Simply put, overall well-being is having a healthy body and a healthy emotional state of mind. A healthy lifestyle can enhance mental health, bring a sense of well-being and help keep your body strong. By adopting relatively simple habits — sleeping well, staying active, eating healthy foods, and taking steps to manage stress — you can help yourself feel better and improve your state of mind.
Building positive relationships;
Introduction: Being positively connected to friends, family and our community can contribute to higher stress tolerance, improved mood, and an increased sense of personal satisfaction, self-identity and self-worth. Positive and meaningful connections with others can play an important role in our well-being.
Ideas for ways to develop and enjoy positive relationships:
- Focus your time and energy on individual relationships (and friendships) that make you feel supported, cared for and good about yourself. It is OK to avoid spending time with people who do not make you feel good about yourself or your life. It is also good to remember that having one or two close friendships can be just as positive and meaningful as having hundreds of Facebook “friends.”
- Positive relationships in a group setting can give you a sense of connectedness and meaning. Being part of and contributing to a larger community can enhance your feelings of purpose and self-worth.
- Volunteering for a cause you believe in or feel passionate about can provide an opportunity to meet people who might share your values and to find shared satisfaction in helping others.
- Join a club, group or community or religious organization – forming relationships in the context of shared interests or goals is a good way to form and maintain meaningful and enjoyable personal relationships.
- If you tend to enjoy being alone and don’t feel comfortable joining groups or taking the first step to reach out to people, try spending some time in public places that give you pleasure where you might casually meet peers and other people. For example, sit outside in the commons where other students hang out, or try reading a book at a student center where you are likely to run into peers and start up a casual conversation, or attend a sports event on campus where you can share your school spirit with others.
- Stay in touch with family – whoever it is that makes up “family” for you. Family ties can be the most consistent and reliable source of support, enjoyment, understanding and love, especially while you are away at school.
Introduction: In addition to being an important part of a healthy lifestyle, exercise can also enhance your emotional well-being. Exercise has a positive impact on sleep, weight, mood, energy and overall health.
The benefits of exercise:
- Enhanced mood
- As quickly as 5 minutes into physical activity, individuals can notice an enhancement in their mood
- Research shows that exercise can help alleviate mild to moderate long-term depression (Exercise and Depression)
- Reduced stress
- Exercise can help release stress and increase relaxation
- Regular exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety (Exercise for Stress and Anxiety)
- A boost in energy
- Improved health – decreases blood pressure and heart rate, controls weight, strengthens muscles and enhances immunity
- Better, more restful sleep
You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic:
You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to enjoy the benefits of exercise.
- Research shows that even modest amounts of exercise can make a difference. In fact, you can meaningfully benefit from 30-minutes of moderate activity per day, five times a week. A quick walk, a swim or a quick workout at the gym can go a long way toward improving your well-being (The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise)
- It is a good idea to mix up your routine and keep it interesting – try a combination of aerobic exercise, strength building, and flexibility exercises
Integrate exercise into your life:
- Develop an exercise routine and schedule that’s realistic for you. If you don’t have morning classes, that might be a good time to fit in regular exercise. If you have a regular lunch hour, try walking or hitting the gym during that break. Avoid exercise just before going to bed since this can interfere with sleep
- Be creative about ways to build regular activity into your life and remember that there are many free ways to get exercise
- Walk or bike to work or class
- Make it social – get together with friends to run, take a walk or try a workout video
- Daily chores are opportunities for exercise – cleaning your room, carrying grocery bags or scrubbing your bath burns calories and works your muscles
- If you do not participate on a school team as an athlete, find out if your school has open gym times, free swim times or club sports that would provide opportunities for regular exercise
- Use your cell phone activity app to inspire you and to track your physical activity
Never exercised before? Start slowly and increase the length and intensity of your activity as you progress. Any effort you put into your health through exercise will make a meaningful impact on your wellness.
Introduction: When stress and pressure become too intense or overwhelming – or last too long – it can become a problem for your physical and emotional health, disrupt your daily life and have an impact on academic or work performance.
