It’s important for you to know how to improve your mental health. Even if you’re not struggling or experiencing hardship at the moment, it’s a good idea to take care of your mental health regularly.
Similar to establishing a healthy diet or physical exercise routine, establishing mental health exercises can help you feel better and more prepared for challenges in the future.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at how to improve your mental health.
How to Improve Your Mental Health
Mental health is as important as physical health. In fact, the two often affect each other; if you have a mental health condition, you may find that you are having physical symptoms, and vice-versa.
We all have been through a rough year for a variety of reasons, and it’s more important than ever to take the steps needed to improve our mental health in 2021 and beyond.
Here’s how to improve your mental health.
Focus on the Four Walls
In order to preserve both your mental and physical health, there are four basic lifestyle changes you may need to work on. They are diet, exercise, sleep, and stress.
While you don’t need to follow any specific dietary plan for better mental health, you should eat nutrient-dense foods whenever possible. For most people, this will mean incorporating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources into your diet. Of course, you might not be eating grains at all due to allergies or preferences. You might be on a high-fat or high-protein diet, or you might be vegetarian or vegan, and that is fine. Just be sure that the foods you do eat are high in nutrition. Limit the amount of sugar that you consume. Also, limit caffeine and alcohol; you can enjoy both of these in moderation, but overdoing either one can cause anxiety and depression to spiral.
Exercise is known to improve not only physical health but also mental health. Both anxiety and depression can often be improved by adding some exercise to your routine. This does not mean that you need to go out and run five miles (though you can certainly choose to do this). Even walking for 10 or 15 minutes twice daily can be enough to raise your heartbeat and, with it, your endorphin levels. These are feel-good hormones that can really boost your mood. Talk to your doctor about how to exercise safely if you have been sedentary for a while or if you have any health issues.
Many people are sleep-deprived, and not getting enough rest can make mental health issues affect you more strongly. The golden standard is eight hours of sleep each night, but the reality is that some people need only six or seven hours while others need nine hours per night. Experiment to see what works for you. Ideally, you should be waking up easily and feeling well-rested. Maintaining good sleep hygiene can help: Go to bed at the same time each night, keep your room comfortably cool, have a good bedtime routine, and minimize (or, better yet, eliminate) the use of devices within an hour or two of bedtime.
Finally, stress is notorious for exacerbating mental health issues. Unfortunately, we cannot abolish all of the stress in our lives, but we can take steps to minimize it. Say no to obligations that are not necessary. And learn some good relaxation strategies, whether that means meditating, using guided imagery to calm down, spending time in nature, or just going for a drive while belting out your favorite tunes.
Spend Time With Others
We are still dealing with a worldwide pandemic, so you might not have been able to spend as much time with others as you would have liked. With COVID-19 vaccinations widely available to everyone over the age of 16, however, things might start to seem a bit more “normal” over the summer and beyond. Even if you are not able to be vaccinated at this time, it is still important to find safe ways to spend time with other people.
The CDC has recently announced that some people do not need to wear masks when outdoors, so meeting friends and family members at parks, in backyards, on the beach, and in other outdoor locales is a great way to get back into having a social life. You can also volunteer with organizations that are following distancing and safety protocols. Volunteering is a wonderful way to meet like-minded friends while also helping others.
Try Something New
Breaking up the monotony of daily life is a great way to boost your mood and get yourself on the right track. If you feel like you’re in a rut, look for a way to break out of it! This can entail nearly anything. To start small, consider just switching up where you walk on your daily walk, for example. Instead of walking in your own neighborhood, try driving to a nearby neighborhood for a different view. Or try out a new restaurant; look for a restaurant featuring a cuisine you’ve been meaning to try and plan to place an order this weekend! Trying a book or movie in a genre that you usually don’t consume is another small way to try something new.
If you are ready to take a bigger step, consider booking a trip somewhere new (within the confines of safety during a pandemic, of course). You might try camping if you haven’t done so before or a road trip to a new location. Or you may want to sign up for a class or join a sports team or club of some sort. Even rearranging your house or buying a new curtain or area rug will give you something novel to focus your attention on.
Talk to Your Doctor
Finally, if you feel that your mental health is not responding to these DIY lifestyle measures, make an appointment, virtual or otherwise, with your doctor. Your primary care doctor can run some tests to be sure that your symptoms are not being caused by a physical issue, they can refer you to a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist to give you the care that you need. Do not be afraid to reach out; there is no more shame in seeking mental health care than there would be in seeking care for a broken ankle, a rash, or diabetes. Medical professionals are available to help you navigate any mental health issues that arise, so take advantage of that.