If you lead a busy life, it can be difficult to focus on your mental wellbeing, much less find the time replace old habits with new ones. But the good news is, it often only take a few small lifestyle changes to notice a big difference — and feel better about yourself overall.
And the fact they're small is actually perfect, since no one's ever overhauled their entire life in one night, or made sweeping (and lasting) changes. It's all about making tiny tweaks, liking the results, and deciding to stick with it.
"Small changes to [your] daily routine can make a big difference to [your] wellbeing in both the short and the long-term," fitness coach Emma Green, PhD, MSc, BSc, tells Bustle. "They tend to be cumulative, with each change helping [you] to gain confidence and build momentum, making it easier to make future changes to boost [your] physical and mental health."
Once you notice small improvements, it's easier to get on a roll and keep that promise to yourself to continue on in the right (and healthiest) direction. With that in mind, here are small lifestyle changes you can make right now to improve your mental wellbeing, according to experts.
1. Go To Bed 15 Minutes Earlier
Sleep deprivation can make you feel worn out and fatigued — both mentally and physically. But the good news is, it's possible to begin remedying the situation with a few simple adjustments.
For starters, "try going to bed 15 minutes earlier than you usually do each day," therapist and health coach Sarah Thacker, tells Bustle. "Even if you don't fall right asleep the first day or two, stick with it." This will help you reset your internal clock, so you can get the rest you need.
2. Meditate For Ten Minutes
Even if it's just for five or ten minutes, try to meditate each day. "Meditation can either involve concentrating on sounds or sensations of the body. It can involve sitting, or it can involve movement," Irina Logman, LAc, MSTOM and founder of Advanced Holistic Center, tells Bustle. But what's most important is how it makes you feel.
You might, after some time, notice that you're more at peace with yourself, more connected to others, or clearer about what you want in life. As Logman says, "Meditation is the missing piece to a lot of our lives."
3. Add In Some Exercise
Whether it's walking, riding your bike, or going to a class at the gym, dedicate a few hours each week to movement of some kind.
"So often we focus on the physical benefits of exercise and forget the mental health aspects," Dr. Green says. "Make sure it's something that is fun and don't put pressure on yourself to do it for a fixed period of time — just see how you go!"
4. Focus On Yourself
"It may go without saying but intentionally taking 10 minutes for yourself each day energizes your mind, but also demonstrates some much needed self-love and self-care," coach Stephanie D. McKenzie, MBA, MA, CPC, CRC, CSSC, tells Bustle. This might mean putting your phone down and being fully present while you read, work on a project, soak in the tub — whatever feels right to you.
5. Eat A Vegetable
"Begin by increasing your current vegetable intake by at least one per day," Thacker says. "Vegetables are where it's at nutritionally and the more you eat the better you will feel."
And while you're at it, sip more water. "When you are well hydrated, your body and mind function more effectively," she says. "These are two small, simple steps that can make a big difference in how you feel."
6. Say No To Junk
It's so tempting to scoop up free tote bags, pens, and keychains as you go through the day, or attend corporate events. "But then all that stuff has to come into your home and just becomes clutter," Rebecca West, design-psychology coach and CEO at Seriously Happy Homes, tells Bustle. "Next time someone offers you free stuff consider saying 'no thanks.' Every time you do that you've just saved yourself the energy and stress of figuring out where to put it all, when you didn't need it in the first place."
7. Clean Up Your Social Media
"Unfollow accounts/people on social media that make you feel bad about your body, self-worth, place in your career, etc.," Lindsay Anvik, a productivity and leadership coach, tells Bustle. If you find that social media stresses you out, or leaves you feeling low, this small change can be a big help.
8. Set Aside Time To Create
It doesn't have to be an everyday thing, but finding time to create something from scratch can be quite the grounding, soothing, and satisfying experience.
"Whether it's baking gluten-free muffins or making the best old fashioned, there is a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from creating something," Anvik says. "That joy is easy to attain and usually doesn't take long to feel that way."
9. Say No (Or Yes)
"Think about what you tend to automatically answer when people ask you for a favor, or to go out," West says. "If you tend to automatically say yes, you may be over-promising your time and leaving little for yourself or your family." Learning how to say no, in this instance, can free up time to focus on what you'd rather be doing.
Then again, you may want to say yes more often than you currently do. "If you tend to automatically say no, you may be missing out on wonderful opportunities," West says. "Flip the script for a while and start saying yes to opportunities to go out, meet people, join committees, and try new things. You might be surprised at what you discover!"
10. Make Your Bed
Making your bed every morning sounds like the most simple thing in the world. And yet it can have a profound impact on how you feel. "This practice is effective because it clears the slate for your day and gives you a sense of discipline, cleanliness, self-respect, and respect for your home, and order," power coach Nikki Bruno, tells Bustle.
11. Ask More Questions
"Ask questions, wonder about new topics, and keep your mind open to learning," Bruno says. "This practice is effective because it helps keep us feeling young, it contributes to brain health, and it increases social connection, which is the number one factor in longevity."
12. Go Outside
If you spend a lot of time inside, make a point of stepping out more often to breathe the air and feel the sun. "As a species, human beings thrive on spending time outside," Bruno says. "This practice is especially important during vitamin-D-starved winters. We’re like plants; we need light!"
13. Partake In Screen-Free Time
"Periodic breaks from screens of all sizes encourage us to be more creative, interpersonal, and introspective with our time," Bruno says. This might mean putting your phone away for that hour before bed, purposefully leaving it in your bag while out with friends, or even doing a full 24 hour digital detox, if you think that would do your brain some good.
14. Take In Your Surroundings
"When you leave your house each day, take five seconds for a panoramic scan of your environment," psychotherapist Caroline Artley, LCSW-C, tells Bustle. "Take a deep breath, noticing the air upon inhale (is it crisp? cool? humid? dry?)."
Then, ask yourself what you see and hear. "Most of us feel like the days, weeks, and year fly right by," Artley says. "Doing this will help you notice subtle changes and when we know time is passing, we tend to be more purposeful with that time."
15. Notice Negative Self-Talk
If you don't keep it in check, your brain can easily spiral out of control with negative thoughts and critical self-talk. So make a point of checking in with yourself, and paying attention to what's going on inside your head.
"Notice (and question) your negative self-talk," life coach Kori Linn, tells Bustle. "By noticing negative self-talk, and asking yourself if there's any evidence to the contrary, you can begin to see things differently and hopefully also boost your mood."
Think about what you need most in life right now, and then focus on making a few small changes. Whether you'd benefit from sleeping more, connecting with others, or even simply going outside, taking the time to do so will help improve your overall wellbeing.