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Last Updated on February 3, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be Mentally Healthy

8 Simple Ways to Be Mentally Healthy

We all strive to be mentally healthy, no matter who we are or where we are in life. We all want to be happy. We all want to know where we are going and how to control that ride. We find ourselves comparing ourselves to others. We find ourselves analyzing our flaws. We obsess over outcomes. We must learn how to simply be ourselves.

Being mentally healthy isn’t based on whether or not you are always happy, always productive all the time. Having some negative thoughts and feelings are natural and part of being human. Instead, being mentally healthy is about healthy coping skills and strategies that you develop for the tough times. It’s not about who is strong and who is weak.

According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness),[1] 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness every year. That means when you are struggling, you are not alone. But many of us do not feel seen nor do we grab the tools handy to use in those times.

If you are mentally healthy, you adapt more to circumstances, find good in difficult times, learn how to lean on others or ask for help when need be, accept yourself, have realistic perceptions, be resilient, and be ready for anything. You live a balanced life knowing what to prioritize. Your self esteem is high, you are able to communicate your needs, you know your worth and you stand for what you value and believe in giving yourself a greater sense of meaning and purpose.

What it also means to be mentally healthy is that you have a crisis plan for when you are not feeling like yourself. This means you know when you are falling apart, who to turn to, how to cope and so on.

No one is 100% mentally healthy all the time and perfect. If you think otherwise, you’re only getting someone’s highlight reel or just what someone wants you to see.

We stigmatize mental health issues in society, and we use image to cast a false narrative of what is going on to avoid vulnerability. Yet, the less shame a person has, the more likely they will get help.

Do not afraid to be open about your feelings. It can be to anyone you trust: a friend, family member, a mental health professional. You are able to process things in a way that utilizes healthy coping skills. That could be your interests, hobbies, journaling, venting to someone. You don’t let emotions stay bottled lest they explode. You seek cathartic outputs so you can cope.

Symptoms of poor mental health are catastrophizing in many ways. Psych Central says the 15 common cognitive distortions are as follows:[2]

  • Filtering
  • Polarized thinking (or black and white thinking)
  • Overgeneralization
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Catastrophizing
  • Personalization
  • Control fallacies
  • Fallacy of fairness
  • Blaming
  • Shoulds
  • Emotional reasoning
  • Fallacy of change
  • Global labeling
  • Always being right
  • Heaven’s reward fallacy

For example, jumping to conclusions can mean thinking you know the outcome before it happens or having all the facts. Similarly, catastrophizing is thinking about worst case scenarios and thinking only about them happening to you. What they all have in common is there is a level of distorted thinking that can be assessed and corrected to be a more mentally healthy you.

Typically, you can underestimate the good in front of you and the tools you have. You have a distorted view of how things will turn out. Thoughts have power. But you can take control, today.

For a more in-depth look at these distortions with descriptions, check out Psych Central’s article.

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So, how to be mentally healthy?

There are 8 simple ways to be mentally healthy. How to stay mentally healthy is to use the right tools and like the Ancient Greek aphorism, “Know thyself.”

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

How to be mentally healthy starts with cognitive behavioral therapy or for example recording your thoughts to assess if there are any that are unhelpful versus helpful.

There is an easy tool called Thought Record Sheet by Carol Vivyan that can be downloaded from here.

This record sheet has you describe a situation that has happened, rate your emotion, note physical sensations, record unhelpful thoughts/images, then list alternative or realistic thoughts for a more balanced perspective and has you come up with solutions. At the end, you re-rate your emotions.

Such a tool is effective because it has you stop and analyze a thought rather than ruminate on it, which so many of us do. It stops us from catastrophizing and only thinking in worst case scenarios.

2. Mental Health Maintenance Plan

Another tool called the Mental Health Maintenance Plan comes from Therapy Aid and can be downloaded here.

In this worksheet, you can identify triggers and warning signs for mental health decline. Self care and coping strategies listed next will help you come up with a plan for when you feel down. It also asks you to assess if you should seek professional help for these struggles.

This is a good tool to put into practice because it helps you to take control of your mental health coping strategies. When you have a plan in place, you are more likely to act to help your mental state. It’s also something you can share with a therapist to self advocate and ask for help. You can update it at anytime and view your growth.

3. Screen Yourself for a Mental Health Issue

Free screening tools for a mental health issue from Anxiety and Depression Association of America can be found here.

On this website, you can screen yourself for “anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, PTSD or phobia.” You can easily download it and share the results with whoever you’d like.

Nothing is saved or kept on file about you on the site. ADAA does not offer direct services to help with mental health issues such as psychiatry or therapy, but it does offer resources to assist you.

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Assessment Psychology Online is another way to screen for mental health issues with some resources to help with them for Free.

4. There’s an APP for That

You can use the Mindwise lists APPs that can help you manage your mental health.

Download an APP and give it a try! Some include apps to “reduce stress, manage a mood disorder or improve mood.” There are many tools on the internet to help calm you when you are troubled. Answers are literally at your fingertips. All you have to do is a web search if you can’t find what you want.

Type in a search engine for meditations and many will come up. This is a great way to remind yourself that you have the power or control to help yourself. Come up with a daily routine where you put this in practice.

5. Find a Therapist

You can use Psychology Today’s free find a live therapist tool here.

