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How perfectionism affects your (mental) health

Sure, saying you’re a perfectionist may sound good in a job interview, but does striving for perfection make you feel good about yourself? Studies show that constantly chasing the specter of perfection may seriously harm your mental health and well-being. In this (imperfect) article, we explore the dangers of aiming to be perfect.

The constant drive to do everything perfectly can often feel frustrating.

Before starting to write this article, I stared at my computer screen for around half an hour feeling overwhelmed by the countless open tabs in my browser, each of them showcasing a crucial piece of research that I absolutely had to include in this comprehensive feature.

Luckily, I’ve undergone enough therapy in my life to be able to recognize this paralyzing feeling for what it is: toxic perfectionism.

I know myself and how this process goes: I start by fabricating the expectation that this article has to be perfectly thorough and encompass everything that’s ever been written on perfectionism.

Then, I forget the fact that I have an upper limit of words for this article, a limited number of hours that I can work on it, and generally that I am bound by the limitations that are inherent to being human.

Soon enough, unrealistic expectations loom over me so heavily that I can’t get started at all, which, in turn, only fuels a harsh inner voice that berates me for procrastinating or makes me feel like an imposter for being a paid writer who doesn’t write.

Over the years, I’ve trained myself to recognize this pattern and break it at critical points, enabling me to deliver some form of work, not get fired, and feel relatively good about myself. For others, however, tackling the sabotaging feeling of perfectionism may prove more difficult.

In this (imperfect) Spotlight feature, we zoom in on perfectionism, how it affects our mental and physical health, and some of the things that we can do about it.


What exactly is perfectionism?

Experts tend to define perfectionism as “a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations.” However, there are more nuances to this definition.

Gordon Flett and Paul Hewitt are two leading authorities in the field of perfectionism, both of whom have studied this topic for decades. Flett is a professor in the Faculty of Health at York University in Ontario, Canada, and Hewitt is currently a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia (UBC), also in Canada.

Together, the two psychologists defined the three main facets of perfectionism in a landmark study they published almost 3 decades ago. They say that there is “self-oriented perfectionism, other-oriented perfectionism, and socially prescribed perfectionism.”

The following video, from Prof. Hewitt’s Perfectionism and Psychopathology Lab at UBC, explains these three “flavors” of perfectionism and suggests ways in which we can prevent their harmful effects.

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How perfectionism affects our overall health

Perfectionism can severely impact our mental and physical health. In a recent study conducted by Thomas Curran, a lecturer in the Department for Health at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, and Andrew P. Hill, of York St. John University, also in the U.K., the authors explain that socially prescribed perfectionism is the “most debilitating” of the three forms.

Perfectionism has a particularly negative effect on college students, with studies showing alarming links with depression and suicide.

In socially prescribed perfectionism, “individuals believe their social context is excessively demanding, that others judge them harshly, and that they must display perfection to secure approval.”

Anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation are only some of the mental health problems that specialists have repeatedly linked with this form of perfectionism.

One older study, for example, found that over half of people who died by suicide were described by their loved ones as “perfectionists.” Another study found that more than 70 percent of young people who died by suicide were in the habit of creating “exceedingly high” expectations of themselves.

Toxic perfectionism seems to hit young people particularly hard. According to recent estimates, almost 30 percent of undergraduate students experience symptoms of depression, and perfectionism has been widely associated with these symptoms.

These trends have been rising over the past few decades, particularly in English-speaking cultures. Curran and Hill studied more than 40,000 American, Canadian, and British college students and found that in 1989–2016, the proportion of people who exhibited traits of perfectionism rose by up to 33 percent.

As Curran and Hill point out, “self-oriented perfectionism” — which occurs when “individuals attach irrational importance to being perfect, hold unrealistic expectations of themselves, and are punitive in their self-evaluations” — is linked with clinical depression, eating disorders, and premature death among college students and young people.

Self-critical perfectionism is also said to raise the risk of bipolar disorder. Some studies suggest that it may explain why people with bipolar also experience anxiety.

However, the ills of perfectionism do not stop at mental health. Some studies have found that high blood pressure is more prevalent among perfectionistic people, and other researchers have even linked the trait with cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, when faced with physical illness, perfectionists have a harder time coping. One study found that the trait predicts early death among those who have diabetes, and research conducted by Prof. Flett and his colleagues found that people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or who have had a heart attack have a much harder time recovering.

