Read about how you can improve your mental health by making changes to your diet, exercise, thoughts, sleep, and technology use.

6 Things You Didn’t Know Were Impacting Your Mental Health

September 12, 2023

Nearly everyone experiences some form of anxiety or depression at some point in their life. While situational depression or anxiety that lasts no longer than two weeks still impacts our mental health, it is when symptoms of anxiety and depression impact daily activities over a long period of time that it becomes a significant problem.

For some people experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, it’s not always clear what is prompting these feelings and physical symptoms. Let’s explore some of the most common things you might not realize can impact your mental health.

Factors That May Impact Your Mental Health

When discussing mental health, the conversation can easily steer toward solving symptoms with medication or talk therapy. Although these can be important solutions to overcoming symptoms of depression and anxiety, lifestyle changes can actually have an equally effective impact.

Here are six factors that may be impacting your mental health:

1. Diet

Did you know a healthy diet doesn’t just help you maintain an ideal weight and manage cholesterol? It also significantly impacts your brain. Food is fuel for your body, and it’s important to ingest high-quality foods with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to stay energized and keep your brain running optimally.

Excess consumption of low-quality foods—such as processed foods high in sugar, salt, and fat—can not only impair your body systems from running optimally, but also increase the risk of depression and anxiety.[i]

Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are three key neurotransmitters that brains rely on for positive mental health. Although several lifestyle approaches can help improve brain function, such as sunlight and exercise, proper nutrition is fundamental to brain health. 

2. Thought Patterns

Your thought patterns are powerful and have a significant impact on how you feel. Learning about the relationship between thoughts, beliefs, and emotions provides an incredible tool to improve mental health. 

Cognitive distortions are irrational thoughts that can affect everyone. These habitual errors in thinking can cause you to view reality in an inaccurate, often negative way. Cognitive distortions thus reinforce negative thought patterns and emotions, causing greater problems with relationships, unhelpful emotions, worsened depression and anxiety, and negative self-talk. However, you are not stuck with the distorted thoughts or their negative repercussions.

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps identify and correct cognitive distortions through four steps: 

  • Listen to internal thoughts.
  • Analyze thoughts to identify distortions. 
  • Reconstruct thought patterns and replace misbeliefs.
  • Practice listening, analyzing, and reconstructing. Change doesn’t happen automatically.

Cognitive behavioral therapy provides opportunities to honestly evaluate your thoughts. By replacing misbeliefs with true statements about yourself, you can develop self-compassion and significantly improve your life. 

3. Lack of Physical Activity

Exercising is one of the most effective ways to stay physically fit. But it can also significantly affect your mental health. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals in the brain—such as endorphins and brain-derived neurotrophic factor—increasing feelings of happiness. However, a lack of exercise leads to a deficiency of these chemicals, potentially resulting in feelings of anxiety and depression. You might also develop a negative self-image from being sedentary, leading to low self-esteem.

It can be difficult to feel motivated to exercise when experiencing depression and anxiety. On top of that, if exercise is unfamiliar to you, it can be tough to know where to start. 

So start small! You don’t need to join a gym right away, nor do you need to run several miles every day. Instead, aim for something you can do consistently. Begin by going for a brisk walk during your lunch break or after work. Slowly work your way up from a short walk to a 20-30 minute walk. Eventually, you can reach the exercise ideal of practicing aerobic exercise for 30-60 minutes, five days a week.

4. Sleep

Sleep is essential to get through our days. It’s an extended break for the body, allowing for cellular repair, energy replenishment, hormone regulation, and more. However, not everyone achieves the recommended amount of sleep, which can lead to depression and anxiety, problems concentrating, changes in weight and appetite, and more. 

