When it comes to taking care of ourselves, we often focus more on our physical body. However, maintaining your mind is just as important, and there are things we should be doing everyday to improve our mental health. Just like our body needs to get into a routine, so does our brain, and taking the steps to ensure our optimal mental health can have us feeling just as healthy as eating a good kale salad.
"If we don't pay attention to our daily habits, we will get stuck in our emotions, which very often leads to maladaptive thinking," says therapist and well-being coach Shira Taylor Gura to Bustle over email. "This leads to negative effects on our health (physical, emotional, and mental) and ultimately on our life."
Focusing on your mental health can improve your immune system, increase your productivity, and and even help you live longer, according to multiple studies, so there's no reason we shouldn't put as much attention on our emotional wellbeing to our minds. What better way than to start off small and add in little activities each day? To boost your overall happiness, lower your stress, and even improve your physical health, do these 11 things daily that can help your mental health.
"Studies have consistently shown us that exercise has positive effects on brain function, anxiety, self-image, and recovery from addiction," says psychologist and health coach Iris McAlpin over email. "It doesn't have to be an intense workout, but getting your heart rate up and moving your body for at least 20 minutes a day makes a world of difference for your mental health."
Multiple studies show that having strong social ties with people can decrease your risk for depression, improve your physical health, and even lengthen your lifespan, according to Harvard Health. "We satisfy our social urges by getting on Facebook and seeing what people are up to, but it doesn't nourish us the same way genuine connection does," says McAlpin. "Pick up the phone and call a friend or family member. Go for a walk with a confidant. Have people over for dinner."
3. Express Gratitude
Consider keeping a journal where you write down what you are grateful for daily or even weekly. "It can be easy to focus on negatives when things aren't going well, but incorporating even a 5-minute gratitude practice into your day can completely alter your mindset," says McAlpin. Regular expression of gratitude can help lower stress levels and even improve your immune system, according to WebMD. "The more we focus on what is good about our lives, the more goodness shows up."
4. Spend Time Outside
Even just spending five minutes in nature can boost not only your mood, but your self-esteem as well, according to research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. "Sun exposure will help your brain release the hormone serotonin, which is a natural mood enhancer," says therapist Ada Pang over email.
Many studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can ease anxiety and regulate stress, according to Harvard Health. "For some, mediation might be doing yoga," says Darren Pierre, PhD to Bustle over email. "For others, it is the stillness that comes through prayer. Whatever your practice, find what works for you to get still, and begin raising the volume of your own inner voice."
6. Do Something Nice
Committing kind acts can not only benefit someone else, but it can make you feel better as well. Research from the University of British Columbia found that people who regularly do nice little things for people such as holding the door experience reduced anxiety, an increase in mood, and a decrease in social avoidance. "Give compliments along the way in your day," says Peg Haust-Arliss, LCSW-R over email. "Why? Because making others feel good feels good."
7. Have A Good Laugh
"We all love to laugh and it makes us feel good," says life coach Tom Casano to Bustle over email. "But the mental health benefits go beyond us just having a good time. Laughter increases your ability to learn, improves your short-term memory, and reduces your stress levels."
8. Sit Up Straight
If you're someone who slouches at work, you may want to work on your posture. A study published in the journal Health Psychology found that sitting in a slumped position makes you feel more sluggish, fearful, quiet, and hostile than sitting up straight, which instead elicits more happy and powerful emotions.
9. Get Adequate Sleep
Just because you have other things on your plate doesn't give you an excuse to put sleep on the back burner. "Sufficient sleep energizes your brain cells, keeps up your motivation for daily life activities, and gives you a more peaceful feeling about your day," says Laurie Hollman, Ph.D to Bustle over email. "Although it’s generally thought that eight hours is the norm, each person has their own requirements. The important thing is to get enough, and don’t skimp and end up exhausted, unproductive, anxious or even depressed."
10. Have Something To Look Forward To
"Every day everyone needs something to look forward to," says mental health counselor Lynn Berger over email. "It can be social, physical, or whatever one likes to do and takes comfort in." In one study from the journal Applied Research In Quality Of Life, researchers found that planning a trip elicits just as much happiness as actually going on the vacation.
11. Learn Something New
Keep your mind fresh but picking up a new hobby or reading about a topic you don't know about. "As we age, we narrow down our learning based on career choices, but it is essential to expand our knowledge to keep a positive outlook on life and continue to grow," says Hollman. People who spend their time learning new things past child show greater overall wellbeing and better abilities coping with stress, according to the NHS.
Incorporating these routines into your day can improve your overall quality of life and even have you more motivated to pick up other healthy habits as well.
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