We have all heard about the importance of caring for your mental health, but what is mental health? And Why is mental health important?
Mental health often refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Our mental health impacts our feelings, thoughts, and actions and helps us determine how to make daily choices, handle stress, and relate to others and the world around us. As with wellness in general, there are things each of us can do to support our individual mental health – read below why it matters, how simple daily practices (e.g. matcha!) can help, and tips to get started on the self-care you need to support your best self.
Someone with good mental health can:
- Cope with everyday stress and loss
- Maintain a bright outlook on life
- Work productively
- Recognize the power of daily practices
- Meaningfully impact their family, friends, and community
Virtually no one is a stranger to the challenges of daily life. As it turns out, many of those everyday stressors are not only physical, but also impact mental and emotional health as well. Those difficulties often influence
outlook and behavior, and may be exacerbated by underlying events:
- Biological factors (e.g., DNA or brain chemistry)
- Challenging life experiences (e.g., abuse or trauma)
- Family history of mental disorders or problems (e.g., depression or substance abuse)
If you’re someone who struggles with cognitive health, or if you have any predisposition, one of the most accessible recommendations to consider is the power of a daily ritual.
Warning signs someone may be struggling with mental health
There is no one complete list of things to look for, but if you or a loved one may be struggling with mental health problems, here are some common changes to be on the watch for:
- Pulling away from social activities or isolating from them
- Having little to no energy
- Eating too much or too little
- Feeling more confused, upset, scared, worried, agitated, angry, or on edge
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Feeling inexplicably achy and in pain
- Having recurring thoughts or memories you can't stop
- Fighting with family and friends
- Relying on unhealthy energy drinks to wake up/work
- Failing to perform day-to-day tasks (e.g., commuting to work)
- Lacking personal hygiene habits (e.g., not showering)
You should note that poor mental health is different from mental illness. A person can experience poor mental health without a mental illness diagnosis. However, if left unchecked, poor mental health can have a significant negative impact on your overall wellness, even resulting in some types of chronic conditions.
This is one of the main reasons that someone interested in better mental wellness may wish to consider solutions which support both the mind and body. Regular exercise, and wise choices in what you eat and drink[link] are examples that tangibly support both.
Eight ways to naturally boost your mood with self care
Looking for simple ways to improve your mental health and mindset? Mental health problems are more common than you’d think, so if you have noticed anyone you know (or even yourself)displaying any of the warning signs above, below you’ll find some actionable steps which may help. In fact, the list below are scientifically supported natural strategies, and remedies, that help improve an individual’s mental health.
Here are 8 practical and effective ways to improve and maintain a positive mental space:
Break a sweat (12), and be sure to choose a healthy pre-workout if you need
Practice mindfulness (6)
Focus on your breath (16, 10)
Eat a healthful diet (8), and don’t forget about dark chocolate, healthy spices, and tea!
Try positive thinking(3)
Get quality, restful sleep (4), it may help to choose a caffeine source other than coffee
Drink matcha daily (14)
Connect with others socially (5), and if you’re meeting in person be vaccinated.
Researchers have found that memory, reasoning, and overall brain health improve significantly among individuals who regularly partake in activities they enjoy. (13)
Keep reading if you’re curious about one, or all, of the tips above! We break it down even further, and admittedly, we talk in length about the power of matcha in case you’re piqued to make it part of your wellness routine:
Break a sweat
Regular exercise is really good for your mental health. Working out has been shown to alleviate anxiety symptoms and improve self-esteem, concentration, sleep, and overall mental health. According to research, the exercise 'sweet spot' for mental health is 30–60 minutes, five times a week, at a moderate to vigorous intensity. (1)
Mindfulness is the simple practice of bringing your awareness to and accepting the moment without judgement. Just allow yourself to be. Some of the latest research shows that mindfulness can reduce mild to moderate depression, and anxiety, while also potentially helping prevent depressive relapse(s). Mindfulness is also promising for issues with any vices you may be looking to overcome . (6)
Do you want to practice mindfulness? Try lying outside on your back on a warm day and simply observing the different cloud shapes. Pro tip: Matcha beforehand is not a bad idea!