But this doesn’t only happen if you get less than the recommended amount of sleep—oversleeping can also harm your health. Sleeping more than nine hours a night can lead to sluggishness and negative impacts on your mental and physical health.[ii]

However, getting high-quality sleep every night is easier said than done. Although it can take time and patience to develop a healthy sleep schedule, the following tips can help:

  • Go to bed and wake up at a consistent time.
  • Maintain the same sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends.
  • Avoid large meals for at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol and caffeine before bed.
  • Avoid strenuous workouts right before bed.
  • Shut down artificial blue light from cell phones and TVs before bedtime.
  • Stay physically active during the day.
  • Use your bedroom solely for sleeping, resting, and relaxing.
  • Keep a sleep journal that details how you feel in the morning to reinforce good sleep habits. 

5. Mental Exhaustion

Mental exhaustion occurs when you are overwhelmed and drained from enduring long-term stress. Mental exhaustion is commonly caused by high-pressure work environments, poor work-life balance, financial stress, parenthood, grief, and other stressors. 

When you suffer from mental exhaustion, tasks may seem insurmountable. You may also experience feelings of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, dread, and a lack of motivation. Common physical symptoms include headaches, stomach pains, body aches, trouble sleeping, and increased or decreased appetite. 

To overcome mental exhaustion, allow yourself time to rest, get more sleep, stick with a physical fitness routine, and practice cognitive behavioral therapy. For many, stressors are directly related to work and income, which are necessary for livelihood. If you’re struggling to set boundaries around working hours or with coworkers, speaking with a therapist can help you approach these conversations effectively.

6. Technology Addiction 

Also known as digital addictions or internet addictions, technology addictions include addictions to gaming, social media, entertainment television or streaming, online gambling, pornography, and online shopping. These addictions are often overlooked due to societal acceptance of digital devices. They are not viewed as acute or deadly, like addictions to drugs or alcohol.

However, studies have shown that technology addiction can contribute to neurological, psychological, and social problems. In one study, frequent use of information technology was shown to assist in overcoming moods, managing psychological states, and delaying the initiation of sleep.[ii] 

Being unable to moderate or abstain from technology, neglecting important areas of life in favor of technological use, and losing interest in leisure activities that were once enjoyed are all signs of possible technology addiction. 

Treating technology addiction starts with an individual’s awareness of the problem and desire to get help. Although some cases could greatly benefit from working with a therapist or addiction counselor, individuals who are motivated to resolve the issue themselves can start by:

  • Implementing Wi-Fi and app restrictions.
  • Physically separating from devices.
  • Turning off notifications and setting devices to “do not disturb.”
  • Monitoring screen time reports.
  • Enabling time limits on apps.

As with the other factors we have discussed, technology addiction can also be addressed in a mental health education program. 

How the Nedley Depression and Anxiety Recovery ProgramTM Can Help

Mental health education programs, such as the Nedley Depression and Anxiety Recovery ProgramTM (NDARP), teach participants practical interventions and tools they can use every day to achieve optimal mental health. 

The programs also focus on nutrition, exercise, positive thinking, and other topics to help with the lesser-known causes of depression and anxiety we discussed above.

Through the NDARP, you can choose from three different programs:

  • The community program focuses on the underlying and contributing causes of depression and anxiety so a lasting cure can be found via evidence-based information, practical interventions, useful tools, supportive volunteer staff, and group accountability.
  • The residential program features a 10-day stay led by a team of highly qualified lifestyle medicine experts who are dedicated to identifying the root causes of your depression and the right solutions for lasting recovery.
  • The online program provides many of the same benefits and structure as the community program, but it can be accessed from anywhere at any time.  

Are you ready to experience long-lasting recovery from depression and anxiety? Find out which program is right for you.


[i] Godos, J., Bonaccio, M., et al. (2023). Ultra-Processed Food Consumption and Depressive Symptoms in a Mediterranean Cohort. Nutrients, 15(3), 504.

[ii] Lawler, M. (n.d.). Are You Sleeping Too Much? Here’s How to Tell (and Why It Can Be Risky).

[iii] Das, A., Sharma, M. K., Thamilselvan, P., & Marimuthu, P. (2017). Technology addiction among treatment seekers for psychological problems: Implication for screening in mental health setting. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 39(1), 21–27.

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