The prevalence of mental disorders has increased significantly in recent decades, so the reasons that could explain this epidemiological rebound are the subject of numerous investigations.
Depression and anxiety disorders, especially, are becoming more frequent. In fact, a high percentage of people who consult their GP suffer some of these psychopathologies.
It is therefore important to learn strategies through which to reduce the probability of suffering from mental health problems. In this article you will find various habits to prevent psychological disorders , simple and accessible to all people.
- Related article: ” The 16 most common mental disorders“
Ten habits to prevent mental disorders
The ten habits to prevent mental disorders that we present below are based on current scientific knowledge. Sometimes they allude to organic bases (such as physical exercise and / or sleep), while in other cases they affect cognitive or behavioral correlates associated both with the initiation and maintenance of these emotional health problems.
1. Be compassionate with yourself and recognize your imperfection
It is dramatically common for us, in judging ourselves, to adopt a position of enormous rigidity and self-criticism. In this way, we tend to impose on our lives a whole succession of obligations that really are not , unnecessarily assuming the risk of feeling unhappy and frustrated. Many times, in those moments of emotional pain, we can speak words so cruel that we would not even dedicate them to the worst of our enemies.
And it all starts from forcing us to live on the narrow margins of an unattainable perfection, trying to satisfy impossible expectations that progressively erode affective resources and condemn us to psychological discomfort. For this reason, it is essential to adopt a comprehensive attitude that recognizes the option of erring naturally, without succumbing to catastrophic thoughts when it can occur to us (“if I don’t do this perfectly, I’m not worth anything”, for example).
2. Cultivate your hobbies
The abandonment of moments of enjoyment is common among those who enter the dark path of depression. Although sadness is a necessary and useful emotion, it can sometimes precipitate the summative loss of activities that in the past provided happiness, so that the quality of our daily lives is impoverished and we enter a prison whose bars are forged from monotony.
The emotional inertia in which we sink when we find ourselves in such a state does not make things easier, so we must be aware that our first attempts to overcome it will seem impositions that contravene what our body demands of us . As if they did not arise naturally or opposed an imperative that is beyond our control. And it is that every great vital change implies a previous process of adaptation, which supposes effort and persistence, even when we know well that it will bring us positive things.
3. Maintain healthy relationships with others
Social support is considered one of the keys to mediate between stress and its impact on psychological health , especially when it is emotional (having people to talk to about our intimate concerns or having someone who provides us with affection), far above that which only covers our material and immediate needs (providing us with economic resources). Feeling that we are loved and esteemed has, by itself, therapeutic properties.
However, it is essential to keep in mind that social support is not measured by the number of people around us, but by the quality of the links that unite us. Thanksgiving, asking for forgiveness and opening ourselves up to others is also important; for a wonderful network of human beings may not be of real help to us if we lack the skills to communicate adequately with it. That is, social support requires a proactive and open attitude to give and receive.
4. Do new things every day
Inertia and routine are two elements that erode our ability to be happy. In fact, they shorten life time in a certain sense: it has been shown that those who live without adding variety to their day-to-day life end up perceiving their existence as shorter than it really was, because the brain ignores repetitive moments as they are considered of little relevance personal. For the latter, living with emotion is basic.
Dare from time to time to break with your most firmly established habits : travel through unusual streets, change your haircut, dress differently or undertake some learning that generates curiosity. In any case, make your daily life a space where amazement and the unexpected can arise, without implying living an erratic and uncontrolled life. This fragile balance, as necessary as it is elusive, comes to be forged with practice.
5. Practice regular physical exercise
Physical exercise has proven to be healthy not only for the body, but also for the mind . Daily activity activates the body at times when it may be falling into a sedentary lifestyle that often coexists with depression or anxiety, generating a series of endocrine changes that are manifested in the form of emotional health benefits and a reinforcement of our self-image.
Physical exercise enhances the production of endorphins at the central level, which reduce the sensation of physical and emotional pain, and provide us with pleasant sensations. Studies on this issue show that people who regularly practice aerobic sports show reduced levels of depression and report feeling substantially less stressed, regardless of the objective demands of their work or the rest of their daily responsibilities.
- You may be interested: ” The 10 psychological benefits of practicing physical exercise“
6. Be genuine with your emotions
Efforts to hide emotions, or refusal to feel them fully, are associated with an exacerbation of their intensity and a greater difficulty in regulating them. There is ample evidence that the professions that generate the most pronounced psychological distress are those that force us to act in a different way than we feel internally (keeping a smile on our faces despite having had a bad day, for example ).
The first step is to interpret the emotions that we may feel as useful tools to understand the world around us, others and ourselves; embracing them as an indivisible part of the experience. By doing so we will be able to approach them with much more security, keeping the necessary distance to distinguish their nuances and listen to what they are trying to communicate. Escaping from what we feel is like trying to run away from a room without doors or windows, but even more distressing.
7. Find a purpose
Viktor Frankl said that any circumstance in life, difficult as it might be, would be bearable by giving it personal meaning. He added that the absence of a purpose was responsible for generating deep discomfort (or nonnogenous depression), which would be perceived as a painful void in the fabric of existence. For all these reasons, his logotherapy sought that individuals discover their fundamental goal, their life plan or their ultimate goal.
Finding a purpose, something worth living for, strengthens the motivation to continue our efforts in situations of failure or frustration .
8. Surround yourself with nature
Human beings tend to feel happy when mixed with nature. Despite this, this effect is not appreciated simply by being close to animals or plants, but requires the ability to feel integrated as one more part of the environment . Today it is known that children who grow up in places that stimulate this connection, developing a feeling of brotherly union with the rest of the living beings that inhabit the earth, improve the ability to empathize with others.
Walks through undeveloped areas are enjoyable for most people. If we do it taking advantage of sunlight, we will improve the central production (pineal gland) of melatonin during the night, a hormone related to positive affects and more restful sleep (as it contributes to regulating circadian rhythms).
9. Sleep regularly
Sleep is one of the most rapidly compromised physiological functions among those with psychological problems. Insomnia is a common element to both depressive and anxious symptoms , so they can be present in both cases. Thus, we know that sleeping poorly increases the risk of mental health problems, while the latter also impair the quality of sleep, producing a cycle that can be difficult to get out of.
Adequate sleep is important, and for this we must adopt a set of healthy habits: avoid physical exercise three hours before going to bed, seek a dark and quiet environment, take short naps (45 minutes maximum), dine frugally, wear clothes comfortable, rejecting alcohol or coffee in the last hours of the day, find a comfortable temperature, set regular times to go to bed or wake up and use the bedroom only to sleep and have sex.
- You may be interested: ” 10 basic principles for good sleep hygiene“
10. Learn to make decisions and be assertive
One of the reasons that people often experience discomfort in their lives is because of their difficulty in making decisions, or because they use proactive strategies to solve unsolvable problems. Identify the problem, define it in operational terms, extract plausible alternatives, evaluate the quality of the options available to us and act accordingly ; They are a basic process for successfully dealing with demanding situations. There are specific programs for this, such as Nezu and D’Zurilla’s decision-making training.
On the other hand, learning to communicate assertively is also a habit that can protect us from developing emotional problems, particularly those that stem from interpersonal conflicts. Through assertiveness we express what we need while safeguarding the rights of others, without engaging in excessively hostile or passive behavior. Assertiveness is, then, a search for balance in the relationships we maintain with other people.