One in five American adults experience a form of mental illness each year. While struggles with mental health are common, that doesn’t make them any less daunting. Stressful situations such as global pandemics, job loss, and relationship conflict can have a negative impact on your overall happiness and life satisfaction. Just like your physical health, it’s wise to invest time and effort into remaining mentally and emotionally healthy. No matter your current status, here are a few ways you can support and even improve your mental health.
1. Choose gratitude
Spend a few minutes a day reflecting on things in your life that you’re thankful for. Study after study has found that expressing gratitude can lead to increased optimism, greater happiness, closer relationships, and even fewer visits to the doctor. A gratitude journal is a great starting point.
It sounds like a no-brainer, right? Helping others can bring you happiness.
Not only do we all know that from experience, but research has confirmed it’s true. People who volunteer consistently experience better mental health than those who volunteer rarely or not at all. Volunteering creates positive feelings and helps you build connections with others.
3. Make a healthy choice
If you’re looking to improve your mental health, consider just one healthy choice you can make throughout the day. Your mental health and physical health are closely linked, so supporting your physical health by staying active, hydrated, and well-nourished is vital. However, trying to revamp your entire lifestyle can ultimately lead to disappointment when you don’t follow through on all of the changes.
Making one healthy switch is the perfect way to begin better supporting your mental health. One switch is easy to maintain, and it’s enough to have a massive impact. Here are a few ideas:
- hit snooze one less time in the morning and walk laps around your home for 10 minutes
- drink a glass of water before your coffee
- trade your sugary afternoon snack for a piece of fruit
- on pizza night, order a lighter option instead of the pizza loaded down with heavy meats and lots of cheese
4. Hit the pause button
There are times in life when overwhelming emotions come in waves. There’s no predicting when the next swell will hit, but it feels like it’s never going to stop. In those moments— step away. Take some time to collect yourself and your thoughts. That could mean watching a five-minute YouTube video or taking a mental health day at work.
Be willing to prioritize yourself and your needs to ensure that you are in a healthy place internally.
5. Spend time with loved ones
Your friends and family want to see you happy, and spending time with them is a great way to improve your mental health. Loved ones can help diminish your stress and prevent you from choosing negative coping behaviors like smoking, binge eating, or using drugs.
Let’s be honest, though. There are some people in our lives who leave us drained and exhausted after we see them. When you need an emotional boost, make plans with someone who is sure to lift your mood instead of bringing it down.
6. Move your body every day
Physical movement is an often overlooked but key aspect of mental health. Benefits include improved self-esteem, reduced anxiety and depression, and less social withdrawal.
Set a goal for 30 minutes of activity every day. If your focus is on improving your mental health through movement, we recommend going for a walk while you listen to your latest podcast or audiobook. Rainy day laps around your home definitely count! Of course, don’t miss any opportunity to participate in your employer’s latest wellness challenge.
7. Invest in yourself
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey refers to the Emotional Bank Account as the amount of trust in any given relationship. Remember— you’re also continuously managing your relationship with yourself through your self-talk and management of your self-esteem.
How can you make deposits into your own Emotional Bank Account based on the advice from Covey?
- recognize and honor your individuality
- keep commitments you make to yourself
- forgive yourself when you make mistakes
- don’t skip the little things that bring joy to your life
8. Savor happy moments
Deposits into your Emotional Bank Account build up a balance that is available when there is strain in a relationship. Thanks to a number of positive interactions with an individual, one negative interaction won’t destroy the entire relationship.
Be intentional about making deposits into your Memory Bank Account as well. Pause and relish in joyful moments, committing them to memory. Take a mental picture or snap one on your phone. When you’re going through a hard time and feel your mental health suffering, refer back to the positive memory deposits and remind yourself that there are more of those happy memories to be made in the future.
9. Do something creative
Creative hobbies offer an extremely healthy coping mechanism during challenging times. Staying focused on an artistic project provides a sense of control and helps ease anxiety.
Many hobbies are favored by a large population of people, lending themselves to the creation of communities of people who share a similar interest. These communities, whether virtual or in-person, often function as a life raft in times of trial, keeping you connected to others who genuinely care about you based on the relationship you’ve established.
Looking for inspiration? You might consider:
- paint by numbers
- crocheting or knitting
- learning a new instrument
- card making
- candle or soap making
10. Talk to a professional
If you have a cold, you stay home to rest, stay hydrated, and feel restored in a few days. But if you have severe pneumonia, you need to see your doctor for treatment.
Your mental health deserves the same approach. The remedy for a bad day typically involves comfort food and a chance to talk it out. Feelings of depression or anxiety require assistance from someone with the training to appropriately support you.