According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five U.S. adults experiences mental illness. Mental illness covers everything from depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder, to schizophrenia, personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Your mental wellbeing is just as important as your physical wellbeing. Often, the two go together, so recognizing the signs and seeing your healthcare provider is the first step toward treatment.
Here are some warning signs:
- Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite
- Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge
- Increased worry or feeling stressed
- Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
- Ongoing headaches, digestive issues, or pain
- A need for alcohol or drugs
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Engaging in high-risk activities
- Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior
- Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life
- Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people
If you’re experiencing any of these signs you should talk with your doctor. And if you or someone you know needs help now you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or call 911.
While you should always talk with your doctor about mental health issues and seek treatment as needed, there are things you can do to nurture good mental health.
10 tips to boost your mental health:
- Focus on the positive. Start a journal and write down three things you’re grateful for or three things you accomplished that day (no matter how small).
- Get plenty of sleep and eat a well-balanced diet. The Sleep Foundation has good tips on how to get a good night’s sleep and Harvard Medical School has research and information on how good nutrition affects your mood.
- Try something new. Experiment with a new recipe, hobby, author, etc. Creative expression is linked to overall wellbeing.
- Laugh. It sounds simple, but laughter helps reduce anxiety. Watch a funny movie, talk with a cheerful friend or family member.
- Dance. Do a little cha-cha while you vacuum or do the twist while you dust. Dancing reduces levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increases endorphins (the body’s “feel-good” chemicals).
- Spend time with animals. Time with animals is thought to lower the stress hormone cortisol and boost oxytocin, which stimulates feelings of happiness. If you don’t have a pet, hang out with a friend who does or volunteer at a shelter.
- Be a tourist in your town. People often only explore attractions on trips, but you may be surprised at what cool things are in your own backyard.
- Send a thank-you note. Written expressions of gratitude are linked to increased happiness. You don’t have to thank someone for a material item but let someone know why you appreciate them.
- Socialize (even if it’s just virtually). People are more likely to feel happy on days they spend time with others.
- Take a walk. Stroll through a park or a hike in the woods. Research shows that being in nature can increase energy levels, reduce depression, and boost well-being. Soak up the sun. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, which helps your brain release endorphins and serotonin. Make sure to wear sunglasses and sunscreen.
Cone Behavioral Health
American Psychological Association
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Mental Health America
National Institute of Mental Health
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255 (toll-free/24 hours a day)
Sources: Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness