8 Ways You Can Improve Your Mental Health Today

One in five adults in the U.S. experienced a mental illness in 2010. So perhaps it’s not surprising that there is an unprecedented number of ads on TV for drugs that will supposedly treat depression and other mental disorders, albeit with several, physically debilitating side effects. But effective, drug-free ways to improve your mental health do exist and are encouraged by both traditional and alternative medical practitioners. Here are eight for you to consider. We didn’t include yoga only because we found a much more fun activity to wrap up the list.

  1. Exercise:

    Regular, physical exercise, be it a daily 20-minute walk or a three-times-a-week routine with weights at the gym, is good for your mind as well as your body. Exercise can cause your body to release small, protein molecules called endorphins, which relieve pain, reduce stress, and, according to some scientists, combat depression. When it comes to exercise, it’s important to choose an activity you actually enjoy. Bouncing up and down on a trampoline, doing aerobics to club music, or just taking the stairs instead of an elevator are all beneficial activities for both your body and your mind.

  2. Change your diet:

    We’ll be honest; we love pizza and cookies as much as the next person. But studies show that adults as well as children and teenagers are susceptible to more serious symptoms of mental illness if their diet consists of junk food and is lacking in nutrients. Healthier food choices, including grape juice, berries, and walnuts, have a beneficial effect on the human brain, improving cognitive and motor skills, as well as mood. You don’t necessarily have to give up your favorite takeout pizza; just make an effort to include more fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily meals. A good diet also helps your physique, which in turn can boost a healthy self-image.

  3. Art therapy:

    Art therapy encompasses a lot of different activities and doesn’t necessarily need to involve a professional therapist guiding you as you paint a picture or shape a sculpture. Taking time out of your week to get crafty with glue, glitter, paint, or crayons allows you to slow down almost as if you were meditating and to express your inner emotions, both

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    negative and positive, creatively and therapeutically. Art therapy is used by professionals to help alleviate pain, anxiety, and tension, and to treat patients with mental disorders, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  4. Music therapy:

    “Music hath charms to sooth the savage breast” may sound like a cliché, but The American Therapy Association reports that the benefits of listening to or playing music, alone or in a group, include reduced muscle tension, decreased anxiety and agitation, increased verbalization and motivation, and improved self-image and self-esteem. Try taking 15 minutes out of each day to sit still and listen to a few songs on your iPod without reading or distracting yourself some other way. Or buy yourself a harmonica with a few different reeds and play along with some of your favorite records. If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, remember: it’s never too late to start piano, guitar, or drum lessons.

  5. Magnesium:

    Magnesium is a mineral the body needs to produce protein and energy, grow and support bones, and contract and relax muscles. Symptoms of depression, including headaches, restlessness, and suicidal thoughts, may be related to a magnesium deficiency. To make up for a deficiency, try including more magnesium rich foods in your daily diet, including sesame seeds, almonds, and cashews, as well as black beans and leafy greens. Magnesium can also be taken as a supplement.

  6. Acupuncture:

    Alternative healthcare continues to gain acceptance among traditional medical practitioners, as Americans look for treatments less intrusive and less dependent on drugs. Research has found that acupuncture, which involves inserting thin needles into very specific points in the skin, triggers the release of neurotransmitters that alter a person’s mood for the better. Acupuncturists believe that over time, acupuncture can even treat the root causes of more serious mental disorders.

  7. Meditation:

    While formal, physically demanding forms of meditation do exist, all you really need to experience its benefits is a quiet place and the willingness to relax your breathing and focus your attention on something specific. You’ll also have to discipline yourself to observe and not be scared by the amount of “chatter” that goes on in your head when you try to sit still for a short while. Fifteen minutes a day of meditation can greatly reduce stress and anxiety and increase your well being and longevity.

  8. Sex:

    Relationships aren’t easy, but over time, they can help offset the day-to-day stress and anxiety of life. So if you have a partner, and you two are having sex, then have it more often! Having sex releases feel-good hormones, including (you guessed it) endorphins and oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone.” For additional mental health benefits, you might even consider spontaneously belting out a song after sex, so long as your partner doesn’t find your voice and sentiment too obnoxious.