The 5 things scientists say could improve mental health

Scientists have discovered five types of activities that have been linked to good mental health when done regularly.

While there are a number of behaviors that could have a positive impact on well-being, large cohort studies in Australia and Canada discovered five specific types of behavior that, when carried out consistently, could lead to better mental health.

The Big Five include having healthy thinking patterns, planning for the future, engaging in meaningful activities, having healthy routines, and connecting with friends and family at least four times a week.

To try to discover more about the well-being benefits of these behaviors, studypublished in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy, looked at the impact on depression and anxiety when participants reduced these activities before resuming them again.

“For those people who restricted their Big Five activities by at least 25%, we saw a significant drop in mental well-being,” said study author Professor Nickolai Titov, professor of psychology at Macquarie University. MedicalXpress. “No one used the word ‘depression,’ but everyone told us, ‘I’m struggling.’

“We expected to see a slight reduction in well-being, but we didn’t expect it to fall so quickly, or to take as long as some people do to recover.”

Commenting on the findings Lisa Brutonpsychotherapist and spokesperson for the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), says: “We know broadly what improves mental health, but nothing brings this to light more than a ground-breaking new study from an Australian university.

“Participants were asked to abstain from five behaviors that have been shown to improve mental health and to observe the results. This suggests that, like a ‘use it or lose it’ approach to physical fitness, the same may be true for healthy mental health.”

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So what are these five everyday behaviors and why might they help improve well-being?

Woman thinking and planning for the future.  (Getty Images)

Having healthy thought patterns and planning for the future are two of the five behaviors that could affect mental well-being. (Getty Images)

Healthy thinking patterns

Bruton says healthy thought patterns include being hopeful but realistic about yourself, others, the world at large, and the future.

“They also include thinking of oneself and others with kindness and compassion,” he adds.

While it’s easier to adopt healthy thought patterns, especially during difficult situations, Simon Davies, registered counselor and walking therapist at Living Well UK, says they are one of the most important factors in determining our overall mental health.

“An optimistic outlook, in which negative thoughts are challenged, can help reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and other mental health problems,” she explains.

“It is important to treat ourselves with respect and think realistically about what we can and cannot do. By doing this, we can improve our ability to cope with the challenges that life throws at us, improve relationships with others, and generally promote our mental and emotional health.”

Bruton says mindfulness can help with this, as can journaling or therapy.

Planning for the future

We are often told to “stay in the present,” but in reality planning for the future has several psychological benefits.

“First of all, it gives us something to look forward to, but it also helps us define what we want, what is important to us, what we want to bring into our lives,” explains Bruton.

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“Reaching these goals can bring a tremendous sense of accomplishment.”

But planning for the future doesn’t mean having a five-year plan written in stone.

“What we mean is setting small, realistic, achievable goals,” explains Davies. “This not only helps reduce feelings of anxiety, stress and uncertainty, but also provides a sense of direction and purpose, making it easier to prioritize tasks and manage time effectively.”

However, Davies says it’s important to remember that if things don’t exactly follow this plan, that’s okay too.

“Just having the plan there in the first place can offer some peace of mind and guidance in dealing with unexpected events,” he adds.

Woman feeling happy after exercising.  (Getty Images)Woman feeling happy after exercising.  (Getty Images)

Engaging in meaningful activities, such as exercising, may improve mental health. (Getty Images)

Participate in meaningful activities

Davies says he is a big believer in doing the things you love; He chooses things that fill your cup and make you feel good.

“Whether it’s going for a run, baking a cake, or grabbing coffee, choose meaningful activities that truly align with your interests, passions, and values,” she adds.

According to Dr. Elena Touroni, consulting psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic This can benefit our mental health in several ways.

“These types of activities release feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin, which naturally improves mood,” she explains. “They can also help us connect with others, creating a sense of belonging and community. And living a life aligned with your values ​​not only combats feelings of loneliness but can also increase levels of happiness.”

Have healthy routines

Healthy routines are the pillars of our general well-being.

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“As humans, we thrive on structure: routine helps us develop and maintain healthy habits, which in turn improves our self-esteem and overall satisfaction,” explains Dr. Touroni. “The more consistently we adopt these healthy habits and routines, the better we will feel and the more likely we will be to maintain them.”

Obviously, these healthy behaviors and routines will vary from person to person, but Bruton says that good sleep, exercise, diet and low levels of stress are important contributors to good mental health.

While tackling them all at once can be daunting, he suggests starting with a small change in this area and building on it.

Group of friends who feel happy.  (Getty Images)Group of friends who feel happy.  (Getty Images)

Scientists say that regularly meeting friends and family can improve mental well-being. (Getty Images)

Connect with friends and family at least four times a week.

Connection is a basic human need.

“We are wired to be social, and regularly connecting with friends and family meets this need,” explains Dr. Touroni.

“Socializing not only helps control anxiety and depression, but also improves self-esteem and can even boost our immune system.

“From an evolutionary point of view, being part of the tribe was essential for survival, and this remains true today in terms of our psychological and emotional health,” he adds.

According to Bruton, shared time can be informal (a walk, a short talk) or more complicated (a long meal, a cultural outing together, exercising with others).

“But regularity allows connections to be made and protects us against the stresses and strains of life, and also allows us to share our joys and victories!”

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