Healthy Lifestyle

You may know that factors such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep can benefit your physical health. But those same practices can help your mental health, too.

Research suggests environmental factors can cause mental health impacts. According to a report in Neurospychiatric Diseases and Treatment, unhealthy lifestyles — poor diet, and lack of exercise and sleep — can have a negative effect on mental health. In the opposite direction, healthy habits can benefit both your physical and mental well-being.

Daily Routine Health Benefits
A 2022 study done at the University of Pittsburgh and published online in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that patterns of activity are important for healthy aging and mental health. Findings showed that older adults who consistently rose early and remained active throughout the day were happier and performed better on cognitive tests than those with irregular activity patterns.

The study seems to show that following the same routine each day is beneficial for older adults, and that making intentional changes to one’s daily routine could improve health and wellness.

Other health benefits of daily routines include:

  • Reduced depression.
  • Improved cognitive function.
  • Better sleep.
  • Improved self-esteem.
  • Richer sense of happiness.

“There is a definite connection between mind and body,” says Jennifer Beckjord, PsyD, senior director, Clinical Services, UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. “In order to maintain overall wellness, we need to take care of both mind and body.”

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How to Create a Healthy Routine

Everyday habits can have an effect on both our physical and mental health. Following a healthy routine can be positive for your overall well-being.

A well-rounded, healthy routine should cover several different factors:

  • Diet: Consuming a diet high in sugars, unhealthy fats, and sodium can lead to obesity and related conditions, such as heart disease. Your brain also needs the right nutrients. Try following a diet that includes all five major food groups — grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy – and is low in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat. Make sure to eat the right number of calories for your age and fitness level.
  • Exercise: The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-level cardio activity each week for physical health. But fitness can help our minds, too. Studies show that regular exercise can improve your mood and lessen the effects of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and stress.
  • Sleep: Sleep deprivation and/or fatigue often is a symptom of and associated with mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you may need to examine your sleep habits. Try to stick to a sleep schedule, keep your room at a comfortable temperature, and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and electronics before going to bed.
  • Unhealthy substances: Alcohol, drugs, and nicotine are stressors that can affect your mental health. Limit your use of these substances.

Daily Routine Examples

Adopting healthy daily routines doesn’t have to be hard. Here are a few easy ideas to start out with. By adding good habits over time, you’ll be building positive routines that will serve your body and mind for a lifetime.

  1. Eat more fruits and veggies.
  2. Move your body more.
  3. Eat earlier in the day.
  4. Don’t skip breakfast.
  5. Drink more water.
  6. Add more sleep.
  7. Quit smoking.
  8. Put away your devices.
  9. Practice gratitude .
  10. Try something new!
  11. Build some muscle.
  12. Get outside—take a walk in nature!

How to Keep a Healthy Routine

It can take months for an activity to become a habit. But if you keep working at it, eventually you can build a healthy routine.

  • Start slow: Examine your current routine when you decide to begin a new one. Aim to improve in small increments, increasing the size of the steps as you become more comfortable. “Assess what’s working well and what needs to change, and then take it from there,” Dr. Beckjord says. “You can set small, achievable goals for yourself in terms of swapping out not-so-great habits for better ones.”
  • Be patient: Don’t expect a radical transformation overnight. Creating routines and becoming healthier both physically and mentally can take time. “I think it can be easy to get frustrated and give up because it’s hard to build healthy habits,” Dr. Beckjord says. “It takes patience, it takes work, it takes practice, and it takes time.”
  • Celebrate small victories: Make sure you recognize achievements along the way, even if they seem small on the surface, such as an extra few minutes of exercise, or a further distance.
  • Don’t beat yourself up: If you miss a day of exercise, have a bad night of sleep, or slip in your diet, don’t let that cause you extra anguish. Creating a healthy routine doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. Just try to do your best.
  • Plan ahead: Depending on your work or family schedule, you may need to find the time to get out and exercise. Planning out your day — when you’ll exercise, what you’ll eat, and when you’ll sleep — can make it easier to follow your routine.
  • Don’t do it alone: Following a routine can be difficult on your own, so enlist family members, friends, co-workers, or others to join you. You can track each other’s progress and hold each other accountable.
  • Take a break: If something is causing you a negative mental impact, like anxiety, sometimes stepping away for a few moments can be helpful. “Doing simple things like spending a couple minutes outside and getting a breath of fresh air can make a huge difference,” Dr. Beckjord says.

Healthy routines are important for mental and physical health. For more information, call UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital at 1-877-624-4100 or 412-624-1000.

You may know how much factors such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep can benefit your physical health. But those same practices can help your mental health, too.

Research suggests environmental factors can cause mental health impacts. According to a report in Neurospychiatric Diseases and Treatment, unhealthy lifestyles — lacking diet, exercise, and sleep — can have a negative effect on people’s mental health. In the opposite direction, healthy habits can benefit both your physical and mental well-being.

“There is a definite connection between mind and body,” says Jennifer Beckjord, PsyD, senior director, Clinical Services, UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. “In order to maintain overall wellness, we need to take care of both mind and body.”

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Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

Sources

American Mental Wellness Association, Staying Healthy. https://www.americanmentalwellness.org/prevention/staying-healthy/

Matteo Briguglio, et al, Neurospychiatric Diseases and Treatment, Healthy Eating, Physical Activity, and Sleep Hygiene (HEPAS) as the Winning Triad for Sustaining Physical and Mental Health in Patients at Risk for or with Neuropsychiatric Disorders: Considerations for Clinical Practice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6955623/#!po=46.6102

Harvard Health Publishing, Sleep and Mental Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health

HelpGuide, The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm

Mental Health America, Creating Healthy Routines. https://mhanational.org/creating-healthy-routines#1

National Sleep Foundation, How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? https://mhanational.org/creating-healthy-routines#1

About UPMC Western Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is the hub of UPMC Behavioral Health, a network of community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to people of all ages with mental health conditions. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We are here to help at every stage of your care and recovery.