A Guide to Improving Your Mental Wellness

A Guide to Improving Your Mental Wellness

Publish Date July 11, 2023 3 Minute Read
Author Emily Rider, RDN, LD

Mental wellness has become an increasingly important area of focus for many. According to a 2023 report from Mental Health America (MHA), there are over 50 million Americans experiencing some sort of mental illness. If you’ve been feeling increased strain in your mental health, know that you aren’t alone. Along with physical wellness, mental wellness is a significant component of your overall well-being and shouldn’t be ignored. There are several different lifestyle factors that serve as building blocks for mental wellness. Focusing on these different areas may help to improve your mental health and wellness.

1. Nutrition

It’s no secret that a balanced diet can positively impact your mood. However, incorporating nutritious foods into your lifestyle while managing a busy schedule can be an overwhelming task, especially if you’re struggling with mental health. Lack of access to healthy foods can also be an incredibly stressful situation. Consider the following tips to help you optimize your nutrition while minimizing stress:

  • If affordability of food is a barrier for you, learn about available resources. One helpful resource is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which can now be used when shopping on line or on the Kroger app. Other resources include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation. You can also meet with one of our registered dietitians to discuss healthy eating on a budget.
  • Use a meal planning strategy that works best for you. Some people thrive when they prepare meals for the week ahead. However, this meal prep technique doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s OK. Maybe it’s more effective for you to keep ingredients on hand that can be combined into quick meals throughout the week, such as cutting up all your fruits and vegetables at the beginning of the week so they’re ready to incorporate into a meal. Another stress-free way to create nutritious meals is to use fresh or frozen vegetable medleys that can be easily thrown into a dish. Perhaps using a meal delivery service like Home Chef would be helpful. It can take some time to figure out which meal planning strategy fits you best.
  • Evaluate your relationship with food. In addition to providing nourishment for your body, how you view food can play a large role in contributing to or reducing stress. Are you often finding yourself worried about the food you are eating and what effects it has on your body before you have even taken your first bite? There are a lot of mixed messages in media about what foods are “healthy” vs “unhealthy”, but having a positive relationship with food means understanding that all foods fit into a healthful lifestyle. Food should be nourishing, not stressful! Consider working one-on-one with a registered dietitian to take a closer look at how your relationship with food may be impacting you.
  • Choose to eat foods that help you feel your best. Choosing foods based on what we think we “should” or “shouldn’t” eat can lead to increased stress and guilt. Instead, try paying attention to how you feel physically after eating. Maybe you don’t feel so well after eating a large portion of fried foods. Next time try having smaller portions or adding a fruit or vegetable and see how you feel. This strategy could help you make healthier choices without feeling restricted and can shift you into a more positive mindset.

2. Movement

Physical activity also plays a role in mental wellness. Not only can exercise boost chemical messengers in your brain that regulate your mood, but it can also improve your energy levels, self-esteem, memory and sleep. For adults ages 18-64, the CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. If you find yourself struggling with motivation to exercise, focus on finding activities that you find interesting and don’t feel like a chore. Think outside of the box—movement can be unconventional, like dancing, gardening or even rock climbing. If you’re truly struggling to find activities you enjoy, consider how you feel after exercise as motivation to get moving. It’s also important to avoid overexercising, as this could have a negative impact on your health— always balance activity with rest to prevent injury and allow time for recovery.

3. Sleep

Another key lifestyle component of mental health is sleep. While mental health conditions may impact the quality of your sleep, research indicates that sleep can also impact your mental and emotional health. The CDC currently recommends adults ages 18-60, aim to get 7+ hours of sleep per night. If you struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep, there are many strategies you can implement to help improve your sleep hygiene. Consider going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, creating a relaxing bedtime routine. Avoid blue light from electronics for at least 30 minutes before bed, and limit afternoon and evening caffeine. It may take some trial and error but discovering which sleep strategies work best for you is worth the effort.

While making changes to lifestyle factors may improve your mental health, sometimes you need more support. Working with a mental health care professional can provide you with additional strategies to improve your mental wellness. Additional resources, including hotlines, can be found on the following websites: National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Eating Disorders Association.

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Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.