Mental health encompasses many different aspects of our lives, from our relationships to our sense of self-worth. It goes hand in hand with how we think, how we relate to others, and what sorts of decisions we make.
Unfortunately, mental health is easily neglected. While you might be up to speed on your exercise routine and schedule regular teeth-cleanings, when’s the last time you checked in on your mood or happiness levels? To keep your brain as healthy as your body, here are ten different ways you can improve your emotional wellbeing (no matter what your current mental state looks like).
Write In a Journal
Journaling may sound cliché, but it works! Studies conducted by psychologist, Dr. James Pennebaker, have found that those who spend 20 minutes a day writing about the major events in their life saw a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, the key is to write thoughtfully. Control groups instructed to write about mundane events didn’t show nearly as much improvement as those who delved deep.
Confide and Communicate
Be it a trusted friend or a license counselor, having someone to regularly open up to is vital for emotional wellbeing. Talking and confiding in those who will receive our words without judgment builds feelings of trust and acceptance.
Spend Time with Others
Loneliness has become a major problem within the US, shown to have severe impacts on both mental and physical health. Make it a point to surround yourself with people you can connect with. Creating and sustaining genuine relationships that you maintain in real life (not just online or via text) will decrease your risk for depression and even lengthen your life span.
Meditation increases acceptance, quiets the mind, and lets us observe our feelings without judging them. Research has found that regular meditation lowers stress levels and can help those who suffer from PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
When we’re sleep deprived, we feel it. But sleep deprivation doesn’t just make us tired, it can adversely affect our mood and increase our risk for mental health disorders. Be sure to get solid sleep as part of a regular routine. Similarly, if you’re having trouble falling asleep, it might be time to check in with yourself, as insomnia and restlessness can also be symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other problems.
Higher levels of gratitude are associated with elevated moods and an overall sense of happiness. And feeling more grateful is super easy! Simply keep a gratitude journal or make a list of all the things you are thankful for. Thinking about these parts of your life is helpful too, but writing is just a smidge more effective. Give it a try!
Get a Hobby
Whether it’s gardening, stamp collecting, or kickball, hobbies are an opportunity to lower stress levels, forge new social connections, and create meaning. They’re also a way for you to learn something new, which is a good thing: research has shown that those who learn new things past childhood experience a higher quality of life and develop better techniques for coping with stress.
Perform Kind Gestures
People who regularly perform good deeds for others experience elevated moods over time. Being kind also boosts self-esteem and strengthens our relationships. No need to pull off anything dramatic: small gestures like paying for someone’s coffee or performing a favor will do.
Get out of the dark and into the light…literally! Going outside and exposing ourselves to the sun boots our serotonin levels, a natural way to enhance mood. Studies have also shown that time spent in green spaces correlates with a raise in self-esteem.
Cut Down On Social Media
Facebook and other online platforms are great for keeping in touch, but too much time can be rough on our self esteem. Spying on other people via social media can diminish our own sense of self worth, especially when we compare our own lives to what people present on screen. Increased time on social made has also shown to correlate with an increase in depression.
While mental health may seem like an overwhelming concept, at the end of the day, it all comes down to living a good and fulfilling life; about taking care of yourself, doing meaningful activities with people you care about, and paying attention when something feels off. You are more than your body, you’re a whole and unique person. So make sure to treat all the different parts of yourself as best you can.