16 Keys To Good Mental Health

16th October 2023

This page has been edited and reviewed by psychologist R. Y. Langham, MMFT, PhD

The earth spins on its axis at a precise angle. If that angle were off just a fraction, it would render the earth either too hot or cold to be inhabitable. The number of connections in our brains, between each nerve cell, has been compared to the number of stars in the universe. It is a complex, bio-chemical organ, and one of the most delicate and complex things known on the universe. In it lies the thought processes that govern our emotions, creativity, hopes, and memories.

At times, a simple adjustment in our lifestyle can maintain a bio-chemical balance in our minds, which helps keep our minds and bodies also balanced. There are many natural activities that affect the chemical makeup of our minds.

A variety of factors can naturally raise neurotransmitters in our brains. Neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine play a significant role in depression (i.e. clinical depression and bipolar disorder) and ADHD. There are 30 different neurotransmitters in our brains, so, as mentioned, the mind is an amazingly complicated organ. Yet by following some of these simple suggestions, we can maintain that delicatee bio-chemical balance in our minds. В

1. Exercise more. Studies have shown that regular exercise (i.e. brisk walking) can be more effective in treating depression than most traditional prescription antidepressants (when it comes to a reduction in symptoms and the recurrence rate).

2. Love. Love has been described as the best medicine. Not everyone has the benefit of growing up in a loving environment. One form of love is giving to others. There is a proverb that says, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.” By purposefully helping others, giving love, not necessarily looking for love for ourselves, which is often the way we might think of love, we add value and meaning to our lives.

3. Avoid too much television, movies, and video games. Excessive time spent watching television or engaging in other forms of media can have a negative effect on our mental health, and this is especially true when it comes to violence in children's programming. Most movies and cartoons have at least some amount of violence. One study reveals that in 1996, 8 out of 10 Saturday morning children's cartoon characters were violent. The evening news, as well, has elements of violence, and at times, this can affect our emotional balance. Researchers and mental health professionals have even suggested that watching the news can contribute to depression.

The rapid-fire pace of television and commercials can cause our senses and brains to overload. This can also interrupt the delicate balance of the chemicals that regulate our emotions. In some cases, we can get to the point where we have seen so much violence, that we no longer see it as “violence.”

Many movies are entertaining, but some movies also stir up emotions (i.e. highs and lows) that can contribute to depression and/or other mood disorders. It is true that our emotions can contribute to mental health conditions like: depression, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, and bipolar disorder.

Do consider, however, that some adults and children are more emotionally sensitive than others. It is extremely beneficial for an individual with a sensitive disposition or a traumatic past to reduce the amount of time he/she engages in media outlets (i.e. television, radio, movies, Internet, etc.), especially if he/she has a history of mental illness and/or emotional distress.

Focusing on “the positive” can help also reduce and/or prevent depression symptoms. Try reading a newspaper rather than watching the news. It is gentler on the mind, and allows us to be more selective when it comes to what enters our brains. Try to avoid dwelling on violent and/or sensational events, images, and experiences, and make a deliberate choice to focus on “the positive.”

4. Turn to art. It can be a natural mood-stabilizer. It can also help heal the mind. Moreover, art can help some build self-esteem. In fact, activities like reading can actually be a “mind-strengthening” exercise.

One Newark, NJ resident reported that the news depressed him, so he decided to stop watching television altogether. He, instead, cultivated his natural artistic talent and produced hundreds of fine artworks - all within a five-year period. He sold many of his masterpieces commercially. In the past, art was just a hobby, but now it is a career (Samuels, J. 2009). Art can indeed have a healing effect on the mind (i.e. allow the mind to rest and promotes self-respect).

5. Spirituality and Prayer are important. There is a physical, biological, and genetic side to our lives, personalities, and moods. There are also psychological, emotional, and spiritual sides to our psyches. All of these elements come into play when determining our moods and mental health. We must pay attention to our spiritual needs because they are a vital component of our mental well-being. Ignoring our needs, and/or damaging the spiritual and emotional sides of our psyches can contribute to mental health disorders, especially if the damage is significant.

Prayer: Praying for help, a sound and healthy mind, and peace can help you successfully conquer your mental health condition.

6. Spend time in the outdoors. Refrain from indoor activities and spend time with nature. “Green therapy” is an effective way to find inner peace, to calm stressed and/or busy minds, and “break free” from negative and/or circular thinking.

7. Avoid isolating yourself. Join an organization that provides you with support. Meeting regularly with others who share similar experiences can help you remain positive and persevere through crises. In other words, joining an organization that helps others can improve your mental health by providing you with a sense of acceptance, unity, and fulfillment.

