Mental health and self-care is all the hype these days. Is it overrated? I honestly don’t think so. Far too many of us have heard the message “look after your mental health” yet far too few of us actually take active steps to keep ourselves mentally healthy.
Did you know that approximately 1 billion of the world’s population is affected by some form of mental health disorder? The data shows that anxiety and depression are the most prevalent mental health disorders.
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have only made it worse.
We need to care for our mental health now more than ever. It’s important to note that caring for your mental health doesn’t mean you’re happy all the time or that you’re not allowed to feel negative emotions, rather it’s about managing the negative emotions and building healthy coping skills. It may seem a little hard right now but taking steps toward improving your mental health will yield long-term results.
Here are 5 things you can start doing today to bolster your mental health:
1. Make Time for Yourself
You might be asking, “what do you mean ‘make time for myself?’ I’m always doing things for myself.” Doing things like study or work isn’t the same as making time for yourself. Give yourself some space to breathe, spend time alone, shut down all the distractions, and focus only on you. We often get so busy with our lives that we forget to check in with ourselves.
Pro Tip: Schedule time in your calendar which will be your “me time” so that you don’t forget it. It can provide a host of mental health benefits such as decreased stress levels and make you feel calmer and more relaxed.
2. Get Moving
You will probably not “feel like it” when you’re just starting out, but with a little consistency you can make exercise a habit. Research shows that exercise can reduce depression and anxiety, while improving your mood.
You don’t have to hit the gym six days a week to enjoy the multitude of benefits of exercise, you only need to do something that gets your heart rate up, 3 days a week.
Pro Tip: Find a physical activity you really enjoy so that exercising feels enjoyable, not like you’re doing a chore. Examples could be cycling, dancing, hiking, or a sport like football.
3. Connect With Others
Do you know what the longest ever study on happiness conducted by Harvard found? It wasn’t the money or the fame that determined how happy people were, their happiness was most influenced by the kind of relationships they had.
While it may not be possible to physically go out and socialize during these times, you can connect with family or friends via Zoom calls and phone calls.
Pro Tip: Talk to at least one person for 15 minutes every day. Ask them about their life, their interests, and try to build a deeper connection with them.
4. Add Novelty to Your Life
While routines can certainly be helpful in providing a structure to your life, we all have a need to explore and experience new things. Staying stuck in a loop of repetitive tasks day in and day out can hamper your mental health.
Letting your curiosity take over and indulging in novel experiences can make your life more fulfilling and interesting.
One study showed that our brains are flooded with dopamine — the pleasure chemical —when we experience novelty. When was the last time you did something for the first time?
Pro Tip: Try doing one novel thing a month. It doesn’t have to be something big, it can be as simple as trying a new cuisine or taking a different route home. The idea is to have new experiences that make you step out of your comfort zone.
5. Practice Meditation
Photo by: MART PRODUCTION from Pexels We’re living in the age of constant distraction and noise. Checking emails, scrolling on social media, watching news — we’re overloaded with stimulation. This endless stream of information and stimulation can make us feel burned out and depressed. The solution? Make meditation a part of our daily lives. The positive effects of meditation are well-documented. It increases empathy, lowers stress, improves concentration, and enhances quality of sleep. Pro Tip: Start with just 5 minutes of meditation every day. Sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed and try to focus on each breath you take. If your mind wanders, simply bring your focus back to your breath.
One of the best investments you can make is in your health and wellbeing. It brings you rewards for a lifetime. Start making your mental health a priority today by including the above 5 tips into your daily life. You will be able to see the difference it makes within a few weeks.