As we forge into the new decade, many of us wonder how we’ll take better care of ourselves and those we love. At Kintsugi, we’ve saved you the effort in research by summarizing our top Mental Health findings across the last 3 decades. Some may look familiar, but others may surprise you.
10. Gratitude in spades
According to Harvard Medical School, “giving thanks can make you happier […] In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” Cultivating genuine appreciation for what you have versus what you lack creates important constitution in your own self worth. Shame, or the self-inflicted feeling of Disgust, can quickly ramp up to self-destructive behavior.
9. Physical touch
Our brains are wired for in-person, human connections. Studies have shown that touch is “truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.” Neuroscientist Edmund Rolls is on the frontier of touch research and the reason why touch is so compelling is because “touch activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, which is linked to feelings of reward and compassion.” Recent studies support that “touch signals safety and trust […] Basic warm touch calms cardiovascular stress […] and can trigger release of oxytocin.” Reinforce trust, safety, and connection with engaged acknowledgment.
8. Greater self-acceptance
Emotional honesty is acceptance and allowing others to love you for your authentic self. According to Harvard Medical School:
Self-acceptance is defined as an individual’s acceptance of all of his/her attributes, positive or negative. It includes body acceptance, self-protection from negative criticism, and believing in one’s capacities
Some people with low self-acceptance try to bolster it by accomplishing great things. But this only helps your self-esteem for a while. That’s because achievement is a poor substitute for intimacy […] If you feel negatively about yourself, the brain regions that help you control emotions and stress have less gray matter than someone with a greater degree of self-acceptance — that is, these regions actually have less tissue to “work with.” This lack of gray matter may also appear in regions of the brainstem that process stress and anxiety. Stress signals from these latter regions, in turn, disrupt the emotional control regions. So, poor self-acceptance may disrupt emotional control in two ways: directly, by disrupting the brain regions that control it, and also indirectly, by increasing stress signals in your brain that subsequently disrupt these regions.
There are 3 ways to improve self-acceptance: self-regulation, self-awareness, and self-transcendence. “Like self-acceptance, self-transcendence also engenders physical changes in the brain. It has been associated by increased serotonin transporter availability in the brainstem.”
7. Check your physical inputs
We know junk food and no exercise are bad for us. Less processed, whole foods are better and daily exercise is ideal. We’re not here to judge whether you’re on either end of the spectrum or anywhere in between. But if, you aren’t feeling great and not sure where to start, incremental activity and eating 1 healthy day per week may move the mental health needle a lot for you. More on Eating for well-being and Effects of Dietary Improvement on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety.
6. Generating new perspectives
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is not a panacea for mental health as some of today’s headlines may lead us to believe; however, CBT is effective in taking an almost out-of-body, methodical approach in problem-solving our emotional triggers by proposing alternatives to unhelpful beliefs. Generating new perspectives creates healthy coping mechanisms for stress, often activities like volunteering with others can promote important alternative viewpoints.
5. Reserving judgment
Not reacting solely from an emotionally charged state results in better decision-making outcomes. When we empathize versus judge others, we develop deeper, more intimate relationships which allows us to understand ourselves and the world around us. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program, “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them.”
4. More time in nature
“Shinrin-yoku,” or Forest Bathing, a practice first developed in Japan from the early 1990s, has shown that a retreat to nature can boost immunity and mood. “As people begin to relax, parasympathetic nerve activity increases which can lead to a drop in blood pressure. There’s another factor that might help explain the decline in blood pressure: Trees release compounds into the forest air that some researchers think could be beneficial for people […] Back in 2009, Japanese scientists published a small study that found inhaling these tree-derived compounds — known as phytoncides — reduced concentrations of stress hormones in men and women and enhanced the activity of white-blood cells known as natural killers cells.”
3. More sunlight when depressed
Some people are more sensitive to weather and sunlight than others but in an NIH study from 2009, “decreased exposure to sunlight, increased probability of cognitive impairment” across 14,474 subjects and was particularly pronounced in those who were depressed. This is because melatonin, serotonin and other mechanisms involved in the circadian rhythms are associated with cognitive functioning. Mind your mental health this winter.
2. Consistent sleep
Leading sleep evangelist and neuroscientist Matthew Walker, describes how the overtired brain and body make us vulnerable to disease. His team’s works have been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, contributing to a deeper body of works showing that a solid 7-9 hours of sleep a night is needed to receive the full bounty of health benefits.
1. Emotional awareness (and intelligence)
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the “ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in an effective and positive way. A high EQ helps individuals to communicate better, reduce their anxiety and stress, defuse conflicts, improve relationships, empathize with others, and effectively overcome life’s challenges […] EQ is synonymous with self-awareness because it enables us to live our lives with intention, purpose, and autonomy.”
Worried that you’ll forget everything above? Kintsugi is a modern talk therapy app for mental health. We surface relevant workflows based on when you need it the most.
To learn more, please visit us at www.kintsugihealth.com.