8. Consume a healthy diet. A diet high in sugar and fat can contribute to a weak body and mind. Most breakfast cereals and sodas are loaded with sugar. Improve your diet by consuming healthy fruits and vegetables as possible and reducing your consumption of alcohol. And stop smoking! If you think that you will have a hard time giving up smoking, reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels in your brain, which can trigger or worsen mental illnesses.

Children need to eat three meals a day. A healthy breakfast is essential. For some sensitive children, a school breakfast consisting of Fruit Loops or other sugary cereals, sweet muffins, and/or Pop-Tarts, along with concentrated juices and/or milk, can have a negative effect on the child’s brain and mood.

Schools and parents should give careful thought to providing children with healthy meals, (i.e. breakfasts, lunches, snacks, drinks, and dinners). A well-balanced, healthy diet can make a big difference in any child’s mental health. It is especially important that kids that have been diagnosed with mental disorders not skip breakfast and/or lunch.

9. Stay away from alcohol, drugs, and large amounts of caffeine. This is especially important for people with mental health conditions. Alcohol is a depressant that contributes to depression and bipolar disorder (i.e. manic depression). For many who have an addictive personality, it is better to completely refrain from these vices rather than to “try to handle it.” For those who have a mental health disorder, avoiding alcohol is the best recourse.

10. Avoid pornography. The sexual stimulation of pornography without a real partner can be pleasurable for the moment, but it can also contribute to emotional emptiness that can lead to or contribute to symptoms that are evident in depression, bipolar disorder, and OCD. In addition, sexual promiscuity can lead to depression and/or contribute to other mental health conditions. Truly satisfying sexual relationships can fulfill your physical and emotional needs. Your sex partner should be a life partner who is there to love and support you every day of your life.

11. Engage in activities that build your self-esteem. Learn to play a musical instrument such as the piano or violin — and stick with it! This is especially helpful for children. One 13-year-old with ADHD reported that playing the piano helped her develop a positive and healthy self-esteem during a time when she had no friends.

In addition, foster your artistic side. Art also builds self-esteem. В Children, teens, and even adults can benefit from art. It can help you overcome addictions, calm your mind naturally, and help build your self-esteem. When you see your “work of art,” you realize how valuable, talented, and special you are. There are so many other ways that you can heal and develop your self-esteem, so explore your options.

Family members of those with mental health disorders need to remember how important it is to show the child, teen, or adult how much you love, support, and accept him/her unconditionally. In other words, maintain a positive attitude with your mentally ill loved one and don't give up. Don't berate and/or ridicule him/her because it can cause a drop in self-esteem and prompt feelings of self-loathing. This is especially true if he/she has a tendency towards eating disorders. Show these children and teens love and approval at all times they need them most.

12. Sharpen the Saw. There are many ways we can sharpen the saw (or improve ourselves). Reading the Bible every day is one way to regain our strength. It can help calm our minds. It can also help us feel at peace. It can also be a strengthening aid and anchor when going through crises. Pay attention to your spiritual needs on a daily basis. Spending time outdoors helps with mental health disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. В “Green Therapy” is as effective as many psychiatric medicines - with no side effects. Wise people "sharpen the saw" when they need to. В

13. Try to keep an active mindby reading. Reading can be a mental-strengthening activity, especially if we focus on reading positive materials. Subscribe to positive magazines and books. This is especially important for children.

14. Find a purpose in life and work. Have an active role in helping children, the elderly, handicapped, underprivileged persons, and/or others. Volunteer part of your time for a worthy cause. Helping others in a genuinely loving way fosters your positive qualities and gives your life meaning and purpose. Teaching in a day care center or volunteering at a social services agency or charity for children can provide you with a purpose, and help you focus on something or someone bigger than yourself. It can also help you integrate with other people. In some cases, a change in your job can help you overcome mental health battles, especially if your new job involves helping others.

15. Listen to soft and soothing music. Most music nowadays is supercharged, electric, and throbbing. The constant mental stimulation can result in mental overload. Some alternative music can be depressing and/or elicit feelings of emptiness. Rock and roll, heavy metal, and other “heavy” sounds can cause chaos in our minds, which can in turn affect our brain’s chemical balance.

Developing a taste for lighter music and gentler and more diversified sounds, as well as paying attention to the amount of time we spend listening to intense music, can help us maintain a positive and uninterrupted flow of emotions in our minds. You can lower your risk of depression by maintaining a positive attitude. This is especially true if you are the kind of person who “lives” every note. Although some may listen to music passively, others may get emotionally involved. If you have a mental health disorder, it is important that you only listen to calming and soothing songs.

16. Get organized and avoid procrastination. Keep your home neat and clean; get help keeping your home and possessions (e.g. car) organized, if necessary. Get rid of clutter. If it has been there for more than a year, it probably isn't necessary. Get on top of your bills, because finances can also influence your mental health. Professional services from an accountant or a life coach may be of benefit in this area.