We all have good and bad days. But when we have more bad days than good, it can take a real toll. The truth is, mental health is health. And while the last 50 years have seen the tides shift towards appreciating the value of physical health, many are still hesitant to buy into mental health’s importance. That’s why we’re excited to celebrate and take part in World Mental Health Day this year!
World Mental Health Day was first established in the early 90s by the World Federation of Mental Health with the intent of centering mental health and brain health as a global priority. It is recognized every year on October 10th with the goal of expanding mental health awareness and increasing access to support.
The True Cost of Ignoring Mental Health
Mental illness is not a matter of willpower. It is the result of a chaotic collection of variables that are often impossible to tease apart, including genetic predisposition, environment, events, and lifestyle.
Mental health directly impacts physical health, brain function, and quality of life.
In terms of physical impact, it can prompt elevated cortisol levels from chronic stress that wreak havoc on the immune system and contribute to poor sleep, which then further worsens mental health symptoms .
Poor mental health also affects brain function, contributing to memory loss and slowed cognition over time.
In our day-to-day, poor mental health affects our health habits, social connectedness, productivity at work, and perhaps most importantly, how we feel.
In other words — mental health matters.
The State of Mental Health by the Numbers
Mental Health America (MHA) shares in their 2022 State of Mental Health report that 19.86% of American adults (50 million people) struggled with mental illness in 2019.  Unsurprisingly, these numbers continued climbing through the pandemic, with the World Health Organization reporting a 25% increase worldwide in the prevalence of anxiety and depression. 
Other key findings in their report further highlighted the rise in mental health issues, such as :
- The number of people seriously considering suicide increased to 4.58% (this has increased every year since 2011-12)
- 15.08% of youths experienced a major depressive episode within the past year
- Over 2.5 million youths in the United States struggle with severe major depression
Even if you’re in the midst of hardships during this unprecedented time, from displacement to the economic impact of changing global relationships, or the continuing effects of Covid-19 — there are ways you can start feeling better and improving the quality of your mental health.
5 Ways to Support Your Mental Health on World Mental Health Day (and every other day!)
1. Get Outside for a Walk in Nature
There’s a reason poets and scholars alike speak of nature with reverence. Nature can have a revitalizing effect that forces us out of the chaos of our minds and into our bodies to soak up the beauty all around us. Aside from the anecdotal, research has found that exposure to and immersion in green natural spaces can help :
- Increase positive affect, happiness, meaning, and purpose in life
- Improve social interactions and connections
- Make life tasks feel more manageable
- Reduce mental distress
- Boost cognitive performance
- Enhance memory and focus
- Improve sleep quality
- Positively combat mental illness
You’ll also reap the positive mental health benefits of physical activity that often accompany soaking up some nature.
2. Make Time for Activities You Love
It’s easy to come up with excuses to put off having fun, but doing activities you love is not a waste of time! Self-care can help us get back in touch with ourselves and provide a much needed break from all our responsibilities. Often, a break to focus on something else can help you re-fuel for greater motivation and productivity.
3. Connect With People
Loneliness isn’t just painful — it’s bad for your health. The National Institute on Aging reports that long-term loneliness can have the same negative effects on our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  Research has also found that more socially active people often have lower levels of anxiety and depression in addition to improved self-esteem, empathy, and trust. 
4. Practice Living in the Present Moment
While thinking about the past and future can be beneficial, doing it too much robs us of the peace of mind that exists only in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help us train our minds to recognize our thoughts and emotions without over-identifying them, helping us to let go of them to return to the present. This can be especially helpful for mental health as it can teach us to move through triggering moments with resilience and calm.
5. Give to Others
Being of service and giving to others is a great way to support your mental health. Aside from connecting with others, being of service can help boost self-esteem and self-worth, bringing purpose and meaning to our lives.
5 Ways to Support the Mental Health of Your Community on World Mental Health Day (and every other day!)
1. Share a Note of Appreciation
A little appreciation can really go a long way in helping someone feel seen and valued. Today, write a note of appreciation for someone in your life. You may be surprised at how much of an impact it can have.
2. Be Open to Listening
If you see someone hurting, gently start a conversation and be open to listening. Let them take the lead on sharing as much or as little as they want to. If they don’t want to talk, respect that and give them what they’re asking for.
3. Know Your Limits
You can’t help others if you’re running on fumes. Make sure you know when you need to say “no,” so you can balance supporting others with taking care of yourself too.
4. Don’t Overreach Your Expertise
If someone wants to talk with you, offer a listening ear and validate their experience. You can help by asking them what they feel would be the best way to support them. Ask if they’d like help coming up with questions to ask a professional, or finding resources to guide them.
5. Raise Community Awareness
One of the best ways you can support your community’s mental health is by raising awareness. If you’re comfortable, share your experience with your community. You can also share resources, encourage more compassionate language, volunteer, and leverage the power of social media to spread awareness.
- Learn more about Mental Health America’s 2022 report HERE >>
- Read the WHO’s report on rising rates of mental health struggles HERE >>
- Explore this review of the research on nature HERE >>
- Discover the effects of social isolation HERE >>
- Learn about connectedness and health with Stanford Medicine HERE >>