If you don’t want a live therapist, Betterhelp is another tool for getting matched with a therapist however it is online.

Signing up for therapy doesn’t mean that you are weak or unable to handle your problems. It means that you are secure in yourself enough to ask for help when you need it.

Professional help doesn’t mean you necessarily have a mental illness. Sometimes, all of us experience needs for someone to help us navigate life. It is very healthy to reach out to a professional in times of crisis but also in times of stability. That’s because when you navigate life with a mentor, you can recognize flaws in your thinking.

There is a lot to gain from this. All you have to do is reach out.

6. Stop the Stigma

In yourself and in society, there is some stigma towards mental health issues. If you are suffering, talking about it will alleviate that suffering.

Most of us experience fear of others’ judgment. But by owning your story and your mental health journey, you can eradicate that fear.

Rather than hide your life story or struggles, be someone who sees your own strength through it all. Rather than staying a victim, you become someone who knows what you are worth, scars and all. You will then prosper.

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If someone can’t accept your life path, it’s their loss, not yours. Once you get into that mentality, you can free yourself from needing control over others’ reactions to you.

When you stop the stigma, you make it okay for others to speak their truth too. When you give that acceptance, you also learn to accept yourself. This is how you conquer your mental health story.

The story we tell ourselves is powerful. It doesn’t mean you define yourself by struggle, but it means that you don’t hide from it.

Getting mentally healthy is not about keeping up with appearances. It’s about being you and knowing you don’t have to face life alone.

7. Live to Give

Giving is receiving. When you get the right help and are at the right level of confidence, you can more easily help others.

People need to know that they are worth it. At every level of mental health care, a person will still have some insecurities. When you give to another person — whether through friendship, volunteer work, mentorship or more, you are showing that you value that person. It also makes you feel good too!

One thing that you have to watch out for though is codependency, or depending on someone else’s wellbeing to ignite your own. You can’t help others if you are drowning too. You have to get on solid ground before you can be a healthy option for people to look up to.

When you give to others, you are expressing interest in human interaction, social good and overall humanity which uplifts your perspective towards feeling more purposeful. When you have purpose, you can achieve so much more.

You only have to give your time and attention to someone else that maybe you were once like. Someone in need of help.

When you discover tools for being mentally healthy, pass it on. That way, you can do some good while rising to your potential as well.

Use your pain for purpose. It doesn’t have to be right now, right away or even in the near future. Use it to elevate you to higher inspiration to want to lead others someday.

8. Embrace the Imperfect Process

When you recognize that the process is not perfect, you are more likely to forgive your flaws and find meaning in the struggle. You ultimately decide your reactions, your attitude, your mentality.

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No amount of therapy or tools can make you choose who you want to be. They can only guide you towards that. It’s up to you to decide that.

You are able to handle things in life when you know who you want to be. Having goals, a plan, priorities in place are just as important as learning emotional regulation.

Emotional regulation will help you when you start dealing with the cognitive distortions that we all suffer from. You will still experience negative emotions from time to time, and it’s a lifelong process to learn how to cope with them.

Circumstances can sometimes slip from our control, but if we have resources, a support system, professional help to turn to, adaptability, healthy relationships and purpose, we can start to regain a sense of optimism even when that happens.

It’s okay to have flaws. It’s okay to fall apart. It’s okay to be honest with ourselves and others. What matters is that you don’t stop there. You keep going. You rise again. You decide not to let it define you.

What you do is up to you, but there are tools out there to help shape your destiny.

Final Thoughts

Being mentally healthy doesn’t mean you have all the answers. It means you know who you are and what you want out of life.

We will all experience strife. But your response is up to you no matter what tools you may use. You are able to rise when you have the right help.

So, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Reach out when you feel like you need it and check in with others even when things are going well. This habit will make you understand yourself better and grow in more ways.

Overall, being mentally healthy doesn’t mean that you won’t have trouble. All of us have mental health maintenance needs, and that is something that can be ignored or maintained.

When you develop a strong mental attitude, don’t forget others along the way who helped you get there. Pay it forward. Give back. Start again, as many times as it takes. And most of all, don’t be afraid to be you.

Good luck.

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.

More on Mental Health

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] National Alliance on Mental Illness: Mental Health By The Numbers
[2] Psych Central: 15 Common Cognitive Distortions

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Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist

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Last Updated on October 5, 2020

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

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My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8PM one evening to 12PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

Tips To Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

1. Drink Plenty of Water

Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[2] like a drink that contains sugar and cause you to overeat.

4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

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You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[3].

Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[4].

The influence intermittent fasting weight loss has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type II diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[5].

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This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fa-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

How Much Weight Will I Lose?

The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors. Fasting for 16-20 hours a day can help you safely lose 2-3 pounds of fat every week.

While losing this much weight every week is great, it’s how it makes it happen that’s really cool. Losing weight with intermittent fasting means that you will never have to count calories or plan and prepare several meals a day.

Can I Work out While Fasting?

Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are 3-4 intense strength training workouts weekly. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts.

Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

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Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen. Studies actually show that even after fasting for 3 days, no muscle is lost.

Is Fasting Safe?

As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting style of dieting.

I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when your ability to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to ensure that your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.

I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branch chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

Conclusion

Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly, safely, and pretty much effortlessly.

If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with you lifestyle and give it a go.

More About Intermittent Fasting

Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

Reference

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