As Prof. Flett writes, “[A] link between perfectionism and serious illness is not surprising given that unrelenting perfectionism can be a recipe for chronic stress.”


Living with a harsh inner voice

Living with the internalized voice of perfectionism is not easy. Perfectionists will often have a harsh internal dialogue, in which their “inner critic” constantly tells them that they’re not good enough — no matter what they do or how hard they try.

Not only is having such a constant inner voice draining and exhausting, but, on top of that, perfectionists often criticize themselves for the fact that they are being self-critical, or feel that their constant efforts are, in themselves, further proof of their irredeemable imperfection.

For instance, Prof. Hewitt talks about one of his therapy clients: a university student who was living with depression and putting himself under the pressure of getting an A+ in a course. After working really hard, the student achieved his goal and got the highest grade.

However, as the professor recalls, “He proceeded to tell me that the A+ was just a demonstration of how much of a failure he was.” If he’d been perfect, the student reasoned, he wouldn’t have had to work so hard to achieve it.

Perfectionism often verges on self-abuse. “[Perfectionists] are hugely hard on themselves,” says Prof. Hewitt in another interview, “with a hatred that is breathtaking at times.”

He adds that their inner critic treats them as harshly as “a nasty adult” berating a small child.

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How to counter the harms of perfectionism

Dealing with your inner critic can be hard, but there are a number of things you can do to silence that voice. A recent study led by Madeleine Ferrari, from the Australian Catholic University in Sydney, found that self-compassion can help protect against depression in people with perfectionistic tendencies.

“[S]elf-compassion,” explain Ferrari and her colleagues, “the practice of self-kindness, consistently reduces the strength of the relationship between maladaptive perfectionism and depression for both adolescents and adults.”

You may think that self-compassion is something that you either have or you don’t, but Prof. Hewitt is hopeful that certain forms of psychotherapy can help people perceive their harsh self-beliefs and change them gently over time.

Other psychologists also insist that self-compassion can be taught. Our Spotlight features several therapeutic practices that have been shown to boost self-kindness.

“Mindful Self-Compassion [...] Training” and yoga, for instance, have both been proven to help quell the self-criticizing inner voice. Clinical trials of the former have yielded promising results, with 8-week training courses boosting the participants’ levels of self-compassion by around 43 percent.

Finally, it might be helpful to simply take a moment and acknowledge the fact that whatever goals you set yourself out to achieve in life, it will be difficult. In other words, as the following video from the School of Life points out, try to “budget” for the difficulties and sacrifices that any achievement will entail.

Article source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323323.php

Regional Health Command-Pacific will seek national accreditation in public health

Tripler Army Medical Center's Public Health Nursing Officer in Charge Capt. Everline Atandi, right, distributes influenza supplies at TAMC on Oct. 11, 2018, to U.S. Army Pacific Headquarters Headquarters Command Battalion medics in preparation of a seasonal flu vaccine shot exercise for Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
1 / 1 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Tripler Army Medical Center’s Public Health Nursing Officer in Charge Capt. Everline Atandi, right, distributes influenza supplies at TAMC on Oct. 11, 2018, to U.S. Army Pacific Headquarters Headquarters Command Battalion medics in preparation of a seasonal flu vaccine shot exercise for Fort Shafter, Hawaii. (Photo Credit: Ms. Lily Daniels (Regional Health Command Pacific)) VIEW ORIGINAL

HONOLULU (Oct. 11, 2018) — Beginning this month, the preventive medicine departments across Regional Health Command-Pacific (RHC-P) will kick off a performance improvement and accreditation initiative to position themselves for national accreditation in public health.

Unique to the military, is that some public health departments and services are embedded within the preventive medicine departments of military treatment facilities (MTF), whereas within the civilian sector, public health departments are typically managed through city or county governments.

Accreditation is a recognition of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards, which will be reviewed and certified by the Public Health Accreditation Board.

“In 2011, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) kicked off a national movement to begin accrediting public health departments. For the Army, the installation-level preventive medicine departments are the current focus for accreditation,” said Dr. Jim Cook, the deputy preventive medicine chief for RHC-P. “It’s a lengthy process to prepare for an accreditation, and can take several years. The entire process across the Army is scheduled to take nine years, for the 28 preventive medicine departments that have been identified to pursue accreditation.”

