The past two years have not been easy for any of us. The stress and worry from the pandemic, changes in our work, school, and personal lives have impacted us in more ways than one. Nevertheless, since we’re resilient, we devised a way to live this “new normal” and deduced a way to move forward. Yet what I’ve witnessed as a psychotherapist is that it’s more essential now to figure out how to improve your mental health.
Let’s not wait until there’s another crisis, whether economic, environmental, or personal to knock you down.
In this article, you’ll learn about great mental health, what it feels like, and 15 things you can do to feel that way too.
What is mental health?
Mental health is comprised of your emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
It affects how you think, how you feel, act and cope with life. Your mental health also helps you determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make life choices.
Why is your mental health important?
Well, to say it simply, it’s important to learn how to improve your mental health because it has far-reaching implications.
Your mental health impacts your personal wellbeing, relationships, resilience, and various other aspects of your life.
Having optimal mental health is important because it can help you to:
- Cope better with life stressors
- Be physically healthy
- Have satisfactory relationships
- Make meaningful contributions to your community
- Work productively
- Realize your full potential
How to improve your mental health
To begin with, congratulations on being proactive since most people take their well-being for granted.
There are many different things you can do to improve your mental health, and engaging in these activities will reduce your stress, and lower your risk of depression, anxiety, and burnout.
1. Focus on your self-awareness
A critical step to take to improve your mental health is to have more self-awareness.
As a psychotherapist, I spend a great deal of time teaching my clients to be more self-aware because they never learned these skills when they were children.
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”Carl Jung
Having self-awareness means that you have a good understanding of your personality, including your strengths and weaknesses. You also embrace your emotions, motivations, and values.
When you have strong self-awareness, you understand yourself well and can assess when something doesn’t feel quite right.
In addition, you relate better to others.
2. Stop being a zombie
I’m assuming you might be interested in creating a life that feels good for yourself, one where you feel connected, inspired, and enthusiastic right?
However, most people go through their days like zombies. What I mean is that they’re not paying attention to what they’re doing and are just going about their day in a trance.
So stop being a zombie and start paying attention.
The only way you can learn how to improve your mental health is to actually be present.
3. Work on your sleep routine
Sleep hygiene is a topic that I talk about a lot with my clients.
Oftentimes people think that they can sacrifice sleep, and can live on 6 hours a night. However, research suggests that adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night to be well-rested.
If you are in a chronic state of sleep deprivation, your brain is flooded with stress hormones like cortisol which cause inflammation in your mind and body. Over time, you put yourself at risk of becoming physically ill and possibly depressed or anxious.
Adequate sleep, on the other hand, helps stabilize your mood, appetite, memory, energy and boosts your immune system.
To learn more about prioritizing your sleep, check out my article on 8 tips to finally say goodbye to your sleep problems.
4. Get off your phone
Distractions are everywhere. It’s not just about productivity. Too much screen time is bad for your physical and mental health.
There are a zillion studies on the negative impact of social media on your mental health so I won’t bore you with the statistics.
If you want to figure out how to improve your mental health, then it’s time to come up with a plan on changing your relationship with your phone.
Here are some things you can do:
- Turn off notifications and alerts when you can from your email
- Choose a time for checking social media during the day, but then stay off of it after that point
- Close your social media feed after you’ve checked it
- Turn off your screens before bed for a more restful night
Ready to go full-force, check out how your life changes when you stop social media.
5. Start therapy
Another step you can take in figuring out how to improve your mental health is to consider psychotherapy.
Therapy isn’t just for people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. Some of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had providing therapy have been for clients looking to have a better relationship and understanding of themselves.
Remember what I said earlier about self-awareness? Individuals with strong self-awareness also tend to have high emotional intelligence. As a result, they’re more well-rounded.
Ready to start therapy but not sure what the next step is? This is how to start therapy the right way!
6. Practice gratitude
Positive psychologists and researchers have pointed out the remarkable efficacy of this practice as well as the numerous benefits it has for your physical, emotional, and mental health.
People who practice gratitude are more likely to:
- Take better care of themselves physically and mentally
- Engage in more protective health behaviors and maintenance
- Get more regular exercise
- Eat a healthier diet
- Have improved mental alertness
- Schedule regular physical examinations with their doctor
- Cope better with stress and daily challenges
- Feel happier and more optimistic
- Avoid problematic physical symptoms
- Have stronger immune systems
- Maintain a brighter view of the future
7. Feed your gut
Do you know that there’s a strong correlation between your mental health and your gut microbiome?
In a way, you are what you eat.
“Your body is your only vessel and taking care of it and feeding it healthy, nutritious and nourishing foods will help you get energy and stay physically well.”Pantea Rahimian, LCSW
More than 90% of the body’s serotonin lies in the gut, as well as about 50% of the body’s dopamine. These two neurotransmitters are mood stabilizers directly correlated with your brain health. Some scientists even call the gut the second brain.
