How to Improve Mental Health
What is mental health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. 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 and aging.
Why is mental health important?
Mental health is important because it can help you to:
- Cope with the stresses of life
- Be physically healthy
- Have good relationships
- Make meaningful contributions to your community
- Work productively
- Realize your full potential
How can I improve my mental health?
There are many different things you can do to improve your mental health, including:
- Staying positive. It's important to try to have a positive outlook; some ways to do that include
- Finding balance between positive and negative emotions. Staying positive doesn't mean that you never feel negative emotions, such as sadness or anger. You need to feel them so that you can move through difficult situations. They can help you to respond to a problem. But you don't want those emotions to take over. For example, it's not helpful to keep thinking about bad things that happened in the past or worry too much about the future.
- Trying to hold on to the positive emotions when you have them
- Taking a break from negative information. Know when to stop watching or reading the news. Use social media to reach out for support and feel connected to others but be careful. Don't fall for rumors, get into arguments, or negatively compare your life to others.
- Practicing gratitude, which means being thankful for the good things in your life. It's helpful to do this every day, either by thinking about what you are grateful for or writing it down in a journal. These can be big things, such as the support you have from loved ones, or little things, such as enjoying a nice meal. It's important to allow yourself a moment to enjoy that you had the positive experience. Practicing gratitude can help you to see your life differently. For example, when you are stressed, you may not notice that there are also moments when you have some positive emotions. Gratitude can help you to recognize them.
- Taking care of your physical health, since your physical and mental health are connected. Some ways to take care of your physical health include
- Being physically active. Exercise can reduce feelings of stress and depression and improve your mood.
- Getting enough sleep. Sleep affects your mood. If you don't get a good sleep, you may become more easily annoyed and angry. Over the long term, a lack of quality sleep can make you more likely to become depressed. So it's important to make sure that you have a regular sleep schedule and get enough quality sleep every night.
- Healthy eating. Good nutrition will help you feel better physically but could also improve your mood and decrease anxiety and stress. Also, not having enough of certain nutrients may contribute to some mental illnesses. For example, there may be a link between low levels of vitamin B12 and depression. Eating a well-balanced diet can help you to get enough of the nutrients you need.
- Connecting with others. Humans are social creatures, and it's important to have strong, healthy relationships with others. Having good social support may help protect you against the harms of stress. It is also good to have different types of connections. Besides connecting with family and friends, you could find ways to get involved with your community or neighborhood. For example, you could volunteer for a local organization or join a group that is focused on a hobby you enjoy.
- Developing a sense of meaning and purpose in life. This could be through your job, volunteering, learning new skills, or exploring your spirituality.
- Developing coping skills, which are methods you use to deal with stressful situations. They may help you face a problem, take action, be flexible, and not easily give up in solving it.
- Meditation, which is a mind and body practice where you learn to focus your attention and awareness. There are many types, including mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation. Meditation usually involves
- A quiet location with as few distractions as possible
- A specific, comfortable posture. This could be sitting, lying down, walking, or another position.
- A focus of attention, such as a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or your breathing
- An open attitude, where you try to let distractions come and go naturally without judging them
- Relaxation techniques are practices you do to produce your body's natural relaxation response. This slows down your breathing, lowers your blood pressure, and reduces muscle tension and stress. Types of relaxation techniques include
- Progressive relaxation, where you tighten and relax different muscle groups, sometimes while using mental imagery or breathing exercises
- Guided imagery, where you learn to focus on positive images in your mind, to help you feel more relaxed and focused
- Biofeedback, where you use electronic devices to learn to control certain body functions, such as breathing, heart rate, and muscle tension
- Self-hypnosis, where the goal is to get yourself into a relaxed, trance-like state when you hear a certain suggestion or see a specific cue
- Deep breathing exercises, which involve focusing on taking slow, deep, even breaths
It's also important to recognize when you need to get help. Talk therapy and/or medicines can treat mental disorders. If you don't know where to get treatment, start by contacting your primary care provider.
How to Prevent High Blood Pressure
More than 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure, or hypertension. Many of those people don't know they have it, because there are usually no warning signs. This can be dangerous, because high blood pressure can lead to life-threatening conditions like heart attack or stroke. The good news is that you can often prevent or treat high blood pressure. Early diagnosis and heart-healthy lifestyle changes can keep high blood pressure from seriously damaging your health.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Each time your heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is highest when your heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When your heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is called diastolic pressure.
Your blood pressure reading uses these two numbers. Usually the systolic number comes before or above the diastolic number. For example, 120/80 means a systolic of 120 and a diastolic of 80.
How is high blood pressure diagnosed?
