Ours isn’t always the healthiest country. The United States has an obesity epidemic, and experts say that poor diets are also causing people to become sick in disproportionate numbers. But at least we notice, and at least we care. Americans spend lots of time and even more money trying to become healthier and thinner. In fact, the weight loss industry brought in a jaw-dropping $72.7 billion in 2018.

But our ongoing quest to become healthier is too one-dimensional. While many of us are hitting the gym and trying to diet, far too few of us are taking stock of our mental health and paying attention to our needs with therapy and other mental health care options. Are you among the many Americans who are neglecting their mental health needs? If so, it’s time to take action.

A neglected part of your overall health picture

For many reasons, our consciousness and care of mental health lag behind those of physical health. Among them is the stigma that, unfortunately, still surrounds mental health issues in our society. Nobody wants to feel “crazy,” and too many of us assume that mental health treatments such as therapy are only useful to those with serious mental health issues.

But that’s not true, and failing to realize it is costing us. The mental health crisis in our country is as real as the obesity epidemic, and the consequences of poor mental health are serious. Mental health issues can do everything from cause you physical pain to put you at increased risk of death by suicide.

Your mental health overhaul

The good news is that once you realize that you’ve been neglecting your mental health, you can do something about it. By paying more attention to your mental health and to your health as a whole, you can become happier and healthier.

It starts with some of the same things that Americans are already trying to do to benefit their physical health. Because physical health and mental health are closely related, staying fit, trim, and well-nourished can help your mind even as it helps your body. But be sure that you’re focused on nutrition and health, not just on weight loss. Calorie-deprivation diets are unhealthy and ineffective. You want a balanced diet full of whole foods, especially nutrient-rich vegetables. Combine that with exercise — which gives you long-term mental health benefits by improving your health, plus the short-term mood boost that comes with the release of endorphins — and you have a recipe for a healthier mind.

But what you do on your own isn’t going to be enough. Just as you visit your doctor regularly for physical checkups, you should make sure that professional mental health care is a part of your mental health plan. Make the time to see a therapist or psychologist, or turn to a psychiatrist. Finding a mental health care provider is easier than ever. You could look online using a service like With Therapy, which connects clients and therapists. Or you could speak to your primary care provider about a referral.

If you keep your mental health on your mind and take basic steps to get help and create a healthier life, you’ll find that your mood and thinking can improve significantly. Caring for your mental health won’t always be easy, but sticking with it will improve your life. Keep checking in on yourself with self-evaluations, and treat yourself to mental breaks (take those vacation days, for example). Eat right, exercise, and call your therapist. You’re going to do great.