Although the relationship is complex, what you eat can affect your brain, both positively and negatively so nourish yourself by incorporating fresh vegetables and fruits into your weekly meal planning.
Challenge yourself to have a variety of colors on your plate every day by going to the farmer’s market.
8. Shift your mindset to positive thinking
Have you noticed that your mind tends to be more negative?
This is called the negativity bias because we have a tendency to give more importance to negative experiences than to positive or neutral ones.
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It takes a lot more effort to not get caught up in the negativity spiral and shift your thinking.
“Positive thoughts are harder. They take more work. You have to develop new patterns and new ways of thinking.”John Brandon Science Says There’s a Simple Reason You Keep Thinking Negative Thoughts All Day
However, if you want to engage in ways on how to improve your mental health, try to shift your mindset to positive thinking.
9. Say “no” when it doesn’t serve you
I can honestly say that teaching my clients how to set boundaries and learn to “say no” has been key in their improved mental health.
Perhaps it’s not easy for you to say no. You may be worried about hurting someone’s feelings or letting them down.
Remember, you can absolutely say no to something that doesn’t serve you and your goals.
If you’re new to this, try saying no in little ways.
Once you practice this more often, you’ll notice that you don’t feel guilty when you do what feels best for you.
10. Get your body moving
To truly learn how to improve your mental health, you also need to learn to take care of your physical health.
So stop sitting and start moving.
Exercise is like a drug and research has proven that the benefits for your brain are equivalent to taking a low-dose antidepressant without any side effects.
Moreover, exercise promotes changes in your brain, reduces inflammation, and promotes new activity patterns that instill feelings of calm and well-being.
Need some inspiration? Here are 10 foolproof ways to boost your motivation and workout right now.
11. Give your feelings permission to surface
Being a human being is complex and difficult. Even on a good day, you may have a range of emotions and be unsure how to navigate them.
When you focus on how to improve your mental health, you realize that having complex emotions doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you.
More importantly, it’s healthy to allow your feelings to surface (as long as you’re not harming someone else).
So many of my clients bottle up their emotions (sadness, anger, guilt, loneliness) and oddly enough the feelings manifest in actual physical illness.
Allow your feelings to surface. Cry when you need to, scream in the car or ask for a hug.
Remember, it’s 100% okay to feel how and what you’re feeling. No need to apologize.
12. Write it down
Another exercise you can engage in how to improve your mental health is to write in a journal.
Writing is a healthy way to process your emotions or make sense of what’s going on.
This activity helps relieve stress, allows you to self-reflect, boosts memory, inspires creativity, and helps you set and achieve your goals.
13. Practice the art of mindfulness
Mindfulness defined is as the art of being in the present moment without judgment.
Yet what exactly does that mean?
As someone who has practiced mindfulness meditation for several years, there is no one method that works for everyone.
Instead, learning how to be mindful is like exercising a muscle. Since your mind likes to wander, mindfulness is about practicing to bring your attention to the present moment.
Again and again.
Practicing mindfulness can help you to regulate your breathing in stressful situations, decrease your stress, anxiety, pain, depression, and even help with sleep problems.
14. Reframe difficult situations
The next time you find yourself whining about the stressors or challenges that you’re facing, try to “flip the switch” to frame things differently.
For example, rather than starting a narrative in your mind about something that you weren’t expecting, try to see a different angle or positive side.
It takes some time to practice reframing situations so be patient with yourself and call a friend to help you get a different perspective.
15. Live your life not theirs
It’s easy to compare yourself and your life to others. We all do it.
Especially in the limelight of social media, it’s effortless to get captivated and envious of how other people are living their life.
One of the best techniques I teach my clients is to practice self-compassion and be kind to themselves.
Moreover, work on not comparing yourself to others, don’t worry about others’ opinions of you and allow yourself to make mistakes.
When you notice your thoughts going in a different direction, try to catch yourself and give yourself some love.
Remember, your uniqueness is what makes you special. There is no one else on this earth like you!
As a psychotherapist, I can honestly say that the past two years have truly challenged people emotionally, psychologically, physically, and financially.
Many individuals faced mental health challenges for the first time and had difficulty navigating this new territory.
No matter where you are on the mental health spectrum, it’s critical to learn how to improve your mental health so that you can cope with life’s challenges.
When you maintain your mental health, you can keep problems in perspective and bounce back from setbacks. You feel good about yourself, you have good relationships, and are aware of your emotions.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t feel stress, anger, and sadness.
Instead, you know how to manage your negative feelings. You can evaluate when you may need help and you’re not afraid to ask.
Let’s not wait until there’s another crisis, learn how to improve your mental health so that you have the tools at your disposal to support you.