There are four MTFs in the Pacific region with preventive medicine departments that will pursue accreditation. Bassett Army Community Hospital at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, will be the first hospital to apply for accreditation in 2020. Following Bassett, the remaining preventive medicine departments will be scheduled at a rate of one per fiscal year.

“The goal of national public health accreditation is to improve and protect the health of Soldiers, family members, civilian workers and the communities we serve by advancing the quality and performance of public health departments across the Army,” said Cook.

Over the upcoming years, MTF accreditation preparations will implement a variety of public health processes, policies and activities. Developing plans for risk communication, workforce development, and public health emergency operations will be a few of the tasks preventive medicine departments will take on.

“The program is designed as a performance improvement initiative to improve public health services we provide to the communities we serve,” added Cook. “It’s developed to improve what the CDC has defined as the 10-Essential Public Health Services.”

According to the CDC, the 10 essential public health services are to:
- Monitor health status to identify and solve community health problems.
- Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community.
- Inform, educate and empower people about health issues.
- Mobilize community partnerships and action to identify and solve health problems.
- Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts.
- Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety.
- Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable.
- Assure competent public and personal health care workforce.
- Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services.
- Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.

The public health accreditation process will assess areas of functionality that include: leadership, planning, community engagement, customer focus, workforce development, evaluation and quality improvement, and governance.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to optimize the health and readiness of our Soldiers to perform their wartime missions, and to promote and protect the health of everyone in the Army community,” said Cook.

Article source: https://www.army.mil/article/212354/regional_health_command_pacific_will_seek_national_accreditation_in_public_health

Grassley asks FTC to review hospitals’ contracts with health plans

Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate major health systems’ potentially anti-competitive contracts with insurers. The senator questioned whether these contracts are a driver of spiking healthcare costs.

Citing a September report from the Wall Street Journal, Grassley urged FTC Chair Joseph Simons to give the agency’s perspective on whether secretive inter-industry ties are exacerbating rising healthcare costs. In 2016, healthcare accounted for nearly one-fifth of the U.S. gross domestic product, or about $3.3 trillion.

“Spending is projected to grow at an average rate of 5.5% per year and reach $5.7 trillion by 2026,” Grassley wrote. “The last thing American patients and consumers need at this time is a healthcare system that permits or encourages anti-competitive agreements that hinder access to lower cost care.”

The Wall Street Journal article detailed hidden financial arrangements between hospital systems and insurers that included limitations on coverage offered by the plans to their enrollees, which in turn would save the hospitals money. Systems named in the story included Johns Hopkins Medicine in Maryland, OhioHealth system and Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee.

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Article source: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20181010/NEWS/181019979

Region Health Command-Pacific will seek national accreditation in public health

Tripler Army Medical Center's Public Health Nursing Officer in Charge Capt. Everline Atandi, right, distributes influenza supplies at TAMC on Oct. 11, 2018, to U.S. Army Pacific Headquarters Headquarters Command Battalion medics in preparation of a seasonal flu vaccine shot exercise for Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
1 / 1 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Tripler Army Medical Center’s Public Health Nursing Officer in Charge Capt. Everline Atandi, right, distributes influenza supplies at TAMC on Oct. 11, 2018, to U.S. Army Pacific Headquarters Headquarters Command Battalion medics in preparation of a seasonal flu vaccine shot exercise for Fort Shafter, Hawaii. (Photo Credit: Ms. Lily Daniels (Regional Health Command Pacific)) VIEW ORIGINAL

HONOLULU (Oct. 11, 2018) — Beginning this month, the preventive medicine departments across Regional Health Command-Pacific (RHC-P) will kick off a performance improvement and accreditation initiative to position themselves for national accreditation in public health.

Unique to the military, is that some public health departments and services are embedded within the preventive medicine departments of military treatment facilities (MTF), whereas within the civilian sector, public health departments are typically managed through city or county governments.

Accreditation is a recognition of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards, which will be reviewed and certified by the Public Health Accreditation Board.

“In 2011, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) kicked off a national movement to begin accrediting public health departments. For the Army, the installation-level preventive medicine departments are the current focus for accreditation,” said Dr. Jim Cook, the deputy preventive medicine chief for RHC-P. “It’s a lengthy process to prepare for an accreditation, and can take several years. The entire process across the Army is scheduled to take nine years, for the 28 preventive medicine departments that have been identified to pursue accreditation.”

