Mental wellness, which includes thoughts, feelings, and social interactions, is vital to overall health.
Checking in and caring for your mental wellness should be part of your daily self-care routine.
Sleep, nutrition, and exercise play a role in promoting mental wellness, as well as physical well-being.
Mindfulness and gratitude practices are quick ways to support mental and emotional wellness.
The month of May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness, but your mental wellness is a cornerstone of your overall well-being that deserves attention all year round.
What is mental wellness, and why is mental health awareness important? Mental wellness is one of those elusive terms that can mean something different to everyone. In a broad sense, it’s the state of your thoughts and feelings.
A healthy lifestyle encompasses the body, mind, and spirit, and those three areas are interconnected and work in synergy. It’s tough for your physical body to reach peak performance and wellness if your mental wellness is left unattended.
One of the best ways to enhance mental wellness is with daily self-care habits that support your individual needs and goals. Just as nutrition and exercise are lifestyle habits that help you reach health goals, caring for your mental wellness is a lifelong practice.
What Is Mental Health?
Your mental health includes your psychological, emotional, and social well-being.  When your mental wellness is in good shape, it positively affects how you think and feel, which impacts the energy you bring to your day. Your productivity at work, interest in hobbies, how you communicate in relationships, and ability to make choices to support your physical health are directly tied to mental wellness.
Long to-do lists and responsibilities can take priority over caring for the internal workings of your thoughts and feelings. However, prioritizing daily habits that support your mental well-being ensures you’re able to keep showing up for the things and people that matter most.
Mental wellness habits are a form of self-care, and many practices that enhance mental wellness also support full-body well-being.
Here are five tips to incorporate into your routine to bring awareness to thought patterns and emotions, help you manage stress, and/or promote feelings of relaxation, connectedness, and satisfaction.
1. Make quality sleep a non-negotiable.
It may be tempting to stay up late to finish your to-do list or unwind after a busy day with shows and social media, but burning the midnight oil keeps you from getting the rest you need for good health. Getting enough sleep supports mental wellbeing, energy levels, and cognition.  Most adults need 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.
If your sleep routine could use a deep clean, try powering down electronics at least one hour before bedtime, getting to bed around the same time each night, and monitoring your caffeine intake.
If you find it hard to fall asleep, plan a relaxing activity such as taking a bath or reading, to do before bed. Melatonin, a sleep supplement, can be used occasionally to support your body’s natural melatonin levels to help you fall asleep faster and support restful sleep.†
Carving out a few minutes each day for deep breathing or meditation can strengthen your connection with your innermost self and help quiet your mind, relax your body, and create a sense of calm. Mindfulness activities work by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our relaxation response. 
Just under 15 minutes a day of guided meditation has been found to benefit mood, cognitive function, and emotional health.  Mindfulness apps, meditative music, and breathwork exercises are widely available and easily accessible so you can practice wherever and whenever is most convenient.
3. Eat a nutritious breakfast.
Enjoying a nutrient-dense meal at the start of your day can set the stage for enhanced mood, focus, energy, and healthy choices all day long. Research has found eating breakfast benefits emotional and mental wellbeing.  Protein, fiber, and healthy fat are a satisfying breakfast combination that provides sustained energy to your body and mind.
Meal planning and prepping simple make-ahead meals the night before can make it easier to stick to healthy options for breakfast. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Plain Greek yogurt with berries and hemp seeds
Overnight oats mixed with sliced banana, chia seeds, and walnuts
Whole grain toast topped with avocado and hard boiled eggs
Protein shake blended with frozen fruit and peanut butter
Giving thanks for the blessings in your life helps cultivate positivity, happiness, and satisfaction.  Expressing gratitude challenges you to focus on the good and acknowledge all the things, big or small, that are going right in life. Practicing gratitude is a lot like exercising your muscles — the more you do it, the stronger your ability to find joy, positivity, and abundance becomes.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a popular practice that only requires a few minutes a day. Try jotting down a few things you’re grateful for as part of your morning or evening routine. Your list doesn’t have to be profound or lengthy, it just has to be true for you. You can express thanks for the companionship of a pet, a beautiful sunrise, a delicious meal, or an uplifting phone call with a friend.
The human body is designed to move and daily movement offers a long list of benefits for mental, emotional, and physical wellness. Exercise triggers the release of feel-good endorphins that help support mood, energy levels, and management of everyday worries and stressors.  
You don’t have to be an athlete or a gym buff to enjoy physical activity. Walking in nature, dancing to a favorite playlist, stretching, swimming, or participating in recreational sports all count as exercise. The important thing is to choose several activities you enjoy and regularly make time for them. If you can, take your physical activity outside on sunny days so your body can produce Vitamin D. 
The Bottom Line
Mental wellness is an important part of total body health and contributes to overall well-being. Mental Health Awareness Month is a great time to take stock of your current routine and see where you can make small changes that can positively support your thoughts, feelings, behavior, and relationships.
Incorporating mental wellness habits, like meditation and a gratitude practice, into your daily routine can help give your head and heart the TLC they need to thrive. When mind and body are working in harmony, you can put your best foot forward for all the activities and people you love.
If you need additional support, speak with a trusted healthcare provider for mental health resources.
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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Sharon Lehman, RD is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a health writer. She specializes in intuitive eating, recipe development, food photography, and hormone health. She shares healthy living tips and recipes on her blog www.heartandstove.com
Kalyn is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and a Science & Health Educator with the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. Her experience in the field of nutrition prior to joining Pharmavite has included community and public health education, media dietetics, and clinical practice in the areas of disordered eating, diabetes, women’s health, and general wellness. Kalyn received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Arizona State University in Phoenix, Arizona, and completed her dietetic supervised practice in Maricopa County, AZ, with an emphasis on public health. Kalyn is certified in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where she is an active member in addition to memberships in Dietitians in Functional Medicine, Women’s Health Dietitians, and the International Federation of Eating Disorder Dietitians.