We all know it’s important to stay in good physical health. But what are you doing to stay in good mental health? Each year, nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness symptoms including stress, depression, anxiety, and mood swings. These symptoms can lead to feelings of helplessness and despair. However, research shows that people who regularly engage in one or more holistic health practices can reduce these symptoms and improve overall mental health for a lifetime.
Holistic health practices aim to connect the body and mind, improve overall health and prevent disease. They focus on slow and controlled movements, as well as mindful breathing techniques that allow energy to flow freely through the body. Here are some examples of the practices we recommend. For more information about these practices and specific exercises, check out Dr. Cynthia’s book “Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength, and Spirit from the Body’s Core.”
Controlled breathing is when you pay special attention to how you breathe. Sometimes, when under stress, you might hold your breath for long periods of time. By forgetting to breathe, you increase stress. Controlled breathing helps to relieve stress.
Meditation helps your mind focus on the present and ignore distracting thoughts. It requires a quiet and comfortable spot. All you have to do is close your eyes and concentrate on your breath, body sensations, or a word or phrase. Even if you only meditate for ten minutes a day your mood will improve. There are several types of meditation, including mindfulness, transcendental, guided, chakra, and loving kindness.
Mindfulness is a process that brings your attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment. Mindfulness can be developed through the holistic practice of meditation. Studies show that the practice of mindfulness helps reduce worry and depression.
Neuromuscular Integrative Action (NIA) is a combination of slow and fast movements. The movements are similar to tai chi, meditation, freestyle dance, and low-impact aerobics. NIA helps reduce stress and anxiety and can be adapted for all fitness levels.
Healthy Eating directly impacts how well your brain functions and how you feel. Certain foods may impact your mental health. A holistic brain diet is similar to a heart healthy diet. Choose fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats. Nutrients that are linked to reducing depression and improving mood include B vitamins, iron, omega 3s, zinc, fermented foods, and dark chocolate.
Qigong combines physical postures, mindful breathing, and deep focus. Together, they encourage good blood flow, strong muscles, better balance, and flexibility. Engaging in this holistic practice can help you reduce stress, tension, and depression.
Tai Chi is a graceful form of slow-moving exercise and stretching. Combined with deep focus and breathing, Tai Chi can help improve your health, mood, concentration, and balance. It is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints.
Yoga is a physical exercise with mental and spiritual components. This holistic practice can improve your balance, flexibility, energy, strength, self-awareness and mood. There are more than 20 types of yoga. They include Ashtanga, Bikram, Dahn, Hatha, Iyengar, and Vinyasa. Choose the type of yoga that’s best for your fitness level and personal preference.
Implementing one or more of these holistic practices is a great way to improve your mental health. However, keep in mind that the best way to improve your mental health is to engage in LOVE. Knowing how to love and be loved are core to our good mental health. Only by practicing love with our partners, children, families, friends, and in our communities can we achieve the true essence of good mental health.