Spend More Time Outdoors
Whether its a ten-minute walk around your neighborhood or a hike up a mountain, spending time in nature provides significant benefits for your mental health. This simple self-care method can clear your mind and keep you feeling grounded. It can also increase your memory and attention span, and help you gain a better sense of belonging.
Next time you are feeling overwhelmed, consider going for a walk in the park. Try to spend some time out of your house or apartment every day. Even simple activities such as drinking your morning coffee in the backyard or reading a book on your balcony can make a difference when it comes to improving your mental health.
Practice Healthy Eating Habits
A healthy diet, one that is well-balanced and gives your body all the nutrients it needs to function, wont magically make you healthy, but it will help you develop eating habits that support your physical and mental health and that can make you happy.
Eating healthier may mean that you need to change some of your daily habits such as the way you shop for food and your environment at home or work. The good news is you dont have to change your eating habits all at once. Success for this self-care goal consists of small, sustainable lifestyle changes. To permanently improve your eating habits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a thoughtful approach of reflection, replacement and reinforcement versus sudden radical changes such as eating nothing but cabbage soup.
Here are 10 tips to make healthy changes in your eating habits:
Take Care Of Your Body:
Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. Be sure to:
- Eat nutritious meals
- Avoid smoking and vaping– see Cessation Help
- Drink plenty of water
- Exercise, which helps decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods
- Get enough sleep. Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to a high rate of depression in college students.
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Focus On What You Are Grateful For
Gratitude may feel like one of those self-care buzzwords. We know its good for us, but we dont think about it too often. The reason why gratitude has acquired such a strong reputation as the greatest virtue is due to the strong research backing its effectiveness:
people who were asked to write a gratitude letter once a week for three weeks were significantly happier, less depressed, and more satisfied with their lives at the end of the intervention.
How To Start A Self
To get started with a self-care routine, the experts we spoke with suggest:
Practicing self-care doesnt need to be a heavy lift right out of the gate. Here are a few ideas to ease you into your self-care journey:
- Start each day by paying attention to your breath for five minutes and setting intentions for the day.
- Reflect on what youre grateful for each night.
- Put your phone on airplane mode for a half hour each night and release yourself from the flurry of notifications.
- Take up a relaxing hobby.
- Pick a bedtime and stick to it.
Note, if you read this and feel a sense of demoralization or sadness from challenges mounting or establishing a self-care practice, its best to get help and support. There may be barriers to caring for yourself from past trauma, mental health issues, or family situations that may be making it more challenging to get started. Seek support from trusted counselors and behavioral health providers , a trusted primary care doctor, or a close friend.
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Get Clear On Your Values
Are you in the habit of asking yourself what you want? We can sometimes go through periods of focusing so much on others that we lose touch with our own values.
For example, if you value creativity, how can you bring this value into your daily life more often? If you value authenticity, how can you bring this quality to each interaction? Without clarifying your values, it is easy to lose touch with your own sense of self, finding yourself merely responding to the environments demands.
Get Help When You Need It:
Seeking help is a sign of strength not a weakness. And it is important to remember that treatment is effective. People who get appropriate care can recover from mental illness and addiction and lead full, rewarding lives. See Resources for Stress and Mental Health for campus and community resources.
*Adapted from the National Mental Health Association/National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare
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Connect To Your Community
A great way to feel emotionally strong and resilient in times of stress is to feel connected to a broad community. Think about the things you like to do. You can expand your social network by looking into a community organization that brings people together who share the same interests. For instance, many communities have local biking, hiking, or walking groups. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do like learn a new language? Take a class, or join a local group. You also may find the support you need through local support groups for a specific issue like parenting, dealing with a health problem, or caring for a loved one who’s ill.
Or consider volunteering with a community organization that helps fill a need. Here are some tips to make sure your volunteer experience works for you, and does not become an additional source of stress:
Take A Break From Screens
Electronic devices are an inescapable part of our daily lives. We need them to work, do school assignments, communicate with other people, and of course, entertain ourselves. Studies have found however that an excessive amount of screen time can actually lead to depression.
