Do you want to live a happy and healthy life? That may sound like a silly question because nobody is going to answer in the negative. And yet, very few people manage to live their lives to the fullest.
This is because one in five US adults suffer from a mental illness. This doesn’t include everyday stress, anxiety, and the negative feelings almost everybody experiences during their life.
People suffering from psychological issues cannot make the right decisions, work productively, and deal with the challenges life throw at them. This is why it is important to take care of your mental health and in this article, I am going to share five scientific ways to do that.
1. Cultivate the habit of gratitude
Those who are grateful are happier than the ones who are not. Multiple studies have found a strong correlation between the gratitude and the measures of well-being.
Ungrateful people are not appreciative of anything they have. It is fine to be sad about the things you don’t have but it is only fair to be happy about the things you have.
Sometimes, thinking about the failures or disappointments makes us so toxic that we fail to realize the success and happiness we are getting from everything else.
You can get into the habit of gratitude by doing simple things, like thinking about things you have but many others don’t have, thanking someone, or keeping a gratitude journal.
Once you start to count your blessings and write them down, your mind will automatically start to get out of the toxicity induced by negative emotions like aggression, depression, or jealousy.
This small practice will start to change the way you feel.
2. Start eating healthy
We know that nutritional deficiencies can cause a lot of problems for our physical health but we do not realize they can cause similar problems for our intellectual or emotional health.
Your brain and nervous system need the key nutrients to work properly. If you are not eating right, you are depriving your mind of much-needed energy and it is not going to end well.
Research confirms that severe deficiency of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and omega 3 fatty acids can result can result in mental disorders. In another study, scientists found that students suffering from depression and anxiety ate fewer fruits and more sugary items.
Similarly, research has shown that a healthy gut improves mental outlook and reduces stress level.
You can get these benefits by staying away from processed and junk food and adding more clean and natural items to your diet.
3. Get into a running or walking routine
Most people get into drugs because recreational drugs can activate the reward pathways in mind and it makes them feel better.
Luckily, running or walking can do the same and a lot more without ruining your health. Research has shown that running or walking can be as effective as antidepressants. It makes you feel good about your body image and you feel more confident. It will also help you deal with negative thoughts and anxiety.
You can also get the same benefits with other exercises or activities like biking or hiking but running or walking is better because you can do it at any place and any time.
4. Do good and you will feel good
We probably don’t need the science to tell us that doing good will make us feel good but there’s plenty of research to prove this.
For example, this study observed two groups of people with dementia. One of these groups spent some time every week to help young students with studies while the other group didn’t do anything like that. After 5 months, scientists found lower stress levels in people who were helping kids compared to the group that wasn’t.
Similar benefits were seen in a group of adults over 50. Those who volunteered just 20 hours a month were 40% less likely to develop high blood pressure.
And a meta-analysis of more than 40 papers that suggest volunteering can have a positive effect on depression, life satisfaction, and overall well-being.
This is summed up quite articulately by Rachel Naomi Remen who said,
Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. when you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as a whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.
5. Nurture your spiritual self
Many studies have shown that people who are more religious or spiritual enjoy better mental health. They can adapt more quickly to unfavorable conditions. There’s research that indicates people who rate spirituality or religion as something important in their lives are less prone to depression.
If you are feeling burdened by the everyday challenges, take a retreat from the fast-paced life and go for a walk. Research confirms that hiking can boost your mental well being.
Read some books about the faith or religion you are interested in. Very soon, you will see the positivity translating into better health, both physically and mentally.
It is hard to restore balance when life gets on top of you. Positivity and mental health are hard to achieve but each of these solutions will take you one step closer to the happiness you truly deserve.
Sadi Khan is a competitive runner and fitness blogger at Runrepeat.com. He is an avid advocate of the running and a healthy lifestyle for mental well-being. He follows the research in mental health and fitness equipment and loves writing about the latest trends and developments.
 National Institute of Mental Health (2017). Mental Health Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml, (March, 2019).
 Happier Human. The Science of Gratitude: More Benefits Than Expected; 26 Studies and Counting Retrieved from https://www.happierhuman.com/the-science-of-gratitude/ (March,2019).
 Rao, T.S.S et al (2008). Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/ (March, 2019).
 Wattick, R.A. et al (2018). Relationship between Diet and Mental Health in a Young Adult Appalachian College Population. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6115820/ (March, 2019).
 Brené, S. et al (2007). Running is rewarding and antidepressive. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938407002016 (March, 2019).
 Blumenthal, J.A. et al (2007). Exercise and Pharmacotherapy in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702700/ (March, 2019).
 Davis, J.L.. The Science of Good Deeds. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/science-good-deeds#1 (March, 2019).
 George, D.R. et al (2011). Intergenerational volunteering and quality of life for persons with mild to moderate dementia: results from a 5-month intervention study in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21427644 (March, 2019).
 Sneed, R.S. et al (2014). A Prospective Study of Volunteerism and Hypertension Risk in Older Adults. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3804225/ (March, 2019).
 Jenkinson, C.E. et al (2013). Is volunteering a public health intervention? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the health and survival of volunteers. Retrieved from https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-13-773 (March, 2019).
 Remen, R.N. (2019). Rachel Naomi Remen, MD. Remembering your power to heal. Retrieved from http://www.rachelremen.com (March, 2019).
 Miller, L. et al (2014). Neuroanatomical Correlates of Religiosity and Spirituality. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3921896/ (March, 2019).
 Steele, L. (2014). Study: Hiking Makes You Happier. Retrieved from https://www.outsideonline.com/1805496/study-hiking-makes-you-happier (March, 2019).