Carla Hay-Perdue, DNP, APRN, FNP, ANP-BC, NC-BC

Community Education Coordinator/ Family Nurse Practitioner at Palo Pinto General Hospital

May 31, 2022

Good mental health is so important. It affects our everyday activities and how we relate to everything and everyone around us. Unfortunately, there has been a stigma around mental health problems and treatment. Although the stigma has changed, people hesitate to seek help or even talk about it for fear of being judged. Mental health is more than not having mental health problems like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or other psychological issues. It is the ability to manage life’s challenges and be resilient. 

Resilience is defined as not being bound by future, current, or past events. Those who are resilient remain focused, flexible, and productive no matter the circumstance. They are less afraid of new experiences or an uncertain future. They know there is a solution even though they don’t know how. 

Let’s get back to the basics. All of us have ups and downs. We experience anxiety, stress, and depression at times. It is essential to take care of our health to decrease these events. It is also crucial to seek help from a healthcare provider when these emotions persist.   

There are lifestyle factors that can contribute to our good mental health.  

1. Nutrition. Eat a healthy diet that includes a full range of vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, whole grains, nuts, avocados, and olive oil. Eating a healthy diet improves memory, learning, and mental health. For example, those following a healthy diet were up to 35% less likely to develop depression. Eating a healthy Mediterranean or DASH diet provides a variety of fruits and vegetables, each with a different micronutrient that helps our brain. This diet also improves the beneficial gut bacteria. As a result, more serotonin is produced in the gut than in the brain. Serotonin is the hormone that increases our sense of well-being. 

A healthy microbiome improves our mood. 

Eating a variety of protein sources ensures that we get all the essential amino acids that our brain needs. 

2. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity induces chronic low-grade inflammation, which may contribute to mental health disorders.

3. Exercise. A growing body of research recognizes the positive effect of exercise on anxiety, stress, and depression. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins. These are natural brain chemicals that enhance the sense of well-being. Which exercise is best? It is the one you will do. Walking, gardening, swimming, playing basketball, washing the car. It is any activity that gets us off the couch. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day for three to five days a week, but as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time will help. 

4. Sleep. Sleep and mental health go hand in hand. Chronic exposure to poor sleep quality is associated with depression, anxiety, and other conditions. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night. If you are unable to sleep, talk with your healthcare provider. 

5. Maintain Social Connections – We all need connections. Social connections provide a feeling of belonging that supports our mental health. When socially isolated, we feel disconnected. Social isolation is associated with a higher risk of mental illnesses and alcohol use disorders.  

Mental health problems often contribute to social isolation.

6. Manage Stress — Our stress response is only designed to be activated for 30 minutes every 72 hours to get us out of danger. In the modern world, our stress response tends to be activated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The chemical changes from adrenalin, norepinephrine and cortisone affect our mental and physical health. Activities such as meditation, exercise, laughing, playing, creating art, spending time in nature, and having a pet can decrease our stress levels.   

7. Spiritual connection – Spirituality is being connected to something larger than oneself, producing feelings of peace, well-being, and a sense of wonder about the universe. In addition, spiritual practices like prayer and meditation increase feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.

8. Work-life balance. Of adults employed full-time in the US, nearly 40% report working at least 50 hours a week, and 18% work 60 hours or more. 

This lack of balance contributes to workplace burnout, stress, and depression. Conversely, people who feel they have a good work-life balance are more satisfied with their job and life and experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.  

If you are taking steps to care for your mind, body, and spirit but feel like you are struggling with your mental health, please consult your health care provider. The website222.mhascreening. org can provide resources to help you feel better.

Mental Health America.(2022). Living Mentally Healthy. Retrieved from Live B4Stage4 | Mental Health America (