I’ve been on a few health kicks before.
These “kicks” generally involved the meticulous planning of my meals, working out for a certain amount of time, and constantly checking the mirror to see if any physical progress had been made.
The media (and society as a whole) places so much pressure on appearance, and because of this, we tend to invest in our bodies more than our minds. However, nearly 1 in 5 Americans struggle with a mental illness.
Psychological health needs to be addressed.
This year, I’ve realized that being “healthy” is not limited to the physical level. Beyond that, there is mental, emotional and spiritual health, all of which contribute to one’s overall wellbeing.
Whether you are facing depression, anxiety, stress, or just feel generally mentally unwell, these 5 tips can easily be incorporated into your daily life to achieve a healthy, happy mind!
The constant stream of thoughts and worries in your head may be deafening at times, and this is where the power of journaling comes in. Set aside some time daily or weekly to sit down and write. Recount the events of your day, make random lists, rant, ramble…it doesn’t matter! Simply get whatever is on your mind onto paper.
Journaling will enable you to:
- Reduce stress by releasing any emotional steam.
- Feel less overwhelmed by clarifying and organizing your thoughts, feelings or worries.
- Solve problems more efficiently by exploring different solutions and filling in gaps.
- Understand yourself more by determining what makes you the happiest and what triggers certain emotions.
2. Get Moving
I’m sure plenty of us can admit we’re guilty of being desk-bound by day and couch-bound by night. But the human body was not meant to sit all day.
Along with the physical damage of sedentary behavior, there are many ways in which it can disrupt your mental health. Prolonged sitting has been linked to anxiety and depression, and besides, being glued to a chair for hours can have a way of making you feel…bleh.
The solution? Get up and get moving!
- Boost your mood by releasing feel-good brain chemicals.
- Reduce stress by serving as a distraction from your worries.
- Improve self-esteem.
- Increase energy.
- Result in better sleep.
My personal favorite form of exercise is HIIT, which stands for high-intensity interval training. This type of workout gets my body sweating and heart pumping like no other!
If high-intensity exercise isn’t your thing, yoga and walking are lower-impact favorites of mine. Any type of movement is beneficial- even if it’s simply getting up every so often and taking a 5 minute stretch break! Here’s a post on how to enjoy exercise more.
3. Get Outside
Just as many of us are guilty of sitting all day, the same can be said for staying indoors. You may forget that a whole wide world exists outside of your bedroom, classroom, or office.
If possible, move some of your daily tasks or routines outside, whether that’s eating breakfast, studying for an exam or taking a phone call. Try going for a stroll around your neighborhood or hiking a nearby trail.
Getting outside will:
- Boost Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D and light exposure deficiency have been linked to depression. Get your daily dose of sunshine!
- Increase vitality. Studies show that just 20 minutes in nature is enough to make you feel significantly more energized.
- Lower cortisol levels. More green space = less stress!
- Make you happier. Even the act of imagining or looking at photos of nature have been shown to elevate mood.
4. Practice Gratitude
It may sound cliché, but practicing gratitude daily can truly bring more light into your life. When you’ve hit rock-bottom or become stuck in a rut, it’s easy to overlook all of the little miracles you so often encounter. From waking up in good health to seeing a particularly pretty view to talking to someone who made you smile that day…there is so much to appreciate!
An attitude of gratitude will:
- Heighten optimism and joy.
- Lead to a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.
- Make you feel less lonely and isolated.
- Motivate you to act more generously.
- Help you feel in control of your emotions.
One of the simple ways I practice gratitude is through prayer. As much as I love rolling down my windows and blasting some Queen (when it comes to music, I’m an 80’s child at heart), I find that driving can be the perfect time to take a few minutes to eliminate noise and thank God for all of the blessings in my life.
Another way to practice gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. The results of one study correlate the act of writing down things you are thankful for with greater levels of wellbeing. So whip out a notebook and pencil and get listing! Counting your blessings puts everything into perspective and will bring you a sense of peace.
Life gets overwhelming at times, and focusing on your breathing can act as a quick escape when your mind is racing at a million miles a minute. Deep breathing can be done anytime, anywhere, and it’s an effective tool when it comes to re-centering and calming yourself.
Deep breathing will:
- Increase relaxation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, thus decreasing stress and anxiety.
- Improve energy levels and concentration by oxygenating the brain and increasing blood circulation.
- Elevate your mood by producing more pleasure-inducing neurochemicals.
- Aid in better sleep.
There are various techniques to explore when it comes to breathing, but personally, I don’t follow anything specific. I simply:
- Inhale deeply, allowing my belly to expand (rather than taking shallow breaths from my chest).
- Hold for a few seconds at the top of my inhale.
- Exhale as slowly and gently as possible until all of the air is released.
- Wait for a second or two before inhaling again.
- Repeat for about a minute.
Placing attention solely on your breath will naturally clear your mind while connecting you to your body and the present moment.
These tips have helped me, and I hope they’ll help you. What is your favorite way to care for your mental health?