When we spend too much time watching shows, gaming, and scrolling through social media, we tend to become insular, sedentary, and disengaged from the real world. Social media, in particular, can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. So, another self-care tip for your mental health is to set aside time each day to put down your device, step away from the digital world, and connect with the real one.
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#selflove #selfcare #wellness #wellbeing
Dr. Kelsey Latimer, from the Center for Discovery in Florida, points out that self-care would most likely not be associated with posting to social media unless it was a spontaneous post, as self-care is focused on being in the moment and tuning out the social pressures.
And the social pressures around wellness are numerous.
Your self-care doesnt have to look like anyone elses.
The wellness industry has created space for improved mental health, yes, but its also morphed into just another way to be perfect like its easy to have the perfect diet, perfect body, and yes even the perfect self-care routine.
Latimer explains: This in itself takes us out of the self-care process and into the pressure zone.
If you feel strongly about developing a self-care practice, but dont know how to make it work for you, discuss it with a mental health professional and work together to come up with a plan that helps instead of harms.
If its watching TV, watch TV. If its a bath, take a bath. If its sipping a unicorn latte, doing an hour of hot yoga, then sitting for a reiki session, do it. Your self-care is your business.
My experiment in radical self-care evolved over time. I stopped trying to do self-care,I stopped pushing it. I stopped doing what other people said should make me feel better and started doing what I know makes me feel better.
Benefits Of Practising Self
Self-care improves our lives in different areas and in different ways, all of which are important to our overall health.
Practising self-care can have remarkable effects on our self-esteem. When we take care of ourselves, it affirms our self-worth. By taking care of ourselves and our needs, were telling ourselves, I deserve this. And we do.
With regular self-care, our self-awareness is greatly enhanced. Our go-to activities will usually be something that we already enjoy, but it also gives us the opportunity to branch out and try new things. This enables us to figure out what we do and doesnt like and, if we discover new interests, it can potentially lead to new passions and goals.
Self-care encourages self-improvement. It promotes rest and relaxation, which benefits our overall health and wellness, and it also promotes healthy relationships. When our self-esteem and self-awareness improves, it has a positive effect on our overall mindset. This, in turn, enables us to care for our friends and loved ones in a way that we might not have been able to do before.
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A Little Bit About Self
Self-care is not just about bubble baths and dark chocolate not that theres anything wrong with those things! In fact, taking the time to enjoy simple pleasures and indulgences is a very important part of self-care.
But that is just a small part. Self-care is about taking the time to do the things that help you maintain your mental and physical health at all times . And just like mental health, that means something a little bit different for everybody.
- For someone struggling with a mental illness, self-care includes taking medication as prescribed and consistently showing up for therapy sessions.
- For a person in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse, self-care means regularly attending AA or NA meetings or maintaining contact with their sober support network.
- For someone living with chronic illness or pain, self-care means adhering to their doctor-prescribed regimen of physical therapy, dietary restrictions, or medication schedule.
There is not a one-size-fits-all self-care plan for everybody, just like there isnt a fixed state for optimal mental health. It takes time and practice, and a little bit of experimentation to find the best mode of self-care for you.
Once you find what works for you, what keeps you feeling your best and participating most actively in your own life, the trick is to stick to the self-care routines that work, even when life gets challenging.
A Long Talk With Friends
Speaking to someone about your worries is a great way to feel less alone with what youre going through. But we know its not always easy.
Instead, you could try writing a journal, to get some of your worries out of your head and onto paper. Or sometimes just doing something sociable – a kickabout in the park, a coffee with a friend – where you don’t talk about anything deep at all can be just what you need.
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Taking Good Care Of Yourself
People in recovery offer the following suggestions:
- Focus on your strengths.
- Focus on the future instead of reviewing hurts from the past.
- Focus on your life instead of your illness.