Focus on your breath
Consciously focusing on your breath can be done anywhere at any time! This practice is widely established as an effective antidote for stress, and more importantly is free to everyone. The 4-7-8 breath (also known as the relaxing breath) can be broken down into four simple steps; it’s a great starting point and a favorite relaxation technique for Dr. Weil:
1) Inhale through your nose for four seconds.
2) Hold your breath for seven seconds.
3) Slowly, with control, exhale through your mouth for eight seconds.
4) Take another four-second count to inhale and repeat the cycle three more times for at least four breaths.
Practice positive thinking
Are you an optimist? Positive thinking is a process of focusing on the good in any given setting. Many recent peer-reviewd studies demonstrate how adults who meditate daily, while focusing on positive thoughts, are more likely to experience uplifting emotions. What’s more, is that this type of positive thinking may help people manage depression, and interestingly seems to offer benefit regardless if someone is generally pessimistic.Studies have also shown that positive thinking can significantly lower your risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, infection, cancers, and respiratory diseases – pairing well with natural wellness products like matcha, which are associated with similar longevity properties(3)
If you haven’t already tried thinking positively, now is the time! For example, try starting every morning on a positive note, tell yourself it's going to be a great day, give yourself five compliments, put on a happy playlist or song as you brush your teeth, or share your positive thinking by leaving your loved one a sticky note with a compliment.
Get quality, restful sleep
Most people know that not getting enough sleep impacts their mental state. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to higher stress levels, depression, and anxiety. Try to aim for at least seven or more hours of sleep per night. If you’re having trouble falling (or staying) asleep, take it as a cue to assess your sleep hygiene and what simple steps may be available to help improve! Good sleeping habits include setting a time limit on device-use in the evening, cutting back on caffeine from sources like energy drinks and coffee (you can still drink matcha, which has a better type of caffeine than coffee) and having a set bedtime. (4)
Eat a healthy diet
When it comes to food, think of tasting the rainbow—try and eat colorful, plant-based whole foods. Diets packed with processed, high-calorie, and low-nutrient foods have been linked to depression and anxiety, so try including more locally sourced green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and healthy proteins like fish and fruits. Missing meals has also been shown to trigger fatigue and unhealthy snacking habits, so try not to skip meals and become 'hangry.' (9)
Drink matcha daily
Matcha is an outstanding candidate for mental health & overall wellness. Sipping matcha every morning is a great way to positively impact your mood, it’s actually supported now that the natural compounds in matcha act on natural serotonin and dopamine systems in the brain – offering a balancing effect which may help many areas of cognition.Matcha Powder also promotes relaxation and sustained energy, a positive outlook, and reliable energy unlike any competing caffeine sources.
Matcha is the only caffeinated product to naturally contain high levels of L-theanine, which protects against jitters while providing an incredible ‘pick-me-up’ effect. Moreover, studies point toward the L-theanine in matcha being especially good at combating anxiety and stress, while protecting against over-caffeination (15)
Best yet, when it comes to matcha vs. green tea, matcha has a notably higher antioxidant count and beneficial compounds. (matcha actually has more antioxidants than almost any other food – I believe it’s tied for chaga) (7).
Connect with others socially
Your social circle is a crucial component to supporting positive mental health. Studies have shown that people who feel more connected to others and are willing to reach out to family and friends for support have lower levels of depression and anxiety. Moreover, the research shows that those who socialize have higher self-confidence and are more empathetic, trusting, and cooperative! (11) Pick a time to go to the park, or maybe even set a time for tea! .
The final word
Everyone can benefit from improved wellness, and as we discussed both the physical, and mental, sides to our health should be cared for equally. The 8 tips we offered above are examples of holistic, accessible steps that virtually everyone can take to support both their physical, and mental space.
Just remember that experiencing changes in your mental health is expected depending on many factors, including your current age, family history, life challenges, and brain chemistry. If you’re concerned with your mental health, there is no substitute for physician support.
