4 tips for maintaining good mental health

July 28, 2015

There are many things we can do to maintain sound mental health, keep depression from settling in or simply help us go through more difficult times in our lives.

4 tips for maintaining good mental health

With age, exuberance and excitement get replaced by a more subtle but deeper joy. We have families and friends we love, meaningful jobs, hobbies and vacations that provide real pleasure, accumulated wisdom that gives us a sense of value. But for millions of people, the path of life occasionally leads to depression. Here's how you can cope.

1. Eat a bowl of fortified breakfast cereal or take a multivitamin every day

This will ensure you consume the recommended amount (400 micrograms) of folate, an important B vitamin that may help to lift depression.

  • Folate and other B vitamins help to maintain nerve and blood cells, used in brain reactions and essential for the production and function of a number of mood-boosting brain chemicals.
  • In one study, participants with the lowest folate consumption were at the highest risk of depression.
  • Another study found that this vitamin helps to enhance the effectiveness of antidepressant medication.
  • Another good source? Avocados. They're one of the richest plant sources of B vitamins.

2. Get a 12-minute massage three times a week

It doesn't have to cost a lot. Whether you pay a professional or ask a partner or friend to rub your back, the result is the same: a natural mood boost.

  • In a study of depressed dialysis patients, participants who received a 12-minute massage three times a week were less depressed than those who didn't get the soothing rub.
  • Another study of 84 depressed pregnant women found that those who received two 20 minute massages a week from their partners reduced their incidence of depression by 70 per cent.
  • Researchers suspect that massage boosts serotonin levels (which jumped by 17 per cent in the women who received twice-weekly massages) and reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

3. Pull an all-nighter

Staying up all night for one night – and therefore depriving yourself of sleep – has been shown to lift depression for as long as a month.

  • Although researchers aren't sure why it works, they speculate that one night of sleep deprivation may reset the sleep clock, enabling people who are depressed to sleep better.

4. Eat a bowl of whole-grain cereal

When you consume high-carbohydrate foods like cereal, you encourage the amino acid tryptophan to flood your brain, boosting serotonin levels.

  • A slice of whole-wheat bread and honey will also produce the same effect.
  • Why the emphasis on whole grains? White flour provides similar benefits, but the effects wear off quickly, taking you from peak to trough in an hour or so.
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