Do you find yourself down and depressed? Are the short days and colder nights making you feel more tired and sad? The holiday season can be a lonely and challenging time. Breaking out of a psychological rut takes effort, but the reward can be a new you in 2022.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 1 in 3 men has had feelings of anxiety and depression. 1 in 4 men have spoken to a mental health care provider, and 31% of men have reported feeling depressed in their lifetime.
Today, let’s discuss mental health and the top 3 ways to boost your mental health.
Mental Health 101
Mental health has long been a hot topic of discussion. For years, men who displayed signs of mental health issues were labeled as weak. Many men covered up their symptoms in various ways, often taking their own lives. According to the APA, the suicide rate is 4x higher in men than women.
Fortunately, times are changing, and mental health awareness is becoming more widely accepted. Top athletes such as Kevin Love, Simone Biles, and Naomi Osaka have used their platform to speak about their struggles with mental health. Having people like this speak on the importance of mental health should only improve society’s acceptance. Luckily, with this shift and wealth of knowledge, more and more treatments are becoming available to those who need help.
Let’s dive into those top 3 ways to improve your mental health today.
Exercise has many physical health benefits, including weight management and improved cardiovascular health, but people often ignore the mental health effects. When we exercise, our body releases a chemical called endorphins, which act as stress and pain relievers. Endorphins have similar properties to opioids, often used in medicine for pain relief.
You may have heard of the “runner’s high,” which is pretty accurate for those who’ve experienced it. For years, experts thought the mental health effects were only short-term. But new research is coming out from the APA that suggests exercise now provides long-term relief from depression. Not only are researchers finding benefits of exercise on depression, but also anxiety.
Anxiety and Body Positivity
The body responds to anxiety and exercise similarly by increasing heart rate and perspiration. A study conducted by Jasper Smits, Ph.D., found improved anxiety symptoms among 60 volunteers following a 2-week exercise prescription. Exercise can also improve our mental health through a more positive body image.
When we genuinely feel good about our body’s physical appearance, our mental image tends to improve as well. Feeling good about your body improves confidence levels and your overall well-being.
Types of Exercise
Now the types of exercise are endless, and finding what works best is a personal preference. For many, it’s running, biking, hiking, or anything that involves getting outside with nature. Another study conducted by the APA found that more time in nature leads to more positive mental health.
Finding workout groups or exercise classes can be helpful as well. Working out with others builds a sense of community and provides the benefits of social engagement.
Talk To Someone
Finding A Therapist
Talking to a stranger about your anxiety creates additional anxious feelings, but the benefits far outweigh overcoming this initial trepidation. First, try setting up a brief phone call to make sure you and the therapist gel together before setting up more formal appointments. It’s okay to speak to more than one therapist because finding a comfort level is crucial to the process.
Therapists are professionals skilled at handling various mental health issues, and each has a specialty that may or may not meet your needs. Many men find it easier to speak with a female doctor as they often appear more compassionate. When it comes to a therapist, don’t settle for the first one that pops up in a Google search.
Often therapists assign homework with different coping strategies. The assignments might be anything from writing in a journal, trying a new hobby, or talking to a loved one. Each task addresses a specific need that many of us fail to realize in our lives.
When we let our feeling build up inside us, it can feel like the whole world is about to come crumbling down. That’s why allowing yourself to open up can feel so liberating.
The first documented text of meditation goes back to 1500 BC! It’s estimated that between 200-500 million people practice meditation worldwide. The benefits of meditation include a lower resting heart rate and decreased blood pressure.
Finding meditation classes that work for you can take time. Some good resources include Peloton, 10 Percent Happier, and Yoga with Adrienne. The latter two are free applications you can easily access from your computer or mobile device.
Wim Hof Breathing Exercises
Like meditation, breathing can help reduce depression and anxiety by lowering heart rate and decreasing blood pressure. Wim Hof offers a beginner class which most people find invigorating. The video is 11 minutes long and involves three rounds of breathing and breath holds. Make sure you are not in a hurry to get the most out of his class.
In addition to Wim Hof, the Navy Seals made the box breathing technique famous. This technique involves 5 minutes of 4×4 second breathing, like a box. For example, 4 seconds inhales followed by 4-second holds, then 4 seconds exhale followed by 4-second holds. Most people find box breathing to be helpful while on the go. Stuck in traffic? Box breathing. Feeling anxious at a bar? Box breathing. You get the picture.
Give one or all these strategies a try and see what they can do for your mental health. Take the first step to a new you in 2022.
Take care, even down there.
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