The way we live says a lot about us. Lifestyle means a lot to us and is about more than how much fun you’re having or how much work you’re getting done. It also has a profound effect on your mental health.
That’s why it’s smart to take a step back and examine your own lifestyle. How is it helping your mental health? How it is hurting? The consequences of a lifestyle that runs counter to your mental health interests can be severe, so take action and build a better, healthier life.
Is your lifestyle good for you?
Everyday, we make decisions (or follow through on powerful habit loops) that affect our mental health, whether we realize it or not. And, over time, these decisions can add up to a complete mental health picture — for better or for worse. Let’s take a closer look at your lifestyle.
Mental health and physical health are much more closely connected than many of us realize, and a poor diet and lack of exercise can bring down your mood and make you more vulnerable to all kinds of common mental health conditions.
Consider stress. What about your environment — including your home, your commute, and your work environment — might contribute to higher stress levels? What about your work, your career, and your current work-life balance (or lack thereof) might be raising your stress?
What about the place that you live in? Big cities with competitive work environments tend to lead to higher stress levels, so residents of places such as Washington, D.C., may want to be more proactive about their mental health than others, expert DC therapists point out — though they emphasize that virtually anyone can benefit from therapy.
Are you seeking treatment for any mental health issues? Are you in therapy? You probably visit the doctor regularly for physical checkups — do you do the same for your mind?
What a rough lifestyle can do to your mind
All of the questions and concerns above are important because, if you’re not careful, your wrong answers could lead to serious mental health problems.
Anxiety disorders are, when taken together, the most common form of mental health issues. They can be triggered and exacerbated by stress — the same sort of stress that is caused by your lack of work-life balance or your busy, competitive life in a big city like Washington, D.C.
Depression is common, too, and it can be worsened by the low moods you’ll experience when you fail to get proper nutrition or exercise regularly.
And other, less common mental health issues can arise from environmental factors — including basic, ongoing lifestyle decisions — too. So get smart and change your life.
Building a better life
The idea of changing your whole lifestyle to improve your mental health can be overwhelming. But you don’t have to do all of this at once, and reprogramming habit loops for the better will help you achieve long-term, sustainable change.
Tackle bad habits first, and start fighting for the little things that will improve your mental health, such as a vacation or a rule against answering emails after hours. Leave a bit earlier to make your big-city commute less stressful. Aim for sustainable changes — rather than crash diets — and try adding vegetables in and swapping out a few unhealthy favorites for healthier options. And, above all, get some professional help. Your mental health is an important dimension of your overall health, and it deserves the same professional care that you’d give your physical health.