The importance of continued mental fitness to avoid mental illness
When we think of fitness, we often envision things like treadmills, dumbbells and the physical activities we do to improve and maintain our physical health. Mental fitness, on the other hand, is a relatively new term that is beginning to gain popularity. Like its physical counterpart, mental fitness refers to the mental activities we do to improve and maintain our mental health.
By being proactive, we can combat physical and mental illnesses and often prevent conditions from worsening--and sometimes from developing (or redeveloping) all together.
Facts About Mental Illness in Canada
Mental illness affects one in five Canadians every year of all ages, genders, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CAMH) reports that by age 40, 50% of the population will have, or have had, a mental illness
. It is likely then that you or someone close to you will experience mental illness in this lifetime.
CAMH reports that mental illness costs the Canadian economy an estimated $51 billion per year
in lost productivity, health-care expenses, and reductions in quality of life. At any given time, mental illness causes 500,000 employed Canadians to be unable to work.
While mental illness is complex, one thing many experts agree on is that having good mental fitness improves the quality of life. Whether you’re currently dealing with a mental illness or not, improving your mental fitness will no doubt improve your life.
Here are five ways to get more mentally fit.
1. Get Active
Just as exercise is good for your physical fitness, it is also good for your mental fitness. Exercising releases feel-good endorphins and increases serotonin levels, the missing chemical in those suffering from depression. Studies show
that exercise can be just as effective in reducing depression symptoms as anti-depressants and cognitive behavioural theory.
Plus, the social component of exercise (such as working out with a friend, attending a fitness class, or joining a walking group) is great for the mind too.
Meditation is a popular method for learning how to calm and understand one’s own mind. One type of meditation that is especially effective is mindfulness meditation. Studies have shown
that mindfulness meditation reduces symptoms of depression, anxiety and panic attacks while contributing to improved concentration, better sleep and greater happiness. There are tons of free apps you can download to begin practicing mindfulness meditation today!
3. Eat Right
The old adage “you are what you eat” rings true when it comes to mental fitness. Studies show
that a poor diet contributes to poor mental health, which has an increasing number of doctors reminding patients about the importance of a well balanced diet. Include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, protein and omega-3s in your meals to ensure you’re feeding your body and your mind right.
4. Reduce Stress
Stress makes everything worse and contributes to a direct decline in mental fitness. Exercise and meditation are two excellent ways to combat stress, but there are so many other ways to de-stress as well. Some ideas include:
5. Get Enough Sleep
- Go for a walk
- Curl up on the couch with a good book and a cup of tea
- Run an aromatic bath with naturally scented bath salts or essential oils such as lavender, eucalyptus and orange, all of which calm the mind
- Practice yoga, which is beneficial for both your physical and mental health
- Call or meet up with a trusted friend to chat about what’s going on in your life
- Make time for hobbies you enjoy
- Laugh–attend a comedy show, watch something funny or be social with friends
- Turn technology off one hour before bed to allow your brain to decompress
Finally, when it comes to mental fitness, sleep is key. When you don’t get enough sleep, your emotional well-being suffers, your concentration and productivity levels suffer, and your physical and mental health decline. Make sleep a priority for your mental fitness.
Mental health affects your performance, your relationships, and every aspect of your life. As an OTIP member, you may have access to FeelingBetterNow®, an award-winning tool for connecting mental health problems to custom solutions.You can assess your mental health in 5-10 minutes and immediately access tools for stress reduction and for managing your symptoms.Visit www.feelingbetternow.com/otip
to start your journey to feeling better.