There’s a lot of information out there on how to improve your health and wellness. You’ve probably read all about the ‘best’ diets and exercise routines. But all your efforts in these areas can mean nothing if your mental health is poor.
Your mental health controls your mood, your attitude to life, and your physical health. And with all the hardship and problems that life brings, your mental health is under constant stress and strain.
The best time to strengthen your mental health is not when you’re in crisis. It’s every day, so that you’re strong enough to cope when times do get difficult. To help you with that, here are 9 ways to boost your mental health that are easy, practical, and can be done in a few minutes every day.
1. Spend time with people you trust
A recent study released by Harvard University has confirmed it. Connections with others are by far the most important element to a happy life, health, and wellness. And yet too many people let those connections fall by the wayside, their importance eclipsed by the demands of work, friendships, or even other relationships.
This is the cliché about deathbed regrets. Do you want to be on your deathbed wondering why work ever seemed so important? Or would you prefer to be laying there surrounded by people who love you and memories of times, happy and sad, spent with those who are precious to you? This really isn’t a difficult question.
2. Be grateful
Life can be hard sometimes, for everyone. Things go wrong, people get sick, and it can be difficult to see the good in life when there’s so much bad. It can also be difficult to maintain your health and wellness when you’re overcome by all the bad.
Obviously, if you have problems to solve in your life, then you need to spend time thinking about how to move past them. But there is a point at which thinking about something becomes dwelling. This negative spiral of thinking is not only unhealthy, it’s also very damaging to your mental health and to every other part of your life.
There are lots of different ways to break out of these negative spirals, but one of the best ways is with gratitude. Take time, every day, to think about things that you’re grateful for.
Your gratitude list could include your friends, your loved ones, your pet, the smell of the roses in your garden, or the taste of chocolate on your tongue. No matter how hard life gets, there are small things to be grateful for. And spending time feeling that gratitude will automatically lift your mood and stop the death spiral of bad in your mind.
3. Care for others
When you’re unhappy, uncertain, or anxious, it can be tempting to look inward, to shut out the external world and focus only on your own problems. But this very narrow view of the world won’t improve your mental health. In fact, it will probably make it worse.
There are lots of things about modern life that encourage this self-centred approach to life. But the truth is that looking outwards is far more beneficial. Helping someone else reminds you that you’re not the only person with problems. It gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment. And it connects you to other people in a very real, important way.
4. Try something new
Life can get boring sometimes. The humdrum march of chores and work and eating and sleeping can slip by like a half-remembered dream. And then one day, you wake up and you’re forty and wondering where the rest of your life went.
New things are the antidote for this. They push your boundaries and test your strengths and weaknesses. They make you feel alive and awake because you have to think and learn and try. They also encourage your brain to create new neural pathways, which can help protect you against certain age-related problems.
It doesn’t matter what kind of new elements you bring into your life to improve your health and wellness. To varying degrees, all new things will have this effect. You can try:
- Making a new recipe
- A new hobby
- Travelling to a new area on the weekend
- Reading a new author
- A new workout
- Listening to new music
- Talking to someone you haven’t met before
- Trying a new food or a new cuisine
- Watching a new movie genre
- New clothes shop
- Wearing a new outfit
5. Disconnect from social media
Technology promises to connect people with friends and loved ones in better ways than ever before. And yet statistics show that the rates of loneliness in the world are steadily increasing.
Of course, social media can connect you, but it can also isolate you in a world of comparison and fake connections. Never use social media as a replacement for real, person-to-person contact. And never use it as a replacement for experiences.
No matter what anyone says, staring at images on a screen can’t compete with the real world. The experience of standing in a perfectly manicured garden, of hiking up a mountain at dawn, of smelling a newborn’s head, they’re magnitudes better than looking at images on a screen. And best of all, they aren’t curated.
When you climb that mountain, you’ll feel the joy as well as the pain of that blister on your feet. It’s the complete experience that stays with you, not the one-sided barrage of perfect lives and perfect experiences.
6. Get outside
Humans are a part of nature, even if we don’t act like it sometimes. That’s why getting out in nature can be so beneficial for your health and wellness. Here are some of the benefits of getting out in nature more often:
- It reduces anger and stress
- It encourages positive emotions
- Your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormone production lower
- It can reduce your pain levels
- Improvements in your ability to concentrate and pay attention
- A feeling of being connected to the wider world and to other people
- Encourage you to be more active
- Improve your confidence and self-esteem
7. Take care of your body
You only get one body, so you need to take care of it. In so many cultures and workplaces, there seems to be the unspoken belief that you need to work endlessly to make money. Then, once you’re richer but sick and older, you can use the money to repair the damage you’ve done to your body. This idea is not only slightly sad. It also ignores the fact that you don’t know how long you’re going to live.
Everyone’s heard stories about the man or woman who worked hard until their retirement, made lots of plans, and died soon after. Don’t be like this. Your life is short and, unless you believe in reincarnation, it’s the only one you get. So, make sure you take care of your body. Because it’s very hard to enjoy your life if you’re sick or in pain.
Here are some tried and tested ideas for caring for your body as part of your health and wellness routine:
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night
- Eat a healthy diet that works with your body (link to 6 Tips for Choosing the Best Diet for You)
- Avoid sugary, fatty, or processed foods
- Exercise every day
- Choose forms of exercise that you enjoy
- Learn to manage your stress with yoga, meditation, or other relaxation strategies
- Avoid toxins that damage your body like tobacco, drugs, or alcohol
8. Move forward in your life
Everyone has a different tolerance for change. Some people love it, seek it out, and feel incomplete without it. Others resist change with all the strength in their bodies. You probably know which category you fall in to already. But whether you’re in love with change or change adverse, you still need to have some forward momentum and movement in your life for the sake of your health and wellness.
Setting goals for your life and achieving them helps build your self-worth. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment that can’t be achieved any other way. And it’s the best way to ensure that you create the life you want, rather than one that occurs by accident.
9. Ask for help
Mental health is a loaded topic for many people. Your attitude to seeking help can depend on your gender, your age, where you live, and even your culture of origin. Unfortunately, too many people are extremely reluctant to seek out help for mental health issues because of:
- Feelings of shame
- Fear or worry
- Financial considerations
- The attitudes of the people around you
Asking for help with your mental health is not weak. And mental health issues are real, not something that people make up to get attention. You also don’t have to wait until your mental health issues are ‘bad enough’ to get help. As with many physical disorders, getting help early is vital in ensuring that you enjoy the best outcome possible. You wouldn’t wait until your foot was infected and about to fall off before seeing a doctor. So, you shouldn’t wait until you’re in severe mental pain and distress before seeking help either.
There are a number of mental health treatments for various problems and disorders. And the sooner you get help with whatever problem you’re experiencing, the better the outcome will be. You never know, you might also inspire someone else in your life who needs treatment but has been avoiding it out of shame or fear as well. Your actions could, quite literally, save a life and a mind.
Your health and wellness aren’t issues that you can just ignore. And your mental health is a big part of that. To feel mentally healthy and happy in the long term, you need to take action today and every day, rather than waiting until you experience a crisis.
If you’re struggling with your mental health or someone you love is, there is help out there. You just have to ask the question.