Mental health can be affected by lifestyle and genetics—and sometimes it comes down to simple fate. Here are 10 things that you can do to support your mental health (plus one important bonus tip).
1. Value Yourself
Treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self-criticism. Never say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend.
2. Choose To Be Positive
Seeing the good in all situations is a habit that you can adopt, and it will become second nature if you practice it diligently. Soak up the joy in the little moments that occur all day—the warm sun on your face outside the barn on a freezing cold day, the rainbow that follows the torrential storm or the sunset that you see on your way home from working late. Remember to smile and see the humor in each day. Research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and reduce stress.
3. Surround Yourself with Good People
Strong family or social connections are important to feeling like you belong to a tribe. It is common for those who are depressed to become isolated and for those who are isolated to become depressed. Stop this cycle by spending time with supportive family and friends. If you are in a new place where you don’t know anyone, seek out activities where you can meet new people, such as a yoga class, a painting group or a hiking club. Maintain the relationships you have, even if they are with friends living at a distance.
4. Give of Yourself
Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else. You’ll feel good about doing something tangible to help someone in need, and it’s a great way to meet new people. If you find yourself feeling sad during holidays or when you are not working, fill that time by helping someone less fortunate than yourself.
5. Take Care of Your Body
Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. Eat nutritious meals and avoid cigarettes, excessive alcohol and recreational drugs. Drink plenty of water, aiming for 64 ounces a day. Dehydration can make you feel tired and affect your mood. Exercise helps to significantly decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods. Getting enough sleep is crucial. Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes highly to depression.
6. Deal with Stress
You cannot avoid stress, so take intentional steps to mitigate it. Try to exercise daily, spend time in nature and play with your pet.
7. Practice Gratitude
A journal is a great place for listing the things for which you are grateful on a daily basis. Write a note to someone to let them know why you appreciate them. Written expressions of gratitude are linked to increased happiness.
8. Practice Forgiveness
Everyone in the world is carrying burdens— you just might not be able to see them. People who forgive have better mental health and report being more satisfied with their lives.
9. Quiet Your Mind
Stay in the present. Try meditating, mindfulness and/or prayer. Research shows that taking 15-20 minutes a day for quiet reflection can improve your state of mind and your outlook on life, reduce anxiety and improve depression.
10. Look Forward to Something
Break up the monotony of your life by changing your jogging route, planning a road trip, taking a hike in a different park, hanging some new pictures, seeing a good movie or trying a new restaurant. While routines make us more efficient and enhance our feelings of security and safety, a little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule.
Bonus Tip: Get Help When Needed
Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Treatment can be effective in helping people recover from depression and/or anxiety and lead full, rewarding lives.