Mental wellness, or mental health if you like, is greatly dependent on our everyday lifestyle, as is wellness in general. Researchers have found that the so-called Blue Zones, where people live longer than anywhere else on the planet, are also places where lifestyle habits are healthy. The good news is that it is relatively easy to create a healthy and happy lifestyle, given you make small changes one by one. (1)
1. Focus on What’s Working
Some people like to call this gratitude, some like to say that what you focus on expands, some like to say focus creates reality…whatever catchphrase you choose to roll with, the truth is that your focus dictates how you feel and therefore what you create.
If you worry about everything that could go wrong (with the odd daydream about what could go right) before a date or before going to work, you’ll be nervous before you even get there. To compensate, you might then act a role, such as being extremely talkative, very shy, overambitious, etc., or you might simply be so nervous you become uncoordinated and say and do things that mess things up. Not only are you wasting a lot of energy, you are also not acting from your heart. As a result, no one really gets to experience the real you.
If you are present in the moment, always expecting to be in the flow and having the resources to deal with what life throws at you, your energy will be very different than if you worry about everything. You will feel different, which means you’ll act differently. If you also start thinking about the things that are working in your life, you’ll feel confident and have gratitude. That alone will make you feel better, which means you’ll be more energized and therefore better equipped to deal with life.
Having a positive mindset is vital for mental wellness and avoiding anxiety and depression. We all get depressed and lose confidence if we sit around thinking about what’s not working and what could go wrong.
To incorporate a healthy thinking pattern into your daily routine, spend five to ten minutes every morning—or evening—thinking about what’s good in your life (what’s working) and how it feels to be present in the moment, expecting things to flow. When thinking about events in the future, imagine being there, fully present, knowing you will be able to handle what life throws at you by being grounded in the moment. (2)
2. Share the Love
Often in life, we take people for granted—of course, our best friend knows we love them; it’s our best friend. Yet imagine how different they would feel if we remembered to tell them we love them. Not only that, what if we complimented them? Told them what we appreciate about them? And doing so makes us connect with them, which is a surefire way of making us feel good. Not just that—chances are they’ll compliment you back sooner or later and you’ll learn how to receive and truly feel a compliment. (3)
Even just smiling at people and complimenting strangers on the street helps us connect with others. This allows us to open up and fosters a healthy social life.
Make a daily habit of at least once a day smiling at someone, complimenting them, or telling them you love them.
3. Create a Healthy Social Life
Another thing the Blue Zones all have in common is a strong sense of community/social well-being. When we live in bigger cities or are very busy with work, it can be hard to remember that social life is important for our overall well-being, but it is. Even when it comes to longevity! (1)
Be sure to set time aside to see friends and family every week. And not just for a quick coffee or drink at a bar, but for the quality time where you truly get to enjoy the other person’s company.
To make this a daily habit, set aside some time every day to work on your social life. For example, on Mondays you call a friend you know you should stay in touch with/haven’t spoken with for a while; on Tuesdays you attend an event; on Wednesdays you are planning what event to attend the following week; on Thursdays you have drinks with friends; on Fridays you go on a date; on Saturdays you spend a few hours with the family; and on Sundays you set aside some hours for quality time with friends.
Of course, what you do each day will vary; the important thing is setting time aside for social activities, even on weeks when you feel like burying yourself in a heap of work or hiding under a blanket.
If you are new to a place, check out things like InterNations and Meetup Groups. You can also do activities like dancing or painting to meet other people. Have patience, as it can take a while to find the right people, but know that if you look around for long enough you will!
4. Commit Time to Be Outdoors
If you live in the big city, spending time in the great outdoors might not top your to-do list. However, our health is dependent on us spending time outdoors, even if it’s just walking around the city, going to a park, or actually heading out into the wilderness. Fresh air and exposing your skin to sunlight are things that not only make us feel good mentally, but they are also are good for our physical health. (4)
Whether you decide to walk around town for twenty minutes every day during lunch break, bike to work, catch the bus one stop further away from home than usual, or go for lovely sunset walks every day is up to you. The important thing is to get outside and turn it into a routine!
Also, when inside, remember to open the windows; even if you live in a city, it actually reduces the pollutants in the air. (5)
5. Commit to Physical Activity
Unlike what some health freaks want us to believe, hitting the gym every day is not essential—being active is. You want to incorporate something every week that works on your cardio so as to improve your physical well-being, but apart from that, the important bit is being active every day. This could mean cleaning the house for an hour, biking back and forth to the grocery store, doing gardening, partaking in a dance class, or going to the gym.