As you work on your recovery, you might want to write down some of your main goals. These goals can be short-term and easily achievable, or you can start identifying bigger, more long-term goals that you want to work your way towards. It’s helpful to think of small steps to take toward them over a certain amount of time, like a week or a month. Remember to congratulate yourself for any successes. Achieving goals – even small ones – is a sign of hope and accomplishment.
Developing goals for recovery can be tricky, especially if you aren’t sure what it is that you want to accomplish. Consider your interests, things that bring you joy and things that keep you motivated. Also, think about the things you want, like where you want your life to go or what you would do more of if you could. Having a deep investment in the goals that you set will increase the chances of completing them.
Create a journal or scrapbook with pictures and clippings to help maintain your goals. Keeping a journal or scrapbook is a good way to track your goals and remind you of the things you’ve accomplished and the things you still plan to accomplish. Continue to add new goals as they come up. Recovery is a constant process and continuing to set goals for yourself will keep you motivated to reach and maintain wellness.
Incorporate Healthy Dietary Habits
Limiting sugar intake may be the single best way to immediately improve ones mental health. High levels of sugar consumption are associated with anxiety, depression, dementia, and several other illnesses. A study on sugar intake and mental health found:
men in the highest tertile of sugar intake from sweet food/beverages had a 23% increased odds of incident CMD after 5 years.
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What To Do In A Crisis
If you or someone you know is struggling or having thoughts of suicide, call or text the988 Suicide & Crisis Lifelineat 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. This service is confidential, free, and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In life-threatening situations, call 911.
For additional information about suicide prevention, please see NIMHs Suicide Prevention webpage.
Symptoms Of Mental Health Issues
If you feel like hurting yourself or others, please reach out for help right away. Call a doctor, a trusted friend, or a family member. If you dont have anyone to call, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 800-273-8255.
If you are not in immediate danger or crisis, but feel like you may be struggling more than necessary, here are some signs to look for that may indicate that your mental health is in need of some extra attention:
occur naturally and subtly all the time. But if you or someone you care for is acting drastically out of character, or feeling more negative, or angry, or sad all at once, it is time to stop and take a look at your mental health. Feelings fluctuate constantly of course, but sudden and drastic changes can be a sign of something more serious.
Mental health is fluid. It is constantly changing, shifting, and adapting to both internal and external stimuli and circumstances. This is why its important to have at least some awareness of your mental health at all times.
Life is busy and challenging and sometimes overwhelming. It can be easy to remain unaware of those subtle shifts and changes in your mental health until suddenly theyre not so subtle anymore, and you find yourself struggling.
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Final Thoughts On Self Care
There are many ways to define what self care is for you and there is no wrong way to practice self care as long as you feel good about what you are doing. Self care may involve seeking help for mental health from a therapist to truly take care of yourself. It can take time to incorporate self care activities in your day-to-day schedule, but with baby steps, you can set yourself up for success, balance, and fulfillment.
Pay Attention To The Present Moment
Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. This includes your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you.
Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”. Mindfulness can help you enjoy life more and understand yourself better. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.
Read more about mindfulness, including steps you can take to be more mindful in your everyday life.
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Understanding Mental Self Care
Your mental health is every bit as important as your emotional and physical health. When it is ignored or not maintained, you have a far greater risk of increased stress and anxiety. Unchecked depression and anxiety can very quickly lead to burnout and feelings of hopelessness both of which pose a very real danger.
There are a few ways that you can ensure that you stay in balance. Some of the simplest ways include the following:
Other Mental Health Resources
If you are struggling with other mental health issues or are looking for a specialist near you, use the Psychology Today therapist directory here to find a practitioner who specializes in your area of concern.
If you require a lower-cost option, you can check out BetterHelp.com. It is one of the most flexible forms of online counseling. Their main benefit is lower costs, high accessibility through their mobile app, and the ability to switch counselors quickly and easily, until you find the right fit.
*As an affiliate partner with Better Help, I receive a referral fee if you purchase products or services through the links provided.
As always, it is important to be critical when seeking help, since the quality of counselors are not consistent. If you are not feeling supported, it may be helpful to seek out another practitioner. I wrote an article on things to consider here.
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