11 Ways To Start Prioritizing Your Mental Health

by Carina Wolff

When we work on improving our wellbeing, we often focus on cleaning up our eating habits or getting into shape. However, improving how we think or feel is just as important as working on our bodies, so it's important to start thinking about the different ways we can prioritize our mental health. Carving out time in our day to pick up on habits that can reduce stress and boost our self-esteem can have a major impact, affecting more than just our happiness levels — although a better mood and attitude should be incentive enough.

"Women tend to overlook caring for their mental health, because they are busy with their full, stretched-to-the-max lives," says Jessica Wade, MA, LPCC over email. "...Life gets so full and women get so busy taking care of it all that their own needs somehow come in last place."

Poor mental health can not only lead to bad mood, stress, and problems focusing, but it can also affect your physical health, making it all the more important to you focus on your brain as much as your body. If you want to start putting more energy into feeling happy and stress-free, try these 11 ways to start better prioritizing your mental health.

1. Take 10-Minute Walks Daily

"Get out and go for a 10 minute walk every day," says Anita Marchesani, Ph.D. over email. "Physical activity jolts the brain into a better, more 'feel-good' state. And being outside is associated with much better mood and mental health."

2. Keep A Gratitude Journal

You don't have to jot down your whole life story, but keep a journal where you regularly make note of the things you are thankful for. "It may not come naturally at first, but make a deliberate effort to find events, people, and circumstances in your life for which you are grateful," says Marchesani. "Delve into the details of your world to discover things to appreciate about yourself and the events in your life."

3. Keep In Touch With Friends

"Keeping in touch with friends gets harder to do as your life fills up with responsibilities, but doesn’t it feel great to distract yourself a bit with the company of people who get you?" says Wade. "Plus it helps to have friends available to chat or help with life feels too full." Research from the journal Mind, Mood & Memory found that connecting with others improves your mood and helps fight off depression.

4. Stop Multi-Tasking

"There are no shortcuts to good mental health," says Marchesai."The more we try to make life easier and faster, the less engaged we are with the events and people around us. This leads to being emotionally and socially disconnected, and amplifies emotional and mental struggles." One study from Harvard University found that people are more unhappy when they are distracted from their task at hand.

5. Say No

This can be hard for women who want to help and love to be needed, but this is one way to reduce stress in your life," says Wade. "Resist the urge to take on someone else’s responsibility. Unless you adore coordinating office pot-lucks and it makes you feel amazing, pass up the additional responsibility."

6. Enjoy Without Guilt

When we are super busy, it seems wrong to take some time away from our obligations to do something fun, but this can take a toll on our mental wellbeing. "Be fully present and enjoy it without distracting yourself with a to-do list waiting," says Wade. "Remember to stay present and enjoy your life." Studies show that taking breaks can make you happier, more focused, and more productive, so do you something you love — guilt-free.

7. Get Some Sleep

Many people sacrifice sleep in order to get their work done or to spend time socializing, but lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your mental wellbeing. Research from UC Berkeley found that lack of sleep can trigger anxiety, and other research from the University of Sydney found that the less hours of sleep people get, the more likely they are to experience psychological distress.

8. Notice Your Self-Talk

"We speak to ourselves 24/7, and this can be positive or negative energy," says psychologist Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman over email. "My experience is that most people have very negative self-talk and are not aware of it. You can begin to notice the negative things you say to yourself and begin to challenge those words with more supportive ones."

9. Take The Time To Learn

"It helps to learn about mental health too by reading self-help books, taking self-development classes, and finding the things in life that make you happy," says Sherman. "There are so many books and classes these days that you can inexpensively find ways to get the resources you need for your continued self-development."

10. Try Meditating

It may sound like just a thing for hippies, but meditation can have a profound effect on your mental health. Research published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses such as anxiety, depression, and even pain.

11. See A Therapist

At the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with seeking help if you feel that your mental health is slipping. If you feel you need help working through a challenging life event, your childhood or destructive patterns it can be really helpful to go to therapy," says Sherman. "Even if things are going well therapy can be a great place to understand yourself better."

Taking the time to focus on your mental health is a great way to kickstart a healthier mindset, and you may be surprised by how powerful the results will be.

Images: Pixabay (12)