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Last Updated on February 17, 2022 by Randy Withers, LCMHC
Many of us pay close attention to our physical health. We watch what we eat, get exercise, and visit our doctors for routine check-ups.
But how many of us make mental health a priority as well? How many of us engage in self-care?
What are you doing to boost your mental health?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and one in five U.S. adults will experience a mental illness in a given year.
Mental disorders are far more common than you think. No one is immune.
We have to take steps to protect our mental health. As a society, we are overworked, underpaid, disconnected, and lonely.
Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to boost your mental health. Here are five actionable ways to show some love to yourself every single day.
1. Express Gratitude
The next time you’re feeling bummed out by what you feel is missing from your life, practice giving thanks to what you already have.
At least one study shows clear benefits from expressing gratitude. Researchers followed a group that regularly expressed gratitude.
What they found was that the participants reported strong feelings of optimism and a desire to become a better version of themselves.
In short, expressions of gratitude fosters positive emotions and changes our way of thinking.
It’s easy to start feeling grateful. You can write down five things you’re grateful for every day and reflect on them for a moment. They don’t have to be “huge” things—if you can walk, see, hear, and have clean running water and a place to live then your list is already complete.
An attitude of gratitude changes the way you see the world.
2. Get Moving
Those feel-good endorphins are not a fabrication; a 2017 study discovered that one hour of exercise per week is enough physical activity to ward off future depression.
Physical activity increases circulation and defuses stress, which helps us feel better.
And exercising with other people—including playing in a team sport—may enhance exercise’s effect as you’re socializing with others and working towards a goal together.
Something as simple as taking a quick walk around the neighborhood or jumping rope during a commercial break can contribute towards daily exercise.
Start by taking a brisk walk for 20 minutes every day. You’ll notice that your mood has gotten better.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Insomnia and compromised mental health can feed one another, creating a harmful cycle that is hard to break.
It can be difficult at times to determine which came first, but it’s clear that there’s a link between not sleeping well and an increased risk of having an anxiety disorder or depression.
Not getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night also slows down our cognitive ability and reaction time. It also causes our appetite-regulating hormones to go out of whack (which makes us consume more calories), and leaves us with no energy to exercise or enjoy what we love to do.
“It would be great to have a relaxing ritual into one’s schedule (preferably before bedtime),” said Alex Savy, a sleep science coach and founder of SleepingOcean. For example, this can help readers reduce their stress levels in the evening and, thus, sleep better. They can journal, read something neutral (it’s a no-no for scary stories), take a warm shower or bath, do self-massage, stretch, meditate, paint, and so on.
Establish a bedtime routine to help you fall asleep faster.
4. Take a Break
Everyone needs a breather on busy days, whether at the office or running errands, particularly when things get stressful.
If necessary, go sit in your car or find another private space and focus on your breathing for five minutes. Mindfulness meditation can be effective at reducing depression and anxiety.
Breaks are an excellent form of self-care and an incredible way to boost your mental health. Never feel guilty about taking them.
We all have limitations. Knowing what they are and how to overcome them is a strength, not a weakness.
5. Create Art
They call it art therapy for a reason—at least two studies show that creating art improves mood, reduces depression and anxiety, and can even help people tolerate pain better.
Whether you’re into painting or making jewelry, getting creative takes the mind off your troubles and focused on something positive.
Plus, it’s an amazing confidence booster when you make something with your own hands. It’s also a great way to spend your free time as opposed to going on social media, which may be harming your mental health.
6. Bonus Tip: Talk To a Professional
The benefits of talk-therapy is clear.
The vast majority of people who work with a licensed therapist report that it is tremendously beneficial. They see a decrease in their symptoms, an increase in coping skills, and a desire to affect positive change.
Online counseling is convenient, affordable, and confidential. You’ll have virtually unlimited access to a licensed therapist by phone, video, or chat. It’s an excellent way to boost your mental health.
How to Put Your Mental Health First
Knowledge is power when managing your mental health.
If you struggle with depression and anxiety, it’s important to learn all you can about those conditions. Only then can you learn to manage them.
But knowledge is not enough. You have to take steps to boost your mental health daily.
Self-care is the name of the game. Anything you do to nourish your emotional, physical, or psychological needs is self-care.
You probably don’t even need to do a bunch of different things, either. The trick is always to find what works for you.
If you are not sure where to begin, review the five steps mentioned above and go from there.
And if you have any tips, please leave them in the comments below.
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