How to be happy – the five golden rules

by Ravi Ram

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle for Mental Wellbeing

A recent study has shed light on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for reducing the risk of depression. The study found that adopting a healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of depression by 57 percent, emphasizing the significance of prioritizing mental health and wellbeing in our society.

The correlation between lifestyle factors and mental health has been previously acknowledged. A study conducted by researchers at Western Sydney University three years ago identified several lifestyle factors, including excessive screen time, particularly in the evening, as contributing factors to depressed mood.

So, what are the major lifestyle changes that can help keep us happy throughout our lives? Let’s explore a few essential habits that can significantly impact our mental wellbeing.

Getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining a positive mood. Research has consistently shown the connection between sleep and emotional wellbeing. A study analyzed sleep data from 72,000 people across 26 countries and found that the average Finn sleeps for at least seven hours and five minutes, longer than most other nations. Sahakian, a researcher involved in the study, suggests that getting between seven and nine hours of sleep per night is essential for reducing the risk of depression. Adequate sleep supports the immune system, which in turn affects our emotions by reducing underlying inflammation in the body. It also enhances cognitive performance, allowing us to function better throughout the day.

However, many older individuals struggle with sleep-related issues due to various health conditions and age-related changes. Hormonal shifts, such as a decrease in melatonin production, can disrupt sleep patterns. To improve sleep quality, maintaining a routine, avoiding daytime napping, engaging in regular exercise to induce tiredness at night, and refraining from stimulants like alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine can be beneficial. Additionally, new drugs, such as suvorexant, lemborexant, and daridorexant, could offer potential solutions to chronic sleep problems in older individuals.

Alcohol consumption should be moderated to reduce the risk of depression. Sahakian’s research suggests that limiting alcohol intake to less than 14 units per week can lower the risk of depression by 11 percent. While it is well-known that depressed individuals often turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism, excessive alcohol consumption can exacerbate anxiety and depressive thoughts. Studies have shown that alcohol impacts cognition, affecting concentration, reasoning, and reaction time, all of which can contribute to mood disturbances. Alcohol can also disrupt sleep quality, reducing the feeling of refreshment and leaving individuals feeling more anxious during the day. Reducing alcohol consumption can positively impact mental wellbeing over time.

Maintaining social connections is another crucial aspect of mental wellbeing. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the size of our social networks tends to increase until middle age and then gradually decrease, often leading to prolonged isolation in old age. This decline in social connections can have a significant impact on mood, as loneliness and social isolation are key risk factors for depression. It is essential to actively nurture and maintain social relationships throughout our lives. As we age, we may lose contact with friends and family due to various life events, but making efforts to keep these connections active and forming new ones is vital for our mental wellbeing.

In conclusion, adopting a healthy lifestyle is crucial for reducing the risk of depression and promoting mental wellbeing. Prioritizing adequate sleep, moderating alcohol consumption, and maintaining social connections are key lifestyle changes that can have a profound impact on our mental health. By incorporating these habits into our lives, we can take active steps towards improving our mental wellbeing and living happier, fulfilling lives.

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