When it comes to your health, having a healthy mind is just as important as having a healthy body. Working on your mental health can seem overwhelming, but there are a number of little things you can do daily to improve your mental wellbeing. Although they are small, they can make a big difference, and they can leave you feeling happier, more motivated, and more well-equipped for the challenges to come.
"Prioritizing your own mental health is finally starting to come out of the closet as a way to experience greater success, more friendships, stronger relationships and promote vitality," says Dorian Crawford, PsyD over email. "When we understand what is going on inside, we can make choices and changes that will be noticeable on the outside. If we do not take care of ourselves, we cannot expect to be strong for others when they need us."
Everyone enjoys different activities, but certain habits have been proven to have a beneficial effect on your overall wellbeing, and incorporating these into your daily life can impact you in the long run. To help yourself feel happier, stronger, and more balanced, try adopting these 11 habits that can help improve your mental health.
1. Write Down Your Feelings
Write down intense feelings that you are too scared to say out loud or that you fear may bring bad reactions from others," says psychologist Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. over email. "Notice patterns in your feeling state, and tackle the relationship issues that contribute to these feelings." Writing about your feelings can help the brain overcome negative emotions and leave you feeling happier, according to research from the University of California, Los Angeles.
2. Celebrate The Small Stuff
Celebrate the small stuff — don't sweat it. "If you notice your meal arriving in good time after ordering it at a restaurant, celebrate it," says Raymond. "Celebrate that it went well, that you got through the day without having a car accident, that your cell phone still works. This noticing and celebrating activity forms new neural networks of reward in the brain."
3. Express Gratitude
On that note, it's also useful to regularly express what you are grateful for, whether you write in a gratitude journal or list the highlights of your day before going to bed. Expressing gratitude can help you feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve your health, better deal with adversity, and build strong relationships, according to Harvard Health.
4. Try To Be In The Moment
"Be in the moment as often as you can, and enjoy the present," says Raymond. "Research shows that being grounded in the here-and-now allows you to put your regrets, competitiveness, rage, envy, vengefulness, and fears into perspective so that you aren't hijacked by these intense emotions and act in ways that are harmful."
5. Practice Mindfulness
A review of over 19,000 studies published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain. Even if you have a hard time sitting in silence, you can practice a number of other mindful, meditative activities that can have the same effect, such as knitting, cleaning, or reading.
Exercising is not just for our body. "Moving takes us out of our head and settles down our systems," says Crawford. "Working off mental energy through the body allows us to feel more clear and focused." Regular exercise can also have longterm affects on our mental health. Research shows that consistently working out can help alleviate mild to moderate depression and anxiety, according to Harvard Health.
7. Touch Base With The People You Love
"People who engage in social relationships in any capacity live longer, healthier lives," says Crawford. "Not only does reaching out combat the pull toward isolation when we aren't feeling as mentally strong, it also reaffirms what life is about — connection. People who you love and trust can give you feedback, help solve problems, provide a listening ear and distract you from internal doubt, worry or stress."
8. Pick Something To Look Forward To
A great way to distract yourself in a hard time is to think about an upcoming activity that is pleasurable. It can be anything from planning to order pizza and watch your favorite movie with a friend on Saturday night to deciding which cafe to try first on that once in a lifetime trip to Paris next spring. In fact, research from the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life found that anticipating a trip or vacation can give you just as much, if not more happiness, than going on the actual vacation.
9. Get Outside
Spending time in green spaces is crucial for your mental health — but it doesn't have to take long. A study from the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that even just five minutes of exercise in a park, on a nature trail, or other green space can improve people's mood and sense of personal wellbeing.
10. Fix Your Posture
Your mom was right when she told you to sit up straight. Sitting in a slumped position can wreak havoc on your energy levels and mood, while sitting upright can induce a positive mood and even improve your self-esteem, according to research from the journal Health Psychology.
11. Get Some Sleep
Getting adequate sleep will not only leave you well-rested, but it can help your mind function optimally as well. You might not think it's a big deal to skimp out on sleep every night, but lack of sleep can increase your risk of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression, according to Harvard Health.
Pay attention to your mental health just as much as you would your physical health, and you might be surprised at how these daily activities easily become habits.
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