Science-Backed Ways to Feel Better Emotionally

Self Care Saturday, October 31, 2020 Written by

This weekend election stress meets pandemic, which meets the end of daylight saving time. And it all collides with a potentially disappointing Halloween, a full moon, and Mercury is retrograde.

So we might all need a little extra self-care.

Good emotional health starts with keeping up on the basics: Get out of bed, get dressed, brush your teeth, eat some healthy foods. It can be tough when you just don’t feel like it, but you might be surprised at how much it lifts the mood.

If you need some quick pick-me-ups, science has identified some low-risk, high-reward ways to take care of yourself.

These are not substitutes for mental health therapy, medication, or your care provider’s recommendations. If you’re having a bad day or want to incorporate some self-care, these might help you feel better.

Exercise

Exercise in all forms, including weight-lifting, walking or using an exercise bike is associated with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety and better self-control. The standard recommendation is about 150 minutes per week or 20 minutes per day.

Researchers believe the mental health benefits come from distraction from depressing thoughts, a sense of self-confidence, and the release of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones associated with positive mood and sense of well-being.

There are no rules. Incorporate whatever physical activity you enjoy at the intensity and duration that feels good to you.

Diet

The same nutrition that facilitates a healthy body contributes to good mental health. You know what to do: Look for plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean protein. Avoid added sugar and processed foods. A diet high in nutritious, whole foods was associated with lower risk of onset of depressive symptoms and anxiety.

Sleep

Poor sleep can lead to depression and depression can lead to poor sleep. As much as you can, try to maintain a routine that allows for sufficient sleep. Following sleep hygiene guidelines can help promote sleepiness.

Nature

Nature is restorative and offers a break from daily worries. A daily walk during daylight hours has been found to improve mood. Even if you can’t get outside for 30 minutes, sitting by a window, exposure to bright lights, or looking at a houseplant can help improve mood.

Human connection

This is tough right now with so many things closed. Connecting virtually has pros and cons. Social media can make us feel bad when we’re exposed to triggering posts or comparing our lives to others. We can burn out on video conferencing. Virtual connections can also give us something to look forward to and let us see our loved ones’ faces. If possible, look for ways to connect in real life with some distance.

Volunteer

Doing something for someone else can give you a sense of purpose and a confidence boost. Whether it’s sorting donations at the food bank, planting trees, or mentoring a child, find something that interests you and give it a try.

We’d love to see your #SelfCareSaturday pics. Tag us @ActivelyNW on Twitter and Instagram or on Facebook.

Image by g-stockstudio