Wondering what you can do to boost your mental health?
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to feel better, plus an abundance of amazing tools out there to help! Much of this comes down to creating new habits of thinking and behaving. Whilst the changes may sound simple, sticking to new behaviours is hard. New habits require us to rewire our brain—that's why at The Wellness Society we put a lot of emphasis on learning the science of habit formation.
Once you've optimised your new habit system, the key to seeing positive change is patience and perseverance.
Without further ado, here are three concrete examples of actions you can take to improve your mental wellbeing.
1. 8 Weeks of Daily Meditation
Research suggests that frequency is more important than duration when it comes to meditation, meaning it’s better to meditate for five minutes daily than thirty-five minutes once a week. So, start with whatever feels comfortable and build up from there. For some people, ten minutes is their sweet spot. For others, it’s twenty or thirty minutes daily.
Much of the research into meditation examines people before and after they complete the eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. During this course, participants spend roughly half an hour practicing mindfulness exercises daily.
Studies show that following the eight-week course, positive brain changes include:
Reduced amygdala size (the brain area governing stress and anxiety)
Increased grey matter in the prefrontal cortex (associated with emotion regulation, planning and problem-solving)
Increased grey matter in the hippocampus (governing learning and memory)
Increased grey matter inthe anterior cingulate cortex (associated with impulse control and attention)
Research shows that slipping up doesn’t significantly impact your habit formation process, so don’t be discouraged if you miss a day or two—just
try to get back on track as soon as possible.
2. 66-Day Nutrition Challenges
Research shows it takes an average of sixty-six days to build a new habit, therefore we recommend focusing on cultivating healthier eating habits for sixty-six days to create long-lasting behaviour change.
A study by registered nutritional therapist Amanda Geary in 1998 surveyed 165 people who were using nutrition specifically to improve their mental health. She found that over one-third of people felt that improving their diet had directly improved their mental wellbeing.
Here are the top 3 food 'stressors' and the percentage of people who find it helpful to cut back:
Here are the top 3 ‘food supporters’ and the percentage of people who find it helpful to consume more:
3. 10 Weeks of Weekly Gratitude Journaling
Negative thinking habits come more natural to us than positive thinking habits because we have an ingrained and powerful negativity bias. As
avoiding danger was vital for our ancient ancestors, negative emotions have a stronger impact on us than positive emotions, we process negative information more easily and quickly, and we react more intensely to negative stimuli than to equally strong positive stimuli.
The struggle is real—for
a lot of us, it takes effort to be happy.
Happiness is a skill, and cultivating gratitude is one way to get significantly better at it!
A study by Robert Emmons found that people who kept a gratitude journal weekly for ten weeks (or daily for two weeks) experienced more gratitude, positive moods, optimism about the future, and better sleep.
Another study by Rollin McCraty and colleagues found that of the participants who cultivated appreciation, twenty-three percent showed a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol.
Also, eighty percent of participants showed increased coherence in heart rate variability (HRV) patterns, a key biomarker of reduced stress levels.