3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Mental Health
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being that allows you to realize your full abilities, cope with life stress, work productively, and contribute to your community. And who wouldn’t want more of all of those things?
So why wait? Here are some things you can do right now to give your mental health a boost.
1: Talk to Yourself
Many of us struggle with the voice inside our heads that never has anything nice to say. Too often, that voice focuses solely on reminding us about all the things that are wrong with our lives, our bodies, our relationships, and anything and everything else. But our mothers were right when they taught us, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Negative self-talk is a dangerous pattern that can severely damage our happiness and mental health.
According to Psychology Today’s Robert Puff Ph.D., it’s vital that we learn to speak to ourselves with kindness. Remember that many of the statements we tell ourselves are not true. When we become aware of our patterns of negative self-talk, we can remind our brains that just as we would never speak that way to a friend, we shouldn’t speak that way to ourselves. Then we can begin to replace our negative self-talk with helpful, positive affirmations.
- “I am enough.”
- “I love myself yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”
- “I am worthy of love.”
- “Productivity does not define my value.”
- “I am at peace in my body, my mind, and my life.”
So the next time you’re tempted to sling a negative thought at yourself, pause and make a decision to say something kind instead. Then smile.
2: Get Outside
Even if you only have time for a quick stroll through the park on your lunch break, there are many mental health benefits to being outdoors. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including:
- improved attention
- lower stress
- better mood
- reduced risk of psychiatric disorders
- upticks in empathy and cooperation
Some of the best parts of being outside are the fresh air and sunshine. Sunlight can trigger the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is a mood booster, helping us to feel calmer and focused.
Even the sounds of nature have beneficial side effects to our mental health. A study published in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review found that study participants who listened to nature sounds like crickets chirping and waves crashing performed better on demanding cognitive tests than those who listened to urban sounds like traffic and the clatter of a busy café.
So instead of working through your lunch break or spending the evening binge-watching that next season of your favorite series, take a few minutes to step outside and get a little sunshine, bird-chirping, fresh-air therapy.
No, we’re not talking about your internet speed. Human beings are social creatures and our mental health relies on finding meaningful connections with each other. Good relationships can:
- Help improve our sense of self-worth
- Give us opportunities to share and experience positive encounters
- Provide emotional support and allow us to support others
But what does connecting with people really mean, and how does it happen? According to the experts at Harley Therapy, real connection is more than just talking to others or sharing interests. After all, we can talk for over an hour with someone about sports or politics, even if we secretly can’t stand them.
Examples of human connection are things such as:
- having a personal conversation about what is important to you with someone and feeling listened to and understood
- taking the time to listen to someone else and feeling real empathy for them
- helping someone else out of unconditional goodwill
- offering sincere gratitude to another and receiving gratitude from others
- catching a stranger’s eye and both smiling
- a shared experience with others that involves laughter and goodwill
Just remember that you don’t have to wait for someone to reach out to you. Be willing to be the one to reach out. Invite a friend to dinner, find a hobby and join a group of like-minded people, and most importantly, be willing to ask for help if you’re struggling. Being honest and open with your mental health needs is one of the bravest ways you can connect with others. You never know who else in your life is struggling too. And sometimes, the best connection is not feeling alone.