There are four MTFs in the Pacific region with preventive medicine departments that will pursue accreditation. Bassett Army Community Hospital at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, will be the first hospital to apply for accreditation in 2020. Following Bassett, the remaining preventive medicine departments will be scheduled at a rate of one per fiscal year.

“The goal of national public health accreditation is to improve and protect the health of Soldiers, family members, civilian workers and the communities we serve by advancing the quality and performance of public health departments across the Army,” said Cook.

Over the upcoming years, MTF accreditation preparations will implement a variety of public health processes, policies and activities. Developing plans for risk communication, workforce development, and public health emergency operations will be a few of the tasks preventive medicine departments will take on.

“The program is designed as a performance improvement initiative to improve public health services we provide to the communities we serve,” added Cook. “It’s developed to improve what the CDC has defined as the 10-Essential Public Health Services.”

According to the CDC, the 10 essential public health services are to:
- Monitor health status to identify and solve community health problems.
- Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community.
- Inform, educate and empower people about health issues.
- Mobilize community partnerships and action to identify and solve health problems.
- Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts.
- Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety.
- Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable.
- Assure competent public and personal health care workforce.
- Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services.
- Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.

The public health accreditation process will assess areas of functionality that include: leadership, planning, community engagement, customer focus, workforce development, evaluation and quality improvement, and governance.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to optimize the health and readiness of our Soldiers to perform their wartime missions, and to promote and protect the health of everyone in the Army community,” said Cook.

Article source: https://www.army.mil/article/212354/region_health_command_pacific_will_seek_national_accreditation_in_public_health

Kanye West’s meeting with President Trump turned into an extended rant on mental health and the 13th Amendment

Rapper Kanye West sat across from President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday and delivered a rambling, 10-minute speech that touched on mental health, the importance of job growth, and Montessori curriculums, and referred to the 13th Amendment (the amendment abolishing slavery) as a “trap door.”

West, who has become one of Trump’s most prominent celebrity supporters, came to the White House on Thursday to speak to Trump about prison reform. But the day turned into much more than that, including a White House lunch on Thursday afternoon and a meeting witnessed by the press.

West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, has been an effective advocate before the president, including getting Trump to issue a pardon. But the meeting between Trump and Kanye — two celebrities who both love the spotlight — was much weirder.

What followed was an extended rant from Kanye, a snippet of which was captured on film and tweeted out by Wall Street Journal reporter Vivian Salama.

“There’s a lot of things affecting our mental health that makes us do crazy things that puts us back into that trap door called the 13th Amendment,” West said, gesticulating wildly. “I did say abolish with the hat on, because why would you keep something that’s a trap door?”

He then went further into his metaphor.

“If you’re building a floor — the Constitution is the base of our industry, of our country, of our company, right?” he said. “Would you build a trap door that if you mess up, and you accidentally — something happens, you fall and you end up next to the Unabomber? You gotta remove all that trap door out of the relationship. The four gentleman that wrote the 13th Amendment — and I think the way the universe works, it’s perfect! We don’t have 13 floors.”

This is not the first time West has made controversial statements about the 13th Amendment. As Vox’s P.R. Lockhart wrote:

In April, West was slammed for saying that slavery was “a choice” that resulted from black people being “mentally imprisoned.” More recently, he sparked a controversy when he called for abolishing the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery in the United States. West later clarified that he actually wanted to modify the amendment’s allowance of prison labor rather than abolish it entirely.

Among other things, Kanye said on Thursday that he has been misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder and insisted he is simply “sleep-deprived” instead.

An image from Agence France-Press photographer Saul Loeb depicts Kanye showing Trump a photo from his phone of a hydrogen-powered plane:

He also told Trump and reporters that experiencing his speech in the White House was akin to “tasting a fine wine,” according to White House pool reporter Anne Gearan of the Washington Post.

“You are tasting a fine wine,” West said. “It has complex notes to it.”

Trump seemed interested in having West, a vocal supporter, speak for him in the future.

“He can speak for me any time he wants,” Trump said. “He’s a smart cookie. He gets it.”

At the end of his speech, West got up and embraced the president, who was sitting in his chair. And he had apparently left the typically verbose Trump with little to say.

“That was quite something,” Trump concluded at the end of West’s 10-minute speech.

“It was from the soul. I just channeled it,” West replied.

Asked if Kanye would be a future presidential candidate, Trump answered, “He could very well be,” according to Gearen’s pool report.

“Only after 2024,” Kanye added.

