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Boost Your Mental Health: Diet, Lifestyle, and Connection Tips for Mental Health Awareness Month


Woman supporting mental health through breathing exercises.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues and promoting ways to improve mental well-being. As a health coach, it's essential to help my clients understand the various factors that influence mental health and share practical lifestyle tips for mental health. In this blog post, we'll explore the impact of diet, lifestyle, environment, and connection on mental health, and how you can integrate these elements into your daily routine to enhance your mental well-being.



Sound

Sound is one of my favorite ways to support my nervous system. Research shows that sound healing can slow down brain waves and put the body in a relaxed, dreamlike state. Here are some ways you can use sound to support your mental health:

  • Positive Affirmations: Affirmations become powerful when repeated consistently. By repeating affirmations daily, you can harness the brain's neuroplasticity, or its ability to create new neural connections. Research has shown that positive affirmations can reduce stress by 47% and improve overall mental well-being. Repeat affirmations in the mirror in the morning or before bed. Find affirmations on streaming platforms like Spotify.

  • Guided Meditations: Meditation has been scientifically proven to mitigate addiction, depression, anxiety, and stress, and improve cognitive function and cell health. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that mindfulness meditation can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Explore different types of meditation, such as guided, moving, visualization, or body scans. The Calm app offers a variety of guided meditations.

  • Tone Therapy: This method involves listening to sounds tuned to specific frequencies (Hz) known to be calming. Studies have shown that certain frequencies can help reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality.

  • Hz Frequency: Similar to tone therapy, listening to specific Hz frequencies for just 10 minutes can influence mental health. For instance, 396 Hz is known for its calming effects. Find tone therapy speakers or tone therapy playlists on platforms like Spotify.


Nourishment

What we eat significantly affects our physical and mental health. Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, seafood, and unprocessed grains, and lower in lean meats and dairy, can boost energy levels and improve sleep, while also reducing stress and anxiety. Here are some dietary tips:

  • Incorporate Grounding Foods: Leafy greens, nuts, and root vegetables support serotonin production. Nutrients and compounds in these foods, such as polyphenols, can boost mood by lowering brain inflammation and enhancing resilience to stress.

  • Minerals: Essential minerals like magnesium, zinc, and vitamin D play crucial roles in mental health. Zinc and vitamin B12, for example, help produce neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Foods rich in these minerals include spinach, oysters, and salmon.

  • Hydrate: Dehydration can contribute to anxiety and depression by increasing stress hormone production. Ensure you stay hydrated to maintain optimal mental health.

  • Reduce or Eliminate Caffeine: Excessive caffeine can increase anxiety and disrupt sleep. Consider drinking coffee at least an hour after waking and after your first meal. Green tea, rich in antioxidants and the amino acid theanine, can improve mood and promote calmness.

  • Partner With a Health Coach: Embarking on a wellness journey can be daunting, but with the guidance of a health coach, you'll have a dedicated ally every step of the way. As your personal cheerleader, I'm committed to offering support and expertise as you strive towards your health goals. Through personalized virtual sessions, we'll delve into areas such as nutrition, fitness, and stress management, tailoring a plan that aligns with your unique needs and preferences. Together, we'll chart a course towards sustainable lifestyle changes over the course of 6-12 weeks, empowering you to take control of your well-being. Schedule a consultation today to kickstart your journey towards a healthier, happier you.


Environment

Your environment plays a significant role in your mental health. Here are some lifestyle tips for mental health that create a supportive environment for mental health:

  • Practice Grounding: Grounding, also known as earthing, involves connecting directly with the earth's energy by standing barefoot on the ground, gardening with bare hands, or lying on the ground. Connecting with the earth can decrease levels of cortisol, the body's primary stress hormone. Lower cortisol levels can lead to reduced feelings of stress and anxiety, fostering a calmer state of mind.

  • Social Media Break: This is always my adjustment when it comes to resetting my own mental health. Taking breaks from social media can significantly improve mental health. A study found that reducing social media use for three weeks led to lower levels of depression and loneliness. Take a day, week, or month off and journal how it makes you feel. Learning how to set boundaries with social media is one of the best things you can do for your mental health.

  • Morning Sunlight: Exposure to sunlight helps the body produce vitamin D, which is linked to reduced risks of depression and other mental health issues. Sunlight also helps regulate serotonin and melatonin levels, which are crucial for mood, sleep, and cognitive function.

  • Smells: Essential oils like lavender, bergamot, and ylang-ylang can boost serotonin and dopamine levels. Use a diffuser or mix with water or oil for a mood lift.

  • Walk Outside: Walking outside, especially without headphones or distractions, allows you to engage fully with your surroundings, promoting mindfulness. This mindful walking can help slow down racing thoughts, reduce mental fatigue, and foster a sense of presence and clarity.


Connection

Human connection is vital for mental health, offering emotional support, reducing feelings of isolation, and enhancing overall well-being. Here are some effective ways to foster connection:

  • Gratitude Journal: Keeping a gratitude journal can significantly improve mental health by promoting positive thinking and reducing stress. Studies have shown that regularly writing down things you are grateful for can increase happiness and decrease depressive symptoms. Aim to jot down three things you're grateful for each day to foster a more positive outlook on life.

  • Connect With Your Breath: Techniques like box breathing and somatic breathwork can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety. Box breathing involves inhaling for four counts, holding for four counts, exhaling for four counts, and holding again for four counts. This rhythmic breathing pattern can induce a state of relaxation and reduce stress levels. Somatic breathwork focuses on connecting the breath with bodily sensations, promoting mindfulness and emotional release.

  • Color or Paint: Engaging in creative activities like coloring or painting can reduce stress and improve mood. Art therapy is a recognized method for expressing emotions and managing mental health. Coloring intricate patterns or painting allows you to enter a flow state, where worries fade and creativity takes over, providing a therapeutic outlet for stress relief.

  • Practice Yoga: Yoga has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, improve flexibility, and enhance overall physical and mental health. The combination of physical postures, breath control, and meditation in yoga helps to balance the nervous system. Find yoga classes on YouTube or try, my favorite, Chelsea Jackson Roberts' sessions on Peloton for guided practices that suit all levels. Try Peloton free for 60 days here.

  • Connect with a Friend: Social connections play a crucial role in mental health by providing emotional support and reducing feelings of loneliness. Regularly connecting with friends, whether through in-person meetings, phone calls, or video chats, can significantly improve your mood and provide a sense of belonging. Strong social networks are associated with lower rates of anxiety and depression.


Incorporating Wellness Practices into Your Routine

To support your mental health, consider integrating practices from each category into your daily routine. Whether it's practicing positive affirmations, nourishing your body with wholesome foods, or connecting with nature, small changes can have a profound impact on your well-being. For personalized support, work with me one-on-one. Schedule your health coaching consultation today and take the first step towards better mental health.

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