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. So the only way to find out if you have it is to get regular blood pressure checks from your health care provider. Your provider will use a gauge, a stethoscope or electronic sensor, and a blood pressure cuff. He or she will take two or more readings at separate appointments before making a diagnosis.
Blood Pressure CategorySystolic Blood PressureDiastolic Blood PressureNormalLess than 120andLess than 80High Blood Pressure (no other heart risk factors)140 or higheror90 or higherHigh Blood Pressure (with other heart risk factors, according to some providers)130 or higheror80 or higherDangerously high blood pressure - seek medical care right away180 or higherand120 or higher
For children and teens, the health care provider compares the blood pressure reading to what is normal for other kids who are the same age, height, and gender.
People with diabetes or chronic kidney disease should keep their blood pressure below 130/80.
Who is at risk for high blood pressure?
Anyone can develop high blood pressure, but there are certain factors that can increase your risk:
- Age - Blood pressure tends to rise with age
- Race/Ethnicity - High blood pressure is more common in African American adults
- Weight - People who are overweight or have obesity are more likely to develop high blood pressure
- Sex - Before age 55, men are more likely than women to develop high blood pressure. After age 55, women are more likely than men to develop it.
- Lifestyle - Certain lifestyle habits can raise your risk for high blood pressure, such as eating too much sodium (salt) or not enough potassium, lack of exercise, drinking too much alcohol, and smoking.
- Family history - A family history of high blood pressure raises the risk of developing high blood pressure
How can I prevent high blood pressure?
You can help prevent high blood pressure by having a healthy lifestyle. This means:
- Eating a healthy diet. To help manage your blood pressure, you should limit the amount of sodium (salt) that you eat and increase the amount of potassium in your diet. It is also important to eat foods that are lower in fat, as well as plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The DASH eating plan is an example of an eating plan that can help you to lower your blood pressure.
- Getting regular exercise. Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. You should try to get moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least 2 and a half hours per week, or vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise for 1 hour and 15 minutes per week. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, is any exercise in which your heart beats harder and you use more oxygen than usual.
- Being at a healthy weight. Being overweight or having obesity increases your risk for high blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight can help you control high blood pressure and reduce your risk for other health problems.
- Limiting alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. It also adds extra calories, which may cause weight gain. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women only one.
- Not smoking. Cigarette smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, talk to your health care provider for help in finding the best way for you to quit.
- Managing stress. Learning how to relax and manage stress can improve your emotional and physical health and lower high blood pressure. Stress management techniques include exercising, listening to music, focusing on something calm or peaceful, and meditating.
If you already have high blood pressure, it is important to prevent it from getting worse or causing complications. You should get regular medical care and follow your prescribed treatment plan. Your plan will include healthy lifestyle habit recommendations and possibly medicines.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Hypoglycemia means low blood glucose, or blood sugar. Your body needs glucose to have enough energy. After you eat, your blood absorbs glucose. If you eat more sugar than your body needs, your muscles, and liver store the extra. When your blood sugar begins to fall, a hormone tells your liver to release glucose.
In most people, this raises blood sugar. If it doesn't, you have hypoglycemia, and your blood sugar can be dangerously low. Signs include :
- Difficulty speaking
- Feeling anxious or weak
In people with diabetes, hypoglycemia is often a side effect of diabetes medicines. Eating or drinking something with carbohydrates can help. If it happens often, your health care provider may need to change your treatment plan.
You can also have low blood sugar without having diabetes. Causes include certain medicines or diseases, hormone or enzyme deficiencies, and tumors. Laboratory tests can help find the cause. The kind of treatment depends on why you have low blood sugar.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
A kidney transplant is an operation that places a healthy kidney in your body. The transplanted kidney takes over the work of the two kidneys that failed, so you no longer need dialysis.
During a transplant, the surgeon places the new kidney in your lower abdomen and connects the artery and vein of the new kidney to your artery and vein. Often, the new kidney will start making urine as soon as your blood starts flowing through it. But sometimes it takes a few weeks to start working.
Many transplanted kidneys come from donors who have died. Some come from a living family member. The wait for a new kidney can be long.
If you have a transplant, you must take drugs for the rest of your life, to keep your body from rejecting the new kidney.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Laboratory tests check a sample of your blood, urine, or body tissues. A technician or your doctor analyzes the test samples to see if your results fall within the normal range. The tests use a range because what is normal differs from person to person. Many factors affect test results. These include:
- Your sex, age and race
- What you eat and drink
- Medicines you take
- How well you followed pre-test instructions
Your doctor may also compare your results to results from previous tests. Laboratory tests are often part of a routine checkup to look for changes in your health. They also help doctors diagnose medical conditions, plan or evaluate treatments, and monitor diseases.