Every new year we set about making New Year’s resolutions. Usually they’re related to our physical health: going on a diet, joining a gym or drinking less. But what about our mental health?
Mental health is central to every part of our lives: how we interact with loved ones, how productive we are at work, and how we feel when we are alone. So here are six things science says you can for better mental health in 2018.
1. Stop dieting
A lot of people make strict and prohibitive New Year’s plans to slash their kilojoule intake. But there’s evidence such resolutions just don’t lead to weight loss, and instead restrictive dieting typically leads to long-term weight gain.
People with poor body image typically avoid social outings, physical intimacy, and exercise. Poor body image is also linked to depression, anxiety, and a raft of other mental health problems. Self-loathing does not make us thinner, but it does make us mentally unwell.
People often avoid fully participating in life while waiting for their ideal body. Make 2018 the year you stop doing this. People who appreciate their bodies, irrespective of their body size, tend to have better mental health, better sexual functioning (and more orgasms), and happier romantic relationships overall. If your goal is mental (or physical health), stop focusing on trying to be thin, and instead work on self acceptance.
2. Eat broccoli
The more we learn about the relationship between the gut and the brain, the more evidence we get about the role of nutrition in mental health. People who consume more fruits and vegetables have lower levels of depression than those who eat less fruit and vegetables.
Nutritional improvements over time (a balance of vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins) can improve your mental health and quality of life. Eating leafy greens and vegetables in the broccoli family (cabbage, cauliflower, kale) may even help slow cognitive decline.
3. Join a group
Social isolation is a better predictor of early death than either diet or exercise, and as strong a predictor as cigarette smoking. Making new social connections improves mental health, and being embedded in multiple positive social groups helps us cope with stress, and is linked to reduced depression and anxiety.
This was originally published by The Conversation.