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Sabotaging mental health
May 5, 2014, 1:42 pm

Skimping on sleep, bingeing on food or drink, nursing grudges can all undermine our mental health. Here we show you ways to steer clear of many of these mental traps.

Exercise: Regular exercise has a positive effect on brain chemicals and mood-related hormones, and it may confer psychological benefits, such as increased confidence that foster better mental health. To start, try setting aside 15 to 20 minutes per day for a brisk walk. Studies have shown that even modest exercise routines are associated with improved mood.

Clutter: Clutter in your home can be a subtle source of psychological distress, making you feel weighed down, both literally and figuratively. Clutter has been linked to depression, anxiety, and even weight gain. If you have not used something in 12 months, throw it out or give it away. Research shows that experiential purchases like an enjoyable vacation actually buy us more happiness than material goods do.

Sleep: Anyone who has missed out on sleep is familiar with the irritability, stress, and gloom that can set in the next day. Chronic sleep deprivation can increase a person’s risk of developing depression or anxiety disorders. Prioritize sleep and avoid unhealthy bedtime behaviors, such as over usage of television, computer, tablet, and smartphone.

Wealth: The relationship between income and happiness is actually much weaker than people think. Coveting your neighbor’s riches tends to breed dissatisfaction, focus instead on being grateful for what you do have. Studies have shown that simple exercises—such as keeping a ‘gratitude journal’, or writing a letter to a loved one — are associated with greater satisfaction, optimism, and happiness.

Obsessive thinking: Turning the same thoughts over and over again in your mind sends your body and brain into the stressed-out state that takes a toll on both your physical and emotional health.
Learn to recognize the thoughts you dwell on most, and train yourself to avoid those obsessive pathways. Deep breathing helps, as does snapping yourself out of it — literally. Put a rubber band on your wrist as a reminder and every time you are ruminating, pull it back a little. It is a reminder to stop ruminating and change your train of thought.

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