Then Kanye continued, per Gearen: “Let’s stop worrying about the future. All we have is today,” later saying, “Trump is on his hero’s journey right now. He might not have thought he’d have a crazy motherfucker like [me].”

Article source: https://www.vox.com/2018/10/11/17964558/kanye-west-donald-trump-white-house-13th-amendment

Mental health for all: a global goal

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Article source: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)32271-2/fulltext

The Flaws and Falsehoods in Trump’s Health-Care Argument

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Article source: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-10-11/trump-s-health-care-op-ed-in-usa-today-plays-fast-with-the-facts

Bayer may sell its animal health business

by Aaron Kirchfeld, Eyk Henning, Ruth David and Manuel Baigorri

Bayer AG is considering a sale of its animal-health business as it scrutinizes its portfolio in the aftermath of the $63 billion Monsanto Co. acquisition, people familiar with the company’s plans said. 

Bayer is evaluating animal health as part of a broader review, though a sale isn’t imminent, said the people, who asked not to be named because the appraisal hasn’t been made public. No final decisions have been made, and it’s still possible the German company could decide to keep the business. 

Investors will be looking for an update on Bayer’s strategy when they meet the company for its Dec. 5 capital markets day in London. An animal-health sale would be one way for Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann to raise cash as he works to secure growth for the health-care half of the company, which is facing a patent expiration on its top-selling heart drug Xarelto in the coming years. 

Bayer could gain 6 billion euros to 7 billion euros ($6.9 billion to $8.1 billion) if it sells animal health, enough to make the pharmaceutical division “nimble again,” Sanford C. Bernstein analysts said in a note this month.

If Bayer decides to divest animal health, a sale is the likeliest option though it could also list the business, one of the people said. Eli Lilly Co. listed its Elanco Animal Health Inc. unit in a $1.7 billion initial public offering in the U.S. last month. 

A spokesman for Bayer declined to comment. 

Bayer shares rose 4% to 78.01 euros in Frankfurt trading at 11:04 a.m. The shares have declined 24% this year.

Declining Importance

Animal health has long been a conundrum for the conglomerate. It’s the industry’s fifth-biggest player, making up about 5% of the global market and trailing rivals including Zoetis Inc. and Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, according to Markus Mayer, an analyst at Baader Bank AG. Yet sales have grown, reaching about 1.6 billion euros in 2017 and making it an attractive target.

“We see a high probability Bayer will divest animal health,” Mayer said in a Sept. 24 note. “Particularly as its relative importance has decreased due to the Monsanto acquisition.” 

Last year, people familiar with the matter said some of the unit’s employees had been offered buyouts as part of a reorganization. Animal health employed about 3,500 people at the end of 2017, an 11% decrease from the previous year. More than half of the production is based in the northern German city of Kiel.

–With assistance from Tim Loh and Naomi Kresge.

To contact the reporters on this story: Aaron Kirchfeld in London at [email protected] ;Eyk Henning in Frankfurt at [email protected] ;Ruth David in London at [email protected] ;Manuel Baigorri in Hong Kong at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Eric Pfanner at [email protected] Amy Thomson, John Lauerman

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P

Article source: https://www.farmfutures.com/business/bayer-may-sell-its-animal-health-business

Ghana ‘prayer camps’ chain residents with mental health problems

Low income countries spend on average just 0.5% of their health budgets on mental health, according to the World Health Organization.

In Ghana, that means there is just one psychiatrist to treat every 1.2m people.

Many people with mental health problems therefore turn to “prayer camps” and traditional healing centres for help. Despite a government ban, many of these institutions use chains to restrain their residents.

A BBC investigation has found that, in one case, a prayer camp is now putting those with mental health issues in cages.

Reporter: Sulley Lansah

Producer: Annie Duncanson

Filming and editing: Christian Parkinson

Article source: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-africa-45800263/ghana-prayer-camps-chain-residents-with-mental-health-problems

Five lifestyle changes to enhance your mood and mental health

When someone is diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety, first line treatments usually include psychological therapies and medication. What’s not always discussed are the changeable lifestyle factors that influence our mental health.

Even those who don’t have a mental health condition may still be looking for ways to further improve their mood, reduce stress, and manage their day-to-day mental health.

It can be empowering to make positive life changes. While time restrictions and financial limitations may affect some people’s ability to make such changes, we all have the ability to make small meaningful changes.




