The power of short breaks, movement, and other practices to improve mental health – 4 essential readings

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(Conversation) As of July 16, 2022, people have to press only three numbers, 988, to access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States when they need help during a mental health crisis.

Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression were a major cause of global health problems even before the spread of COVID-19; However, it got worse. Since the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of anxiety and depression worldwide have increased by an overwhelming 25%. In the United States, 4 in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic, compared to 1 in 10 in January-June 2019.

Among the most affected are young people and women. The sudden rise in the number of people suffering from mental illness has coincided with gaps in mental care services as well.

Research suggests that the pandemic has exacerbated the effects of loneliness. In addition, people’s fear of missing out, also known as FOMO, has not even decreased since in-person social gatherings have become less frequent. But small everyday actions — such as taking a short walk, taking a break from social media, or even napping — can add up to an impact on mental health. Separately, counseling, therapy, and medications prescribed by health care providers are effective treatments for those with mental illness.

The Conversation US has compiled four essential readings that explore some of the daily habits and practices that have been shown to improve mental health. These are food for thought, not medical guidelines or advice, but reading these articles may be the first steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

1. A short break goes a long way

Reducing screen time can alleviate feelings of isolation, loneliness and envy, which may arise from scrolling through social media, according to Jelena Kikmanovic, associate professor of psychology at Georgetown University.

“Several studies have shown that even a five-day or one-week break from Facebook can lead to reduced stress and increased life satisfaction,” she wrote. “You can also cut expenses without feeling cold: Using Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat for just 10 minutes a day for three weeks reduced loneliness and depression.”

2. Exercise is like medicine for the brain

Arash Javanbakht, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University shares the science behind the relationship between exercise and mental well-being as well as his personal experience with the positive effects of physical activity.

“Working out regularly actually changes brain biology, and it’s not just about ‘walk and you’ll feel better,'” he explains. “Regular exercise, especially cardio, changes the brain. You don’t see it as all or nothing. It doesn’t have to be an hour’s drive to and from the gym or cycling track for an hour’s workout versus staying on the couch.

“I always tell my patients: ‘One step is better than nothing, three squats is better than no squat.’ When you’re less excited, or at first, just be kind to yourself. Do as much as you can. Three minutes of dancing still counts. with your favorite music.

3. Do you think the cure is to stare at the navel? think again

People who need treatment and counseling have long experienced social stigma around mental illness, but these services are essential to protecting and improving our health.

Decades of research have shown that psychotherapy is effective in relieving the most common forms of psychological distress, such as anxiety and depression. But wellness is about more than just reducing suffering,” writes Stephen Sandage, Professor of Psychology of Religion and Theology at Boston University School of Theology. “Counseling based on positive psychology can be effective in improving well-being and increasing qualities such as tolerance, compassion, and gratitude.”

4. Doing nothing

While it may not always be sensible or even convenient, slowing down and allowing yourself a dedicated break can do wonders for mental well-being, especially when speed and efficiency seem to become such an integral part of our lives.

“In this age of 24/7, ‘always,’ the prospect of doing nothing might seem unrealistic and unreasonable. But it has never been more important,” wrote Simon Gottschalk, professor of sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. since when.

“Equating ‘doing nothing’ with unproductivity betrays a myopic understanding of productivity,” he explains. “In fact, psychological research indicates that doing nothing is necessary for creativity and innovation, and a person’s apparent inactivity may actually lead to the formation of new insights, inventions, or melodies.”

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