One of the most pleasing trends in recent years has been the growing understanding about how our brains work. Only last century, we would lock people away in asylums if they were struggling with their mental health. At long last, we have understood how the brain works, and the simple reality that these conditions are no more a sign of weakness than how often somebody develops a fever or a cold. So what can you do with all of this scientific knowledge? Simple: You can leverage it to make your life, and your headspace a little bit healthier in 2023. Here are a few life hacks that can help you live happier, healthier and longer.
Spend more time in the land of nod.
Sleep is emerging as a key player in the quest for good mental health. The old wisdom was that you got depressed and then couldn’t sleep. Newer research has flipped that on its head and found that if you don’t sleep, you end up becoming depressed. Here’s why: There is a part of the brain called the amygdala that is believed to have a central role in our emotional regulation. One study showed a collection of negative pictures to a control group and then a sleep derived group, and found that the sleep deprived group were more volatile and upset by the images than those who had enough sleep throughout the week. The lesson? Life is hard. Don’t make it harder by going through it all overtired and over emotional. Get a good night’s sleep by getting as many hours in before midnight as possible, and as few hours of blue light (phones, TV etc) in the evening as possible.
Look after your gut health.
This is another exciting area of medical breakthrough. Your gut health is more critical to your mental wellbeing than you realise. In fact, it is so critical that some researchers are referring to it as your ‘second brain’. Your gut microbiome is made up of millions and millions of different kinds of bacteria. Don’t panic, most of them are good and they keep your body ticking along. But if you get a bacterial imbalance where the bad bacteria outweigh the good, it has disastrous effects on your health: metabolism, skin, organ function and your mental health. You can become more happy and positive simply by adjusting your diet to include things that contain probiotics (the good bacteria). Life Space has a range of different probiotics for a range of different demographics. There is Life Space Baby, Life Space 60+ years and everything in between. You can complement this by eating a wide range of fermented foods (kefir, kim chi, sauerkraut, kombucha). Look after your gut, and the rest will take care of itself.
This is where it gets a little bit trickier. Many of us protest that we would do this if we could. But we are feeling stressed and sad because there is too much to do. But down time is crucial for your mental wellbeing, and at the end of the day, you can carry on and live a life of stress and anxiety, or you can make wholesale lifestyle changes and live a life worth living. Here are a few things to consider:
- It is OK to say ‘no’ to certain people if their presence in your life is exhausting. Instead, say ‘yes’ to things that will give you life.
- It is OK to step away from things for a season while you prioritise your health. You might come back to them in a few months, or you might not. Either way is fine.
- It is OK to not win and succeed in every possible venture in life. Instead, you should focus on succeeding at living happily. That is the true measure of success at the end of the day. All the other trappings are just means to that end.
This often feels like the last thing you want to do if you are in a depressive episode, but the studies are fairly conclusive on the benefits. If you can work in 30 minutes three to five days a week, it may significantly improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. If this is currently beyond you, you can work up to this. Even ten to fifteen minutes a day may make a difference. There is a good reason for this: your brain releases endorphins post exercise, which acts like a natural cannabis chemical to give you high. Chemically, you’re walking on sunshine. Additionally, it takes your mind off whatever is getting you down. Even if you are focused on how tired you are from running, this is reducing the amount of real estate you are giving your other problems.
See actual real life humans
A twentieth century psychological study examined how people felt after using an ATM as opposed to talking to a teller, and the results were pretty interesting. The group who had physically interacted with the teller reported higher emotional wellbeing than the ATM group. They didn’t know the teller. They didn’t have a deep and meaningful. They just looked another human in the eye and that did something profound. In a world of texting, automation, and streaming, find the time to interact with other people. If you are already friends with this person, the effect is tenfold.
Get some help if you’re on struggle street.
Many of us pharmacists have seen psychologists over the years. There is no stigma or shame in getting some medical help. In Australia, you can visit your GP and get a mental health action plan which makes seeing a psychologist extremely affordable. If you ask around, you might be surprised how many people have taken the step to get some help. If you are in a mental health crisis right now, please call Lifeline (13 11 14) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 46 36).
We wish you all the best.