Here are some signs that the stress and pressure are having an impact on your wellness:
- You can’t sleep, or are sleeping too much
- You have no appetite or are eating too much even when you are not hungry
- You’re experiencing more headaches, muscle aches/tightness, more frequent colds and minor illnesses
- You keep taking deep breaths and feel slightly light headed when you think about everything you need to get done or think about a situation you can’t control
- You are frequently irritable, frustrated, angry, impatient and/or anxious
- You often find you can’t concentrate and therefore you can’t study, pay attention in class or get things done as effectively or as easily as you used to
- You often have the feeling that time is pressuring you
- The feeling of overwhelming stress lasts more than a few days
Again, it is important to remember that stress is a normal part of life, which can be full of problems and pressures. However, when you can’t relieve the stress and pressure you are experiencing and you feel like it’s more than the normal stress and pressure that goes with living life and being a student, there are many things you can do to help yourself and improve your frame of mind.
Take care of yourself:
- Get enough sleep and exercise
- Eat a healthy diet
- Avoid the use of substances
Give yourself a break: Make time to give yourself a break – planned breaks can improve the quality of your work and study time.
- Take scheduled study breaks – for example, for every 2 hours of study, take 20-30 minutes off, or take 10 minutes off every hour if that works better for you
- Schedule time to be with friends – you can’t study or work 24 hours a day; a lunch break or walk with a friend will give your brain and body a break during stressful times
- Schedule time to exercise – physical activity promotes a sense of wellness and diminishes stress
Practice relaxation: Practice relaxation – find what works for you.
- Deep breathing exercises
- Reading, writing, music and art are all forms of relaxation
- Play an enjoyable sport – walk, swim or go for a jog
Avoid drugs and alcohol: It might seem that drugs and alcohol help diminish the feeling of stress. But when drugs and alcohol are used as the solution to ongoing feelings of stress and pressure, they can make things worse by creating additional problems, mood disturbances and physical depletion.
Keep things in perspective:
- Try to separate what you can control from what you can’t as much as possible. Let go of things you cannot control
- Try to see things as “glass half full” – if you expect things to go wrong, if you see things in a negative light, you are more likely to feel stressed
- Try to focus on your strengths and the positive things around you – don’t lose track of the things that are going well in your life
Talk it out: Talk to someone about your experience with stress
- Talk to family and friends – sometimes support, compassion and understanding are all it takes to help reduce stress and pressure
- See a medical provider to make sure you do not have a medical problem that is causing you to feel stressed
- See a counselor or go to your college counseling center to meet with someone and talk about your difficulties
If you try the above and still find that you are overwhelmed or if you do not currently have access to counseling through your school or community, reach out for help.
Mindfulness means paying attention to the present. When you’re mindful, you let yourself experience your sensations, thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. Mindfulness keeps you engaged with the present and helps you “go with the flow” of life without complicating each experience with information from the past or judgmental thoughts from within yourself.
When you apply mindfulness to your daily life you can expect to fully experience the emotions around you – including the real emotions that sometimes challenge us in life. It takes practice, but mindfulness can help you to notice, experience and sit with life’s challenging moments while maintaining inner peace and personal well-being.
Developing moment-to-moment awareness of your experience without judgment doesn’t always come naturally. Many colleges, counseling services and community centers offer classes and workshops that teach mindfulness.
Introduction: Good nutrition is a fundamental element of wellness. A healthy, well-balanced diet boosts energy, contributes to positive mood, promotes physical health and helps prevents certain illnesses. If you are away at school or busy with a job, taking the time to care for yourself by eating a healthy diet can seem difficult or inconvenient – however, following some simple guidelines, it is possible to enjoy healthy eating habits even at a school or workplace cafeteria.
What you eat: A healthy diet includes a balance of high protein foods (poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts and lean meats), fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Simple goals to think about:
- Avoid high sugar foods and drinks like candy and soda; water is a wonderful thirst quencher and good for your body.
- Avoid highly processed foods and meats (chips, lunch meats, etc.).