Make physical activity a routine and plan it so that it actually fits into your schedule. For example, you can combine physical activity with being outdoors AND getting your shopping done if you bike to the store. This is a lot more time efficient than driving to the gym, working out for an hour, driving to the shops to do the shopping, driving home, and then going for a walk to get some sunlight. Be realistic about what you can do every day.
Some days you might only have time for a fifteen-minute dance around the living room, a twenty-minute house clean, or a mini-yoga session in the bedroom—that’s fine. Just be sure to make it a daily habit to do physical activity. (6)
6. Detox Your Home—Go Green
What we call “regular” body products and cleaning products are filled with chemicals that are harmful to the body in large amounts. This is possibly why some people develop severe allergies and asthma from certain cleaning detergents, fragrances, and body products. (7) (8)
To detox your home, simply start buying natural body and cleaning products—or make your own. A combination of lemon juice, vinegar, and water will clean your home as well as most cleaning detergents, for example.
While it may be tempting to make all your own body products and cleaning detergents, take it easy—start with one product. It’s important you don’t overwhelm yourself so that you end up reverting to your routine use of chemical-laden products. Of course, you can also buy natural products off the shelves in almost any store these days!
When it comes to fragrances, they can be hard to give up on, as we all want a nice-smelling home. There’s a simple solution for this: essential oils. These are oils derived from real herbs, plants, flowers, and fruits. Not only has aromatherapy shown promise when it comes to improving mood (and apparently the scent of roses helps improve the quality of dreams), a lot of essential oils have antibacterial properties. (5) (9)
To make it a routine to keep your home and body free of chemicals, simply check the labels of all the products you buy.
Not only will your home smell and feel amazing—it will make you feel good knowing you are not being exposed to toxins or exposing the rest of the world to them! It feels good to do good…
7. Eat Whole Foods
While there are as many diets to choose from as there are people in California these days, one thing they all have in common is the idea of eating whole foods. That means eating foods that are processed as little as possible and in their natural state. These foods generally tend to improve a person’s overall well-being and bring with them feelings of happiness! (10)
For ultimate well-being, commit to making at least three out of four meals/snacks whole food meals/snacks every day.
The easiest way to embrace a whole foods diet is to bear in mind the following:
- swap all refined grains for whole grains (read the label, as brown bread often contains refined white wheat flour, for example)
- swap refined sugar, such as white sugar and corn syrup, for honey, dates, maple syrup, agave syrup, stevia, and coconut sugar (to keep it as unrefined as possible, honey and dates are your best bet; to keep the calories low, you’re best off with stevia)
- swap processed meats for “proper” meat, i.e., instead of sausages that have been processed with various additives, bacon that has been smoked, etc., choose a steak or a piece of chicken, etc.
- cut out all unnatural colorants, additives, flavor enhancers, and preservatives
- swap deep-fried foods for stir-fried, boiled, baked, and raw foods
To get the most benefit from a whole foods diet, be sure to include plenty of vegetables and some fruit and vary the foods you eat. One thing all different Blue Zones had in common was that they ate homemade meals containing fresh ingredients, had a mainly vegetarian diet, and ate plenty of beans and pulses.
For someone who lives off fast food, this list might seem overwhelming—to make it easy, simply do one change a week. If the first week you swap all your sweeteners to natural ones, the second week make sure you buy only whole grains, etc., then the changes become a lot easier to adapt.
Another way of going about it is to change your food routine one meal at a time—the first week have whole-grain breakfasts, the second-week whole-grain breakfasts and lunches, and so forth.
Changing your daily routine should be easy, or you’ll fall off the bandwagon!
8. Unplug and Go to Bed
Our circadian rhythm (internal clock) is important for our health. Disrupting it can lead not only to sleep problems but also to mental health problems as well as other physical health issues. You can disrupt the circadian rhythm very easily by going to bed and getting up at different hours every day, as well as by exposing yourself to too much light before bedtime. When twilight sets in, our bodies naturally start producing melatonin, which is needed for sleep. Artificial lighting and electronic devices can mess with this. (11)
In today’s technology-obsessed world, it’s also common to receive emails and messages up until we fall asleep, which doesn’t really give us any time to unwind.
To make sure you get the sleep you need and have a chance to relax, commit to turning your phone and other electronic devices off half an hour before bedtime and also dim the lights or switch to candlelight (just beware not to use candles that might set your house on fire should you accidentally fall asleep!). This is a good time to sit down and reflect on all the things in your life that are working and ground yourself at the moment. If you need a bit of help to step into the moment, make use of an aromatherapy candle scented with essential oils.
RELATED: 16 Ways to Get Better Sleep
Our lives are made up of structure that’s either functional or dysfunctional. By creating daily habits that support your goal of living a life of wellness, you set up functional structures. Once you have created great wellness habits, have a look to see whether your daily routine also consists of structures that support you achieving all your goals in life.