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6 Habits to Improve Mental Health

May 05, 2015

6 Habits to Improve Mental Health

Ray Kotwicki, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer, Skyland Trail

Cardiovascular and strength training exercises help physical conditioning and also contribute to better mood and anxiety control.

Adults require as close to 8 hours of sleep per night as possible. Sleeping more than 9 hours can trigger depression in certain people, and less than 7 can contribute to mania in others. Sleep also is essential to learning. Instead of cramming for exams, students should pace their studying and invest in a good night’s rest before the big test.

Social support is one of the best predictors of good mental health. Enjoying time with loved ones (face to face; not on your phone or the Internet) is the best medicine of all.

Eat well.
Foods that sustain - rather than spike - blood sugar levels keep your energy and vitality going throughout the day. Avoid “empty” calories from foods that contain refined sugars (like soda or desserts) and choose snacks with lean proteins and healthy fats (like avocado, nuts, or fish).

Looking beyond yourself and focusing on others yields the bonus of being good for the giver. Help a friend, volunteer for a worthy cause, or donate to community organizations making a difference in your community.

Manage stress.
Engage in activities that help you develop skills to tolerate stress and give you confidence to set limits. Try meditation, or join a peer support group. Practice your skills, especially in times when you need to say “no” when others want you to say “yes”.

Remember that mental illnesses are medical problems that often require treatment led by a mental health professional. If you experience symptoms of a mood, thought, or anxiety disorder that significantly impact your day-to-day activities, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional for an assessment. If you currently are participating in outpatient therapy without an improvement in your symptoms, consider a higher level of voluntary care like day treatment or residential treatment.


Ray Kotwicki, MD, MPH

Charles B. West Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Ray Kotwicki is the Charles B. West Chief Medical Officer of Skyland Trail. Located in Atlanta, Skyland Trail is a nationally recognized nonprofit mental health treatment organization serving adults ages 18 and older. For 26 years, Skyland Trail has been inspiring people with mental illnesses to thrive through a holistic program of evidence-based psychiatric treatment, integrated medical care, research and education. Before joining Skyland Trail as full time chief medical officer, Dr. Kotwicki served as an associate professor the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University’s School of Medicine, and as an associate professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. He remains on adjunctive faculty at the Emory University School of Medicine, as well as at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Dr. Kotwicki is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and has been elected an officer of the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians’ Association. Dr. Kotwicki received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Wisconsin Medical School, and completed post-graduate training at Harvard Medical School, the Boston University School of Medicine, and Emory University, where he also earned a Master’s degree in public health.