6 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Improve Your Mental Health
Most of us take care of our physical health—watching what we eat, exercising regularly, and performing the maintenance the body needs to survive. At the same time, so many of us neglect our mental health, which is just as important.
A lot of the time, we think it requires a lot of effort, or we need the help of a professional, or we think that maintaining mental health is just for “crazy” people. But repairing and maintaining is for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be hard—let’s look at some simple ways you can improve your mental health.
Perceive Your Value
We tend to be our own worst critics, and negative self-talk can be disastrous for your mental well-being. Try something like writing down one positive interaction you had during the day, or performing one good deed every day.
Make time for hobbies that make you feel fulfilled, but don’t feel pressured if you don’t keep up with them. Keep track of the positive parts of your life, and slowly, you’ll start retrain your brain to focus on those aspects, rather than be overwhelmed by the negatives.
Donate Your Time
Maybe you roll your eyes when you hear people talk about the “warm fuzzies” you get from helping someone, but studies have shown that volunteering makes people feel less isolated and more socially connected.
Now it seems volunteering might also improve your physical health, lowering blood pressure and lengthening lifespan. Regardless of the personal benefits, volunteering is a fabulous choice because you’re helping others, and that has stress reduction benefits.
Find Your Coping Strategy
Preventative measures are all well and good, but when the stress gets too much, having a stress management technique you know works for you is vital. Meditation has proven stress-reduction benefits, including enhancing the benefits of professional therapy.
If meditation doesn’t work for you, there are numerous other activities that can help to bring your mind and body back in line with reality and alleviate your anxiety. Perhaps you find exercising helps you stop your stress symptoms, or taking a walk, or reading a book, or aromatherapy. You can check out this list of the best essential oils uses to select one to help reduce stress.
Even something as simple as smiling, no matter how much you don’t feel like it, can improve your mood by releasing “happiness hormones” dopamine and serotonin.
Care for Your Body
Mental health professionals will often tell you that everything biological is also psychological, and there’s some truth to that. Stress exacerbates diagnosed medical conditions, and severe stress can affect the body so completely as to mimic a serious illness; which, in all reality, stress itself is.
So when you find yourself in a particularly stressful time, be extra cognizant of what you’re doing to and putting into your body. Try to make time to exercise, eat well, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep. Sleep, especially, is important, as researchers have found connections between inadequate sleep and depression.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
Though substances may offer a temporary escape, that’s all they are: a band-aid. Once it falls off, you’re still left with an open wound.
Both drugs and alcohol can set you up to further your anxiety, altering your state of mind in unpredictable ways and possibly putting you in situations where you can create more difficulty for yourself. Instead, try giving your body nutritious meals and some tender loving care.
Surround Yourself with Positive People
When our mental health is at its lowest, we tend to close ourselves off. We retreat inside, where it feels safe. But this isolation only serves to further depression, as we realize we’re left with no one who we feel we can rely on.
Reach out to supportive family and friends or, if they’re the source of your anxiety, find new people who enrich your life. Join a club based around a hobby you enjoy, volunteer, or find a support group.
Life gets tough sometimes, but the key to pulling yourself out of a slump is knowing what’s beneficial and what’s detrimental. Following these tips is no miracle cure, though they can put you on the right path. If you find your anxiety or depression interfering with your daily life, always seek professional help.