Read more:
Stroke, cancer and other chronic diseases more likely for those with poor mental health


Here are five lifestyle changes to get you started:

1. Improve your diet and start moving

Wholefoods such as leafy green vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, lean red meat and seafood, provide nutrients that are important for optimal brain function. These foods contain magnesium, folate, zinc and essential fatty acids.

Foods rich in polyphenols, such as berries, tea, dark chocolate, wine and certain herbs, also play an important role in brain function.




Read more:
Health Check: seven nutrients important for mental health – and where to find them


In terms exercise, many types of fitness activities are potentially beneficial – from swimming, to jogging, to lifting weights, or playing sports. Even just getting the body moving by taking a brisk walk or doing active housework is a positive step.

Activities which also involve social interaction and exposure to nature can potentially increase mental well-being even further.

General exercise guidelines recommend getting at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days during the week (about 150 minutes total over the week). But even short bouts of activity can provide an immediate elevation of mood.

2. Reduce your vices

Managing problem-drinking or substance misuse is an obvious health recommendation. People with alcohol and drug problems have a greater likelihood than average of having a mental illness, and have far poorer health outcomes.

Some research has shown that a little alcohol consumption (in particular wine) may have beneficial effects on preventing depression. Other recent data, however, has revealed that light alcohol consumption does not provide any beneficial effects on brain function.

Stopping smoking is also an important step, as nicotine-addicted people are constantly at the mercy of a withdrawal-craving cycle, which profoundly affects mood. It may take time to address the initial symptoms of stopping nicotine, but the brain chemistry will adapt in time.

Quitting smoking is associated with better mood and reduced anxiety.

3. Prioritise rest and sleep

Sleep hygiene techniques aim to improve sleep quality and help treat insomnia. They including adjusting caffeine use, limiting exposure to the bed (regulating your sleep time and having a limited time to sleep), and making sure you get up at a similar time in the morning.




Read more:
Health Check: five ways to get a better night’s sleep


Some people are genetically wired towards being more of a morning or evening person, so we need to ideally have some flexibility in this regard (especially with work schedules).

It’s also important not to force sleep – if you can’t get to sleep within around 20 minutes, it may be best to get up and focus the mind on an activity (with minimal light and stimulation) until you feel tired.

The other mainstay of better sleep is to reduce exposure to light – especially blue light from laptops and smartphones – prior to sleep. This will increase the secretion of melatonin, which helps you get to sleep.

Getting enough time for relaxation and leisure activities is important for regulating stress. Hobbies can also enhance mental health, particularly if they involve physical activity.

4. Get a dose of nature

When the sun is shining, many of us seem to feel happier. Adequate exposure to sunshine helps levels of the mood-maintaining chemical serotonin. It also boosts vitamin D levels, which also has an effect on mental health, and helps at the appropriate time to regulate our sleep-wake cycle.

The benefits of sun exposure need to be balanced with the risk of skin cancer, so take into account the recommendations for sun exposure based on the time of day/year and your skin colour.

You might also consider limiting your exposure to environmental toxins, chemicals and pollutants, including “noise” pollution, and cutting down on your mobile phone, computer and TV use if they’re excessive.

An antidote to this can be simply spending time in nature. Studies show time in the wilderness can improve self-esteem and mood. In some parts of Asia, spending time in a forest (known as forest bathing) is considered a mental health prescription.




Read more:
Hug a tree – the evidence shows it really will make you feel better


A natural extension of spending time in flora is also the positive effect that animals have on us. Research suggests having a pet has many positive effects, and animal-assisted therapy (with horses, cats, dogs, and even dolphins) may also boost feelings of well-being.

5. Reach out when you need help

Positive lifestyle changes aren’t a replacement for medication or psychological therapy but, rather, as something people can undertake themselves on top of their treatment.

While many lifestyle changes can be positive, some changes (such as avoiding junk foods, alcohol, or giving up smoking) may be challenging if being used as a psychological crutch. They might need to be handled delicately, and with professional support.

Strict advice promoting abstinence, or a demanding diet or exercise regime, may cause added suffering, potentially provoking guilt if you can’t meet these expectations. So go easy on yourself.

That said, take a moment to reflect how you feel mentally after a nutritious wholefood meal, a good night’s sleep (free of alcohol), or a walk in nature with a friend. `

Article source: http://theconversation.com/five-lifestyle-changes-to-enhance-your-mood-and-mental-health-102650