician, decreases blood pressure, reduces depressive symptoms and intrusive thoughts, and improves mood.

Your first step: Pull out a pad of paper and a pen. Write the first thing that comes to mind. A problem at work still on your mind? Write it out. Lying in bed awake, your thoughts buzzing around in your head? Try making a list. Once on paper, it can be easier for your mind to let go the thoughts of the day. If you find your writing becomes too intense, you may consider involving a therapist to help you work through some of the issues that arise.

  1. Dance your heart out: Dancing engages both mind and body in ways that benefit individuals of all ages. A recent study of adolescent girls found that those engaged in weekly dance classes had less depression, stress, and fatigue than girls who did not. Those who danced also had better self-esteem and were more resilient to life’s daily problems. A study looking at senior citizens found that while biking, swimming or playing golf did not make a difference, dancing helped people remain mentally sharp.

Your first step: Consider signing up for a dance class. No time? Just turn on your favorite music and let your body move.

Making a commitment to your mental health is an excellent goal, whether you’re turning 40 or turning 80. Happy belated birthday and I hope this coming year is the best yet.  



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  • Liz Robbins July 20, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    Excellent advice on all fronts.