Five tips for maintaining a healthy mind and a happy heart

I recently attended a panel discussion hosted by the University of Waterloo on Mental Health and Racism. Featured on the panel were three extremely accomplished and educated individuals: Dr. Sherene Rezack, Dr. Kwame Mckenzie and Patrick Case. Dr. Mckenzie the CEO of the Wellesley Institute and an avid activist for race equality and mental wellness spoke about the intriguing idea of Mental Capital. He described this idea as the equation that makes up our ability to be prosperous human beings.

The rationale is that your cognitive ability/intelligence quotient (IQ) + your emotional intelligence/emotional quotient (EQ) = your mental health. Without a society that has sound emotional intelligence, social skills and resilience, he claims that major progress in innovation or prosperity is very difficult to accomplish. Although intelligence is crucial and valued in our culture, especially on campus, Dr. McKenzie emphasises the importance of prioritising our overall mental health.

Nurturing and prioritising our mental health is integral to our success as students, both personally and academically.

Inspired by this theory of Mental Capital, here are five tips for maintaining a healthy mind and happy heart:

Tip 1: Call someone you love

Whether it’s a family member, a significant other or a friend, nothing brushes away the cobwebs of the soul like a good heart to heart with someone who cares about you. Let them know what you’re experiencing.

There are also plenty of mental health services that provide free, immediate and confidential support over the phone, such as Good2Talk or Here24/7. They will provide immediate support and connect you with professionals who will be able to help you with your specific needs.

Tip 2: Get your blood pumping   

Yes, going to the gym is an effective and efficient way to achieve this step but I know that going to the gym regularly is not for everyone. Fear not, because there plenty of other ways to break a sweat.

Whether it is dancing your heart out to your favourite song alone in your room or having a snowball fight in your back yard there are plenty of alternatives. In fact, doing some sort of physical activity for as little as 20 minutes a day is proven to increase blood flow in the brain. This helps with memory, energy levels and the amount of endorphins our body produces, which we know to be the happy chemical.

Plus for my ladies and gents out there that love a good highlight, sweat is the natural gift that can add a little pop to those cheek bones.

Tip 3: Eat dark chocolate 

Although this tip may slightly contradict our previous nugget of wisdom, I know none of you are complaining about it. Dark chocolate contains a large amount of magnesium, which has been dubbed the “original chill pill”. This essential mineral not only tastes great but also reduces stress by suppressing the release of the fight-or-flight hormone, cortisol. Enough said.chocolate boy

Tip 4: Unleash your creative side 

This can range anywhere from writing a full-blown play to colouring in a sketchbook. Not only will activating the right side of your brain, which is synonymous with our creative capacities allow for a small healthy distraction, you never know what masterpiece could come out of it.

Tip 5: Seek professional help or join a support group on campus 

There are many well-established services and on-campus support groups that are available to all students: Counselling Services holds drop-in sessions Monday to Friday.

Another useful on campus resource is the one to one peer support group named UWaterloo MATES. MATES is a campus peer group that offers services to aid those who are experiencing mental health concerns, social barriers in their everyday interactions or facing transitioning challenges. They are also hold drop in sessions Monday to Friday.

Also run by Health Services is the Healthy Minds program. Their focus is to run sessions that equip students with the proper tools to deal with stress, depression, anxiety and more.

Last, but certainly not least, the Glow Center is an all-inclusive space on campus that facilitates a space safe for all students to come and discuss issues ranging anywhere from mental health to sexuality.

Tip 6: Practice positivity 

Creating and maintaining a positive mind set can be very helpful in reducing stress and improving your overall mental health. One way to build a positive mind set, is to engage in positive self-talk.

You can engage in positive self-talk by writing a list of positive affirmations to help direct your thinking and how you are feeling. Posting this list somewhere visible or reading it yourself every night before you go to bed can help you remember how far you have come and how much you have to offer - and to help remind yourself of the wonderful aspects about yourself!

Don't forget to tweet tomorrow! #BellLetsTalk Day takes place on January 25, 2017. Stay tuned for our article highlighting student involvement in the #BellLetsTalk Campaign. 

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