- Avoid fried foods – grilled, steamed, baked and raw foods are best.
When you have special dietary needs: For teens and young adults with mandatory dietary restrictions, for example students who have diabetes, it is very important to ask for support from your friends and school community so that you are able to enjoy healthy eating and adhere to your dietary restrictions in the dorm, cafeteria and at school events. Your health services center would be a good place to find guidance and provide support to find the dietary balance you need while away at school.
How you eat:
- Watch your portions – don’t go back for seconds.
- Sit at a table for your meals; enjoy your meals with others.
- Enjoy your food and enjoy the process of eating; focus on the flavors and textures of your food.
- Turn off the TV and take a break from studying when you eat – treat your meal as a quiet time to enjoy rest, good food and companionship.
When you eat:
- Our bodies work best when they have a regular supply of fuel. Many people find that eating something every few hours helps to keep energy and mood up throughout the day.
- Missing meals or waiting too long to eat can cause fatigue and irritability as well as increase the likelihood of overeating and making unhealthy food choices at your next meal.
- Start your day with a good, healthy breakfast; if you don’t have time to make a meal, a good energy bar or smoothie will do.
- Avoid eating just before going to bed – it can impair your ability to fall asleep.
Introduction: Healthy sleep habits are an incredibly important part of wellness. Getting enough sleep goes a long way toward promoting a healthy outlook on life and overall health, avoiding stress, elevating mood and helping concentration, energy levels and productivity. Sleep experts say that teens and young adults need 9-10 hours of sleep – but with school, sports, family, social activities, community obligations and personal commitments, it can be difficult to get the sleep you need or to sleep well.
Tips for good sleep:
- Try to be aware that emotional problems or stress in your life can interfere with your ability to sleep. As much as possible, address these issues and recognize their impact on your sleep schedule.
- Make your room a good place to sleep
- Talk to your roommate about ways you can cooperate to avoid interfering with each other’s sleep schedules
- Use your bed for sleeping only
- Keep your room dark (blue and green LED lights from electronics can be very disruptive to sleep), quiet and cool
- Use a white noise machine, small fan or noise app to hide disruptive noises in your dorm.
- Get plenty of exercise and keep a healthy diet
- Avoid the use of alcohol, caffeine, pot and other substances, especially before bedtime – these can all act as stimulants
- Avoid computer and social media just before bed
- Avoid daytime napping
- Establish a consistent, relaxing bedtime routine
- Try winding down with some relaxation techniques before you try to sleep
If you feel like you can’t change your sleep difficulties on your own, talk to a counselor or sleep expert who may be able to recommend interventions like Melatonin (and other sleep aids when appropriate) to help improve your sleep.
The power of positivity: How we think plays a significant role in how we feel. The more you focus on the positive things in your life (close friendships, fun plans for the weekend, the things that are going well at school and with your family) the more likely it will be that you will enjoy a sense of well-being. Positive thinking brings positive responses in your body which can boost your mood and diminish stress.
What is positivity? Positivity is the ability to meet challenges and situations in life with an “I can do it,” “I’ll figure it out,” “things will work out” attitude. People who use the power of positivity face the same disappointments, challenges and stressors in life that everyone else does – the difference is that they choose to react to these challenges by finding a productive and positive way to cope and respond.
Ways to bring positivity to your life:
- Surround yourself with positive people; it’s OK to avoid people who bring you down and who don’t bring out the best in you.
- Find the areas in your life that bring you joy, help you maintain your sense of humor and give you a sense of well-being – keep those things in your life as you go off to school, meet new people, face new stressors.
- Be familiar with situations or areas in your life that bring out the “negative” in you – when a situation can’t be changed, try to focus on the positive; if a situation can be changed, then do so!
- Find ways to give to others, help others, be compassionate and kind. Doing things for others is a powerful way to help you create positivity in your own life.
- Make an effort to keep a mental list (or write down a list) of all the things that are going well in your life, of the things that bring you joy and the things you are grateful for. Focusing on the aspects of your life that are going well for you can promote a positive attitude in the rest of your life.