Medical Moment: Replacing bad thoughts for better mental health

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 5:48 PM EDT
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(WNDU) - The CDC says about one in five of us will experience a mental illness in any given year!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to take a look at your habits. More than half of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives. But some small steps can make a big difference.

“We have to look deep inside, I think, and ask ourselves, ‘Honestly, what am I struggling with?’ And it’s not often the obvious thing,” said David Baker, PhD, a psychotherapist.

Just being aware of your mental health status is an important step. Also, practice daily deep breathing. Studies show this habit can help regulate your heart rate and nervous system, and keep a daily gratitude journal. Simply writing down two things you are grateful for over two weeks can lessen depression and anxiety.

“Mental health is about being able again to find a joy or contentment in something simple,” Doctor Barker explained.

Also, engage in play! Research shows being playful can lower stress and improve healthy coping strategies when you’re faced with difficult situations.

Another must: make sure you get enough sunlight. Vitamin D helps regulate your mood, metabolism, immune system, and more! Experts recommend 10 to 30 minutes of midday sunlight several times a week to maintain levels of vitamin D. Lastly: prioritize a sleep routine. Try to wake up at the same time each day, avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed, and expose yourself to light right when you wake up.

Therapy is another great way to maintain good mental health. There are lots of online, virtual options for therapy sessions, including Betterhelp, Talkspace, and MD Live.