Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
- Family history of mental health problems
Mental health problems are common but help is available. People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely.
Early Warning Signs
Not sure if you or someone you know is living with mental health problems? Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviors can be an early warning sign of a problem:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Pulling away from people and usual activities
- Having low or no energy
- Feeling numb or like nothing matters
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
- Yelling or fighting with family and friends
- Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
- Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school
Mental Health and Wellness
Positive mental health allows people to:
- Realize their full potential
- Cope with the stresses of life
- Work productively
- Make meaningful contributions to their communities
Ways to maintain positive mental health include:
- Getting professional help if you need it
- Connecting with others
- Staying positive
- Getting physically active
- Helping others
- Getting enough sleep
- Developing coping skills
Ten Things You Can Do for Your Mental Health
1. Value yourself:
Treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self-criticism. Make time for your hobbies and favorite projects, or broaden your horizons. Do a daily crossword puzzle, plant a garden, take dance lessons, learn to play an instrument, or become fluent in another language.
2. Take care of your body:
Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. Be sure to:
- Eat nutritious meals
- Avoid smoking and vaping– see Cessation Help
- Drink plenty of water
- Exercise, which helps decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods
- Get enough sleep. Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to a high rate of depression in college students.
3. Surround yourself with good people:
People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Make plans with supportive family members and friends, or seek out activities where you can meet new people, such as a club, class, or support group.
4. Give yourself:
Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else. You’ll feel good about doing something tangible to help someone in need — and it’s a great way to meet new people.
5. Learn how to deal with stress:
Like it or not, stress is a part of life. Practice good coping skills: Try One-Minute Stress Strategies, do Tai Chi, exercise, take a nature walk, play with your pet or try journal writing as a stress reducer. Also, remember to smile and see the humor in life. Research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and reduce stress.
6. Quiet your mind:
Try meditating, Mindfulness, and/or prayer. Relaxation exercises and prayer can improve your state of mind and outlook on life. In fact, research shows that meditation may help you feel calm and enhance the effects of therapy.
7. Set realistic goals:
Decide what you want to achieve academically, professionally, and personally, and write down the steps you need to realize your goals. Aim high, but be realistic and don’t over-schedule. You’ll enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress toward your goal.
8. Break up the monotony:
Although our routines make us more efficient and enhance our feelings of security and safety, a little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule. Alter your jogging route, plan a road trip, take a walk in a different park, hang some new pictures or try a new restaurant.
9. Avoid alcohol and other drugs:
Keep alcohol use to a minimum and avoid other drugs. Sometimes people use alcohol and other drugs to “self-medicate” but in reality, alcohol and other drugs only aggravate problems.
10. Get help when you need it:
Seeking help is a sign of strength — not a weakness. And it is important to remember that treatment is effective. People who get appropriate care can recover from mental illness and addiction and lead full, rewarding lives.
- mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder)
- anxiety disorders.
- personality disorders.
- psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia)
- eating disorders.
- trauma-related disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder)
- substance abuse disorders.
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- Best for reducing anxiety: Chamomile tea.
- Best for sleep problems: St. John’s wort tea.
- Best for improving mood: Lemon balm tea.
- Best for multiple health benefits: Green tea.
- Best for a calming effect: Ashwagandha tea.
Massage for Mental Health
In the United States, almost half of adults will experience a mental health challenge during their lifetime. A growing body of research is supporting the positive impact of massage therapy for the relief of stress, anxiety, and depression. In fact, many studies indicate it can provide benefits similar to psychotherapy for certain conditions. Read on to learn more about the ways massage can improve mental health and well-being.
Massage Therapy Can Relieve Stress
Stress is prevalent in today’s fast-paced world and can negatively affect people’s health and well-being. Massage therapy has been shown to significantly reduce stress on both physical and psychological levels. While massage therapists know from experience that massage reduces stress, there is also considerable research that validates our experience.
- In a study on the effects of trigger point therapy, there was a significant decrease in heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure.
- Measures of oxygen consumption, blood pressure, and salivary cortisol levels were all lower after a 10-to-15 minute chair massage in controlled studies.
- Research shows that massage for nurses during work hours can help to reduce stress and related symptoms, including headaches, shoulder tension, insomnia, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain.
Massage Therapy for Anxiety
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 40 million adult Americans suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety can negatively shape the quality of life for individuals affected. Massage therapy can be an effective treatment by elevating neurotransmitters associated with lowering anxiety and decreasing hormones associated with increasing anxiety.
- Research supports that massage can relieve stress in psychiatric patients, those with chronic pain, cancer patients, children with illnesses, patients with generalized anxiety disorder, the elderly, and healthy adults.
- Research published in Applied Nursing Research shows that back massage given during chemotherapy can significantly reduce anxiety and acute fatigue.
- A study published in Military Medicine reports that military veterans indicated significant reductions in ratings of anxiety, worry, depression, and physical pain after massage. The analysis also suggests declining levels of tension and irritability following massage.
Massage Therapy for Depression + Seasonal Affective Disorder
For many who suffer from depression, the first solution is psychotherapy, where a person sees a trained mental health professional to talk (and at times medication is prescribed). Now, people are also beginning to better understand how a combination of treatment options can be beneficial, and massage therapy is showing great promise in alleviating depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
- The effect of massage therapy on trait anxiety and depression is virtually the same as those routinely found in the research studies of psychotherapy for people with the same conditions.
- Research indicates that massage can improve mood and reduce depression in those living with chronic pain, as well as in cancer patients, pregnant women, and people living with chronic disease.
- One in five Americans is impacted by Seasonal Affective Disorder; leaving many people feeling depressed and lethargic. Studies show that regular massages can improve mood and reset circadian rhythms, leading to improved mood, better sleep, and more energy.
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.