/sites/assets/Assets/Article%20Images/make-fitness-fun.jpg?Width=970&Height=405

The brain is the most powerful and complex organ in the body. Your mental health does not only control your consciousness, it determines your physical being and the way your body functions.

Life is rarely as smooth sailing as we would like it to be and we often face disappointment, stress, grief and negativity.

According to Adjunct Associate Professor Daniel Fung , chairman of the Medicinal Board at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), the average life expectancy of Singaporeans is about 82 years. But those with mental illness die about 20 years earlier than the general population.

So how can we strengthen our mental well-being? Here are 10 essentials that can help boost your mental wellness.

1. Get Sufficient Sleep — a Minimum of 8 Hours Daily

A lack of sleep can damage your well-being and overall quality of life. Having proper sleep not only reduces stress but it also makes you more alert and aware. It improves your memory too — sufficient sleep helps your brain to process and retain information long term, and solidify memories.

2. Have a Healthy Diet Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, reduce the risk of dementia and mental decline. A healthy gut leads to a healthy mind. Having a balanced and nutritious diet is a natural defence against stress. Start your day right with a nutritious breakfast and try to maintain balanced meals throughout the day. Include foods like whole grain cereal, vegetables and fruit.

3. Keep Active — 30 Minutes of Exercise Three Times a Week

Exercising not only keeps you physically strong but it also keeps you mentally alert and reduces stress. When you exercise, you can think better, allowing you to be more efficient and productive. Try doing yoga, signing up for Zumba, or go for a slow walk in the park. Exercise is good but remember that it is advised to do moderate exercise more regularly than engage in heavy workouts on an ad hoc basis.

4. Interact and Socialise — Talk to Another Person for at Least 10 Minutes Daily

Talking and interacting with others stimulates your brain. It allows your brain to work faster and think faster. Studies  have shown that talking to someone for just 10 minutes a day can provide the same boost to memory as some brain games.

5. Pick up a New Skill or Hobby

It’s never too late to pick up a new skill and it might be beneficial for you. Learning new skills such as playing the piano, acquiring a new set of computer skills and playing games can stimulate brain and nerve cells, keeping your brain refreshed.

6. Engage in a Mental Workout — Scrabble or Mahjong Anyone?

Playing strategic and mind-stretching games not only involves memory work, but it also involves decision-making and strategising. This helps keep the brain working, preventing illnesses such as dementia. In addition, playing in groups will boost greater interaction.

7. Do Something for Others

Doing community work or helping a friend or family member allows you to take the focus away from yourself. This, in return, makes you feel more empowered and included.

8. Learn How to Manage Stress — Shift your Mindset and Make a List

Stress cannot be avoided but you can learn how to better manage it. Setting goals and checking them off when you’ve completed them helps to tackle large-scale tasks one step at a time. Positivity is key — try seeing problems as opportunities that can help to reduce stress.

9. Avoid Vices such as Alcohol, Drugs and Cigarettes

If you’re having emotional problems, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs are not the solution. They provide only temporary relief from stress and unhappiness. Ideally, you can seek help and comfort from family or friends, or you can consider seeking professional help.

10. Laugh!

Laughter can relieve tension and reduce stress . Humour activates the brain’s reward and pleasure centres, generating positive emotions and relaxing the mind, which is good for your mental well-being. Laugh yourself silly and have fun whenever you can!