Did you know that these 5 things can affect your mental health?

Huge warning of underestimation * The last two and a half years have been severe for mental health. “There’s almost this second pandemic where people feel lonely, isolated and divided,” he said Dr. Sarah GuptaSan Francisco – based psychiatrist and medical writer at Good Rx.

So many factors are closely intertwined with our mental health and almost all of them have suffered a blow thanks to the COVID era. Although many of these things are beyond our control as we continue to crawl back to normal, it is important to deal with habits that we can actually change.

Here, Dr. Gupta outlines a few of these less obvious factors and shares simple tips to make sure you do what you can to protect your emotional health.

Your posture

Anyone who has been to WFH knows the temptation to move to the couch around 3pm, but bending over a laptop can affect your mood. (Are you traveling to something other than your living room? Probably still applies to you.)

“Many people don’t realize that their posture actually sends information back to their brains,” explains Dr. Gupta. This 2017 survey published in Cognition and emotion supports this, finding that people sitting in a hunched position struggle more to recover from a negative mood than those who sit upright.

Dr. Gupta’s advice

Set a reminder or alarm on your phone every hour to straighten your posture. When it goes out, make sure your shoulders are above your hips and your head is in a neutral position. “Sit down, sit down, take a deep breath all the way to the diaphragm and just let your body feel this different posture,” says Dr. Gupta. “If you’re feeling anxious, remember you have this tool.”

Your friends

In 2022, we promise to value our friends for many reasons. And high on the list is our mental health. “It’s not just about being proud to have friends or knowing you have a community – human connections actually boost neurotransmitters for good mood in your brain,” says Dr. Gupta.

What’s more: the number of friends you have is not important (we asked). The key is to surround yourself with people around whom you can be your most authentic self.

Dr. Gupta’s advice

Be honest with yourself about how much time you have to spend with your friends to feel fulfilled, refreshed, and empowered, and then do it – even if it’s just a catch-up dinner once a month, it matters.

Want to expand your circle? Dr. Gupta recommends trying something new. “Taking a class, joining a Zoom support group, volunteering or being a member of a local museum or garden can help you expand your world and open the door to new relationships and new friendships,” she says. (They are here nine more ideas.)

Your laughter

Spending hours on your favorite show often has a bad effect, but if it makes you laugh, you can consider it at least a partial gain (bonus points if you do it with a friend).

“Smiles and laughter send messages to your brain that ‘Hey, it’s okay. I can rest and relax. Life is good, ”explains Dr. Gupta. “There is evidence that being in this rested and relaxed state protects against anxiety, depression and stress.”

In particular, people who laughed frequently reported feeling less overwhelmed during stressful life situations than those who laughed less frequently, according to this study for 2020 published in PLOS One.

Dr. Gupta’s advice

Set a goal to laugh once a day (this is a cultivation challenge we can stand behind). Arrange your favorite show, call a funny friend, scroll through your favorite meme account – everything that adds a touch of lightness to your day. (See these five health benefits of laughter.)

Your water intake

Social media can focus on something with a bottle of water for emotional support – drinking enough water is key to both physical and mental health.

“When you don’t drink enough water and don’t step on your toes to be slightly dehydrated, your body raises the alarm that you’re in a life-threatening situation and starts to increase these stress hormones – especially cortisol,” says Dr. Gupta.

This is not a good place to visit regularly, as elevated cortisol has been linked to anxiety, depression and mood disorders, she says.

Dr. Gupta’s advice

“If you feel thirsty or overwhelmed, try drinking a nice glass of cold water,” says Dr. Gupta. “And if you’re someone who likes more structure, use alarms or trackers to remind yourself that drinking water is part of your self-care. (Here’s how to find out how much to drink).

Your access to nature

“Our ancestral brain controls much of our response to stress,” says Dr. Gupta. We are designed to need time in nature. “Human beings have evolved to prefer an environment in which we have fresh water, sunlight and nature, because they provide us with the resources we need to stay alive,” she said. “But nowadays, nature doesn’t just allow us to survive, it helps us thrive.”

Spending even small bursts of time in nature – yes, you can count the local park, which has become your gym, a place for social gatherings and an oasis of self-care for the last two and a half years – can be very useful for your mental health. And in 2019 Limits in psychology A study found that spending just 20 minutes outside significantly reduced stress hormone levels.

Dr. Gupta’s advice

Go outdoors as much as possible. And so you get the advantage in those days when you are stuck inside, bring in nature by placing a plant on your desk.

For more advice from Dr. Gupta, as well as other doctors, pharmacists and health experts, refer to GoodRx Health.

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