How can you improve your mental health and well-being in 2016?

ISLAMABAD : Most of us are likely to have made at least one resolution for 2016. But while the majority of our goals for the coming year will incorporate improvements in physical health such as hitting the gym and losing weight, have you thought about how you could improve your mental health?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO): “Mental health is an integral part of health and there is no health without mental health.”

This is a statement that is supported by numerous studies. One from 2012 published in The BMJ, for example, found that individuals with poor mental health are at increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer,

Other research recently reported by Medical News Today linked mental illness to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
What is more, studies have associated poor mental health with gender discrimination, social exclusion, increased risk of violence and crime and an unhealthy lifestyle.

But what is the definition of good mental health? WHO say it is a “state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

The UK’s Mental Health Foundation also describe good mental health as the ability to learn, form good relationships with others, and express, manage and feel an array of positive and negative emotions. In this Spotlight, we look at some ways in which you could improve your mental health and well-being, ready to take on whatever life throws at you in 2016.

Most of us are aware that a healthy, balanced diet is beneficial for physical health. It can help with weight maintenance and protect against a range of illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. But following a healthy diet also has benefits for mental well-being. As the Mental Health Foundation state: “Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body.”

One of the healthiest diets is considered to be the Mediterranean diet, which incorporates high consumption of beans, nuts, cereals, seeds, plant-based foods and fruits. The diet is also low in saturated fat, includes moderate consumption of fish, poultry and dairy, and low consumption of meats and sugary foods.
In September 2014, MNT also reported on a study published in BMJ Open suggesting that eating five portions of fruits and vegetables a day is good for mental well-being. The research team led by Dr. Saverio Stranges of the University of Warwick Medical School in the UK found that of 14,000 adults, 35.5% of participants who ate five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day had good mental well-being, compared with 6.8% of participants who ate less than one portion a day.

“These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental well-being in the general population,” said Dr. Stranges.
There are a number of foods and drinks that are associated with poor mental health. “The foods and drinks that most often cause problems are those containing sugar, artificial additives (E numbers) and caffeine, as spikes in our intake in these can be detrimental to our mental health,” Information manager of UK mental health charity Mind Sam Challis said.

High alcohol consumption has also been linked to increased risk of anxiety and depression, therefore mental health experts recommend limiting alcohol intake to promote good mental well-being.

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