Healthy Behaviors — In Support of Mental Health

Lifestyle changes, such as integrating healthier habits into one’s life, can make a significant difference to mental health and recovery. These new patterns can even adjust the chemistry of an individual’s brain, making the healing process that much easier.

There are a number of changes you can make to your social, emotional and physical health, including:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining healthy eating habits
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Creating a supportive social network
  • Adhering to medication protocols
  • Meditating
  • Talking about feelings

When working with a therapist, you may be encouraged to incorporate some of these habits into your life. Any recommendations will be made with your specific circumstances and needs in mind. It is important to remember that change takes time and effort, but is very much worth the effort in the long run.

The Stages of Behavioral Change

The reason change can take time is that individuals often have entrenched problematic behaviors already in place. Making true behavioral change happens in stages, overcoming the complexity of the original habit and unhealthy patterns bit by bit. The Transtheoretical Model defines six stages of behavioral change:

    1. Precontemplation: During this stage, the individual is not aware there is a problem.
    2. Contemplation: At this point, the individual becomes aware of the need for change. 
    3. Preparation: The individual begins looking into how they can foment change.
    4. Action: The individual begins taking the steps to create change.
    5. Maintenance: The individual continues the positive behaviors after the initial thrill of doing something new.
  • Relapse: The individual slips back into negative habits, feeling guilty in the process. 

Relapse does not mean failure. It can be an opportunity to reassess and enhance the new positive behaviors. Individuals in the relapse stage can also use it as a chance to identify triggers.

Mental Disorders Helped by Behavioral Changes

Making changes to behavioral health can have a positive impact on many mental health disorders. Patients should work closely with a therapist to determine what changes work for them and are appropriate for their stage of healing. Behavioral changes can help with.

  • GAD
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • ADHD
  • Low self-esteem

These changes can help those with no mental health issues, as well. Anyone making healthy changes in their life should work to ensure they do not get too fixated, however, as this can become as destructive as the initial negative behaviors.

Making Behavioral Changes Today

True change happens over time, but there are some small initial steps you can take today to get you on the right path. The following are just some of those choices you can make today to begin transformational change:

  • Make one small change that moves you toward goal
  • Establish a healthy bedtime
  • Substitute one healthy food for an unhealthy one
  • Get in touch with a supportive loved one
  • Walk for 30 minutes
  • Set medication alarms
  • Start a feelings journal
  • Meditate for 10 minutes

Healthy Sleep Habits and Their Effect on Energy

Poor sleep hygiene can have an effect on mental health, undermining the positive effects of therapy and medication. Implementing some of the following sleep habits can improve sleep hygiene: 

  • Maintain the same sleep schedule even on weekends with a healthy bedtime and early rise
  • Get 7 hours of sleep each night at least
  • Design a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Make your bedroom a relaxing setting
  • Have a light, healthy snack one hour before bedtime
  • Only engage in sleeping, dressing, and sexual activity in the bedroom

 Try one step at a time. Remember, true change takes time and happens systematically. 

Maintaining Healthy Eating Habits

Making changes to eating habits is yet another way that individuals can improve their mental health. As with other changes, it is best to take it one step at a time. Doing everything at once can lead to setbacks and disappointment. The following are some healthy changes you can make to your eating one by one:

  • Switch in a fruit for a favorite junk food
  • Switch out an unhealthy side (french fries) for a healthier option at dinner
  • Stop using sugar in coffee or use a sugar-free replacement
  • Join a support group

In general, it is best to avoid fad diet trends or extreme diets. Any change to your eating habits should be done in consultation with a medical professional.

Making Healthy Changes via Exercise

Everyone understands that exercise can improve your physical health, but not everyone grasps that it has a significant impact on your mental health, as well. Exercise increases the flow of endorphins in the body, which can improve mood. The following are some of the steps you can take to implement healthy change via exercise:

  • Take a beginner yoga class
  • Take a 20 to 30 minute walk
  • Play tag or hide-and-go-seek with your kids

Don’t force yourself to do something you do not enjoy. You are more likely to stick with something if it is fun for you. Finally, make sure to consult with your doctor to make sure that any new exercise is safe for you.

The Help You Need to Change Your Health Behaviors

If you have decided to implement behavioral changes in your life, it can be hard to know where to begin. Consulting with our mental health professionals can help. We can guide you through the process, assessing your current habits and making recommendations tailored to your needs. If you are ready to implement true behavioral change in your life with the goal of transforming your mental health, contact us today.