Nevertheless, considering wise, natural options to boost your resilience safely are practical opportunities that anyone may consider, including as part of a treatment plan you create with your physician.
Even if they are often considered supplementary to other treatments, natural wellness boosts and other strategies (don’t forget the matcha!) can be essential to combating mental health challenges for many people. Pick up a few of these daily practices today, and you’ll be happy you did :)
- Biddle, S. (2016). Physical activity and mental health: evidence is growing. World Psychiatry, 15(2), 176–177. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20331
- Craft, L. L., & Perna, F. M. (2004). The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 06(03), 104–111. https://doi.org/10.4088/pcc.v06n0301
- Eagleson, C., Hayes, S., Mathews, A., Perman, G., & Hirsch, C. R. (2016). The power of positive thinking: Pathological worry is reduced by thought replacement in Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 78, 13–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2015.12.017
- Freeman, D., Sheaves, B., Goodwin, G. M., Yu, L. M., Nickless, A., Harrison, P. J., Emsley, R., Luik, A. I., Foster, R. G., Wadekar, V., Hinds, C., Gumley, A., Jones, R., Lightman, S., Jones, S., Bentall, R., Kinderman, P., Rowse, G., Brugha, T., . . . Espie, C. A. (2017). The effects of improving sleep on mental health (OASIS): a randomised controlled trial with mediation analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry, 4(10), 749–758. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2215-0366(17)30328-0
- Kawachi, I. (2001). Social Ties and Mental Health. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 78(3), 458–467. https://doi.org/10.1093/jurban/78.3.458
- Keng, S. L., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(6), 1041–1056. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2011.04.006
- Kochman, J., Jakubczyk, K., Antoniewicz, J., Mruk, H., & Janda, K. (2020). Health Benefits and Chemical Composition of Matcha Green Tea: A Review. Molecules, 26(1), 85. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26010085
- Ljungberg, T., Bondza, E., & Lethin, C. (2020). Evidence of the Importance of Dietary Habits Regarding Depressive Symptoms and Depression. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(5), 1616. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17051616
- Lachance, L., & Ramsey, D. (2015). Food, mood, and brain health: implications for the modern clinician. Missouri medicine, 112(2), 111–115.
- Ma, X., Yue, Z. Q., Gong, Z. Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N. Y., Shi, Y. T., Wei, G. X., & Li, Y. F. (2017). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874
- Martino, J., Pegg, J., & Frates, E. P. (2015). The Connection Prescription: Using the Power of Social Interactions and the Deep Desire for Connectedness to Empower Health and Wellness. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 11(6), 466–475. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827615608788
- National Institutes of Health (US) & NIH Curriculum Supplement Series. (2007). Information about Mental Illness and the Brain. The National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK20369/
- Pressman, S. D., Matthews, K. A., Cohen, S., Martire, L. M., Scheier, M., Baum, A., & Schulz, R. (2009). Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being. Psychosomatic Medicine, 71(7), 725–732. https://doi.org/10.1097/psy.0b013e3181ad7978
- Unno, K., Furushima, D., Hamamoto, S., Iguchi, K., Yamada, H., Morita, A., Horie, H., & Nakamura, Y. (2018). Stress-Reducing Function of Matcha Green Tea in Animal Experiments and Clinical Trials. Nutrients, 10(10), 1468. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101468
- Williams, J. L., Everett, J. M., D’Cunha, N. M., Sergi, D., Georgousopoulou, E. N., Keegan, R. J., McKune, A. J., Mellor, D. D., Anstice, N., & Naumovski, N. (2019). The Effects of Green Tea Amino Acid L-Theanine Consumption on the Ability to Manage Stress and Anxiety Levels: a Systematic Review. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 75(1), 12–23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11130-019-00771-5
- Zaccaro, A., Piarulli, A., Laurino, M., Garbella, E., Menicucci, D., Neri, B., & Gemignani, A. (2018). How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2018.00353
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