The World Health Organisation defines health not just as the absence of disease but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being (WHO, 2023). The global burden of disease is projected to include HIV/AIDS, ischemic heart disease and depressive disorders as leading causes of death by 2030 (WTO, 2023). With this year’s theme for World Health Day being “My Health, My Right”, it is imperative that we discuss the role of we, as enlightened individuals play in taking accountability for our health and supporting our quality of life. We, at AMindset believe in both empowering our community in supporting their access to quality health services, education and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination while also acknowledging our duty towards supporting each other on this mission. With mental health conditions including depression and anxiety on the rise and these risks closely associated with increased stress, we trust the following will empower you to make choices to claim your right to health in the choices you make daily.

Journalling:

While journalling may be seen as a “new-age” practice, we are big believers in journalling as a tool not only to provide greater clarity on the inner workings of our mind and thoughts but also on the cathartic effect of penning thoughts on paper. There have been numerous studies that have attempted to understand the favourable relationship between journalling and mental health and the results have been affirming. We are loath to take this a bit further and recommend daily (or frequent) journalling, incorporating tenets of positive psychology such as gratitude, positive aspects of one’s day, positive interactions during the day among others are powerful to support mental wellbeing and key learnings during the day. In addition to free-form expressive writing, we recommend including the following questions:

  • What is something I am grateful for today?
  • Describe someone who made a positive difference/ helped me?
  • Describe something that did not go as planned? Was there something good that came out of it?
  • What is something that I learned today?

Questions above not only reflect on the positives but also support reframing our minds to finding a positive narrative even from the setbacks (we appreciate this is not always realistic).

Community:

If the recent pandemic has taught us one thing, it is the healing power of community. Social isolation has been associated with increased anxiety, loneliness, depression. Studies have shown that it is not just social contact but a sense of belonging, striving towards a shared purpose is what fosters a sense of community and has been associated with improved mental health outcomes.

In addition to fostering a sense of belonging, when community includes service, charity, volunteering, it supports striving towards a goal that is greater than oneself. These endeavours support one’s sense of self, a belonging and striving towards something important and gives a place in this world.

In a transient place like Hong Kong, we encourage you to explore sport, hobby, wellness communities of which there are many. In addition, where time and resources permit, we encourage you to look beyond, at opportunities to volunteer and support the many not for profit organisations that champion many noble causes.

Food and Mental Health:

Cliched as it might sound, “you are what you eat”. While our fast-paced lives make eating fast-food “on the go” excusable, we encourage you to pause and consider your food choices. While the impacts of food and physical health including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity are well proven, evidence now points to the powerful effects of food and mental health. The Mediterranean diet high in olive oil, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit, fish and low in processed food has been evidenced with not just reducing the likelihood of developing mental health conditions, reducing anxiety and improving cognitive functioning but has also been evidenced with reversing the effects of depression.

Movement:

The benefits of movement and exercise on physical health, metabolic health in particular are well established. Good physical health after all contributes to improved physical and metabolic health. In recent years however, there has been growing evidence on the correlation between exercise and mental health, predominantly owing to the “endorphins” (wider terms for “happy hormones” including serotonin, dopamine etc) which are released during physical exercise. The benefits of these endorphins last long after the physical exercise routine, (especially if it is weight training) has ceased, thereby contributing to sustained improved mood long after the exercise routine. Stress is ubiquitous to our lifestyle. Exercise has been When undertaken in a group, fitness and movement also adds a dimension of community which is another pillar of mental wellbeing.

Sleep:

“Sleep when I am dead” may have been the rhetoric of the 1990s. However, with new information there comes a call to renewed action “Sleep to live” is our new mantra. Sleep is not only restorative, sleep is healing, we will take that a step further and say that sleep is also preventative (of physical and mental health conditions). Not only does sleep support our physical health through metabolic symbiosis, sleep also consolidates learning, serves as emotional catharsis and supports overall wellbeing. While we cannot control our night’s sleep, we can control the “inputs” that influence our sleep. Here are our top five tips:

  • Where possible, attempt to have dinner or your last meal 3-4 hours before bed time
  • Include a good quality protein at dinner which will allow you to feel fuller for longer and allow for a deeper rest with fewer disruptions due to hunger pangs
  • Aim to go to bed at the same time each night where possible
  • Avoid using screens before bed and if you cannot avoid it, use a blue light filter
  • Ideally, leave your phone outside your bedroom and use an “old school” alarm clock instead

We at AMindset, believe that we are what we repeatedly do, our habits do ultimately define our character and in the case of health, our healthy habits have the power to shape our health outcomes. “If it is to be, it is up to me”. If you or a family member or friend needs a check in, please reach out to us at office@amindset.hk. We offer a range of services include low-cost counselling to support you and your family and friends.

“It is to be, it is up to me”.

References:

Alfano, C. A., & McGlinchey, E. (2020). Editorial overview: Sleep, mental health and psychopathology. Current opinion in psychology, 34, iv–vi.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2020.04.003

Haim-Litevsky, D., Komemi, R., & Lipskaya-Velikovsky, L. (2023). Sense of Belonging, Meaningful Daily Life Participation, and Well-Being: Integrated Investigation. International journal of environmental research and public health, 20(5), 4121. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20054121

Jacka, F. N., O’Neil, A., Opie, R., Itsiopoulos, C., Cotton, S., Mohebbi, M., Castle, D., Dash, S., Mihalopoulos, C., Chatterton, M. L., Brazionis, L., Dean, O. M., Hodge, A. M., & Berk, M. (2017). A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC medicine, 15(1), 23. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y 

Smyth, J. M., Johnson, J. A., Auer, B. J., Lehman, E., Talamo, G., & Sciamanna, C. N. (2018). Online Positive Affect Journaling in the Improvement of Mental Distress and Well-Being in General Medical Patients With Elevated Anxiety Symptoms: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR mental health, 5(4), e11290. https://doi.org/10.2196/11290 

Ventriglio, A., Sancassiani, F., Contu, M. P., Latorre, M., Di Slavatore, M., Fornaro, M., & Bhugra, D. (2020). Mediterranean Diet and its Benefits on Health and Mental Health: A Literature Review. Clinical practice and epidemiology in mental health : CP & EMH, 16(Suppl-1), 156–164. https://doi.org/10.2174/1745017902016010156 

World Health Organisation (2024), https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2024/04/07/default-calendar/world-health-day-2024-my-health-my-right

 

Lisel Varley & AM Team

MsC., MoC. Member of: ACA, BACP

Please refer to the AM articles page for Elise and the AM Team articles.

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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.