Mental health issues affect most of us at some point in our lives. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a mental illness you’ve likely at least dealt with the voice in your head at one point or another, I know I have. In today’s chaotic world it is completely normal and almost unavoidable to struggle with mental health issues. However, we as humans are strong and are built to overcome unbelievable hardships, including mental illness.

The key to good mental health is learning to take control of what you’re feeding that voice in your head and achieving mental clarity. Just like your muscles, you need to exercise and train your brain for it to grow, work optimally and overcome negativity and challenges.

Here are 5 ways improve your mental health:

1. Focus on Your Breath

The beauty of this one is you can do it anytime and anywhere. Focusing on your breath can lower your stress levels, clear brain fog and improve your energy/mood. I recommend practicing this everyday, however this can also be a perfect tool when you feel stressed or hear the voice in your head starting.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Stop what you are doing, sit up straight and close your eyes.
  • Focus on inhaling through your nose for 5-7 seconds and exhaling through your mouth for 5-7 seconds.
  • Visualize the air coming into your nose, down your esophagus into your chest, being filtered through your lungs and then back up and out your mouth.
  • Feel and be aware of your chest expanding and contracting.
  • Do this for at least 1 minute and note how you feel after.

Many times you can stop the stress or the voice in your head from taking over your day if you do this as soon as you feel it coming on. Matter of fact, try it right now. Put your phone down and give it a go. I bet you’ll feel more energized and relaxed instantly!

2. Do Something That Makes You Sweat

Going for a run, lifting weights, yoga or sitting in the sauna are all great ways to sweat. Any of these activities will release happy hormones (norepinephrine and endorphins) into the brain and body as well as release chemicals that help to increase neurogenesis (building new or strengthening the cells of your brain). Sweating can also help to clear your body and brain of toxins that may be contributing to stress or negative thoughts and attitude. If that’s not enough, exercise will also increase blood flow to the brain (delivering more oxygen and energy) allowing it to work more efficiently and think clearer.

Make yourself sweat at least once a day and you will notice immediate changes in your mental health.

3. Address The Voice in Your Head

Once that voice is there it begins to take over your mood, your feelings, your motivation, your day and in some cases your life. But it doesn’t have to, you can choose to stand up to it and force it to go away.

Next time you are stressed or worried, do this:

  • Close your eyes, control your breath and ask yourself “why am I stressed or worried?”. Figure out exactly what it is.
  • Then ask yourself “Is this something that is real right now or is this something that I made up? Can I control it or is it out of my hands?”
  • Think about how it makes you feel (I’m not good enough, I’m going to be fired, etc.).
  • Then ask yourself what evidence there is to support those thoughts. If there isn’t any then ask yourself “is this worth getting stressed or upset over?”.

Remember, stress lowers your immune system, makes you store fat and lowers your cognitive function. Is your issue really worth doing that to yourself? By rationalizing the anxiety your mind becomes clear and you can then take the appropriate steps to overcome it or just forget about it. This practice isn’t easy, but it can be the difference between a good and a bad day.

Tip: if it helps try writing this process out at the start.

4. Filter the Negative Information You Consume

What do you think would support your mental health better; watching the news or reading a book that teaches you valuable lessons, enforces confidence and positivity and changes the way you think and feel about life? I hope you answered the ladder.

You have a choice on what information you feed your brain everyday, things like the news are filled with negative and depressing stories, why would you want to supplement your brain and that voice in your head with that? Feed it positive, useful information and the voice in your head will eventually shut up or may even begin to have a better outlook on life.

I recommend reading at least 10 pages of a self-help/development book or some sort of inspirational material everyday. It’s by far the single most important thing I have added to my daily routine and I bet it will be yours too!

5. Reduce Your Sugar Intake

Huh? What does sugar have to do with my brain? A lot!

Sugar drastically spikes your blood sugar levels, which then follows with blood sugar levels plummeting. These constant peaks and dips affect your brain function and result in feeling anxious, moody and depressed. Here’s why…

Similar to drugs like cocaine and MDMA, sugar messes with the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) serotonin and dopamine, which keep our mood stable. When serotonin and dopamine are released in our brain we feel happiness (among many other positive feelings), it happens when you fall in love, laugh, receive a gift and so on. The release of these two chemicals is what makes cocaine, MDMA, and (sadly) sugar so addictive. Constantly over-activating these pathways (by eating sugar or processed foods) depletes our serotonin and dopamine supplies, resulting in the inability for our brain to release the normal amounts we need throughout the day to remain in a healthy mental state.

Limit your sugar intake by eating good healthy fats instead and you will see a difference in your moods (and your body) in no time.

Follow @iquitsugar on Instagram for examples and recipes.

Final Thoughts:

There you have it, 5 things you can do today and everyday moving forward that will immediately improve your mental health. Rather than struggle your way through life or resort to medication (which has a host of other problems that come along with it), take control of your brain and train it to withstand this negative and depressing world we live in! I’m not saying this is going to be easy, because it won’t (it will take a long time to master), but it will be a lot easier in the long run compared to fighting the voice inside your head everyday.