HEALTHY HEART BLOG

4 best practices to improve your mental health… and your heart

4 best practices to improve your mental health… and your heart

Cellphones, social networks, online shopping… And if that weren’t enough, a global pandemic. All these factors make you feel constantly alert, always worrying about what is happening in your environment and what your family and friends are doing. You can avoid harming your mental health and heart by controlling the situations that can cause you stress and anxiety. The brain is the structure that regulates your behavior and how your internal organs function, including your heart. If your brain is healthy, your other organs will be healthy as well.

Stress can lead to changes in your behavior and consumption habits. According to a 2018 survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 46% of respondents reported that they ate too much or developed an unhealthy diet due to stress. On the other hand, 29% reported that they started drinking alcohol or increased their alcohol consumption for the same reason. In the long term, and in an uncontrolled way, these changes can lead to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. 

There is a long list of best practices you can apply to your everyday life to improve your mental health and heart. Let’s focus on the 4 most important:

Switch your cell phone to silent mode

Every time you receive a notification, either by text, email, or app notification, your cell phone emits some kind of signal (sound, vibration, light) that makes you go into a state of alert. When this happens, your brain secretes cortisol, dopamine, and norepinephrine, substances that can be harmful to your mental health if they are applied in high doses. Switching your cell phone to silent mode, and scheduling short sessions to check your messages and emails, will help you avoid feeling anxious every time it vibrates or emits a flashing light.

Streamline the way you shop online

Have you ever gone shopping or reviewed an online catalog and abandoned the purchase simply because you had so many options and could not choose one? During any decision-making process, our brain uses a large number of resources (mainly water, oxygen, and glucose) to evaluate the options and choose the one that best suits your needs. Additionally, you are being bombarded by an enormous amount of advertisements from many different brands that you cannot determine which one is the best option. Instead of analyzing all the different options, choose the top three that you like the most after an initial phase of research. Then, check for reviews and make a final decision. Reducing the time you spend while shopping will help you reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with it. 

Become indifferent to what happens on social media

Dopamine is a substance secreted by your brain in situations that generate pleasure. For human beings, no activity generates greater pleasure than social interaction. Every time you make a post and your friends react, your brain automatically releases dopamine. However, the downside of social media is that you might feel frustrated and stressed when you do not get that dose of social recognition and pleasure you wanted. The good news is that social media is just a platform to connect people. By learning how to become indifferent to what happens in the world of social media, you can focus more on what is happening in the real world and reduce the stress and anxiety you might feel every time you post something.

Learning from COVID-19

2020 started by bringing a great change to your life. You might have started working from home, experiencing sleep and diet disorders, and spending more time on your cellphone reading about the latest news. These new habits can become harmful to your mental and heart health. This is why developing a routine to control your diet, going for walks, spending more time with your relatives at home, and other recreational activities are the best practice to overcome these difficult times. Learning how to keep your mind and body occupied and exercised can become one of the best learnings from this pandemic. 

Taking care of your mind is taking care of your heart
Being exposed to situations that affect your mental health will have consequences on your heart. Sometimes the best solution to maintaining good mental health is simply disconnecting from your electronic devices. Turning them off or putting them in silent mode, and scheduling sessions to review messages, news, emails, and notifications will allow you to reduce stress, better organize your time and avoid negative changes in your diet. Consequently, your brain and heart will be more relaxed and you can reduce your risk of mental and cardiovascular diseases.

A relaxed mind is a happy heart.


Sources

Mental Health Association

National Health Insurance

British Heart Foundation

Better Health Channel

Last updated: October 9, 2020