Life is constantly in flux. Sometimes you may feel pulled in all kinds of directions, from one change to another, blurring your days together to form clouded memories of how you made it through. Regardless of whether your world feels happily or haphazardly chaotic, fundamentally, what you need are supportive habits that will keep you grounded, mentally clear, and well from the inside out to weather it all. These habits could serve not only to center you through transitions and changes, but also to provide freedom through structure for your day-to-day lifestyle. Adopting and cementing these habits into your life could also act as a preventative measure, put in place to keep you from spiraling into negative mental patterns if they begin to surface in the face of life changes. Here are 5 habits to stay mentally healthy to keep in mind through both good and challenging times:
Drink Water Upon Waking
Whether you wake up at 6 am or 2 pm (this is a judgment-free zone), the best and simplest thing you can do for your mental wellbeing is to rehydrate your body and mind. A study conducted in 2018 concluded with findings that correlated dehydration with a higher risk of depression and anxiety. By helping to keep your brain cells well and functioning, water aids in the regulation of brain chemicals to keep anxiety at bay.
An easy way to help adopt this habit is by keeping a glass of water by your bed at night, completely in reach for when you awake in the morning! If you’d like to level up in your water consumption game, try keeping a water bottle with you throughout the day or keep a pitcher on your desk. The key is to make water become as easily accessible as possible and always within sight or grasp.
Besides the obvious health benefits for your body, prioritizing movement in your day can also prove to be helpful for maintaining your mental health. Moving your body intentionally on a regular basis can help rewire your brain in ways that generate higher levels of happy chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. While exercising from time to time and whenever possible is still a fantastic way to stay mentally and physically well, the optimal benefits become more apparent when you’re able to adopt a consistent habit of including activity in your day.
No need to hop on the treadmill for an hour or hit the gym every morning! Like our last habit and like all others on this list, the goal is to keep it simple and accessible. Even ten minutes of a cardio workout video you find on YouTube each day, at any time of the day, can be rewarding. Start small, then gradually build more time and intensity into your routine as you find it appropriate.
Stimulate Your Mind
Remember the last time you learned something new. How did you feel? Accomplished? Proud? Perhaps you might’ve had some struggles while learning, but ultimately you’re a changed person because of what you learned. Kudos to you for really earning those life experience points.
Finding ways to challenge and stimulate your mind can not only add to your list of skills or hobbies but can also build resilience and a capability to recognize hardships from a more positive perspective. Instead of thinking, “Why is this happening to me?” you might begin to ask yourself, “How is this happening for me?” Carve out a piece of time – no matter how big or small – out of your day to challenge yourself. Whether through learning a new language, trying out mind puzzles, or teaching yourself to play a new instrument, anything that gives you the feeling of breaking through to a new you – the you who could do what you thought you once couldn’t.
Indulge in What You Love
Now that you’ve taken a step towards mastering your goals, reward yourself by enjoying something that makes you happy – purely happy – without any pretenses, such as purpose, reason, or societal expectations tied to it. As long as it causes no harm and brings you taintless joy, give yourself permission to dive in for some time during the day.
We often find ourselves creating a life based on what we believe others expect of us, from our jobs, hobbies, to even our personalities. Enveloping yourself in a personal pleasure for the sake of no one else but your own trains your mind to believe that you’re worthy of self-care and self-love. So regardless if that means watching an episode of your favorite show, scrapbooking, or having that dessert, go for it if you know you’ve been doing a great job maintaining your other responsibilities.
Create Quiet Time
After a full day’s worth of habit maintenance, responsibility fulfillments, socializing, and internet/media deep dives, it can feel like a lot to process. Imagine your mind like an engine: it starts up when you wake and is shut off when you go to bed – well, not entirely, given how active your subconscious is when you sleep. While the conscious part of your brain is the part of you you’re more familiar with working with, your subconscious is the one that’s really running the show – it’s the man (or woman) hidden behind the current in the Wizard of Oz!
Even when the conscious mind is off duty once the day ends, your subconscious continues to work by processing all the information you’ve subconsciously collected throughout the day. This is why you’ll often dream about what you suppress or attempt to repress – it’s your mind’s way of working through what you have difficulties processing in waking life. The less time you allow for your mind to process and empty during your waking hours, the harder it’ll have to work while you sleep, which then results in poor sleep quality due to nightmares, tension, or insomnia from anxiety.
Though it might be best to do so before you head to sleep, isolating 10-20mins to have intentional quiet time during any time of the day works perfectly. While mediation is a popular choice, it doesn’t have to be the only option if you prefer other methods of creating peace in your mind. Soaking in a bath before bed, journaling, or coloring are all great ways to empty a cluttered mind.
Take this list more as a guidepost and less as gospel. Find ways to make them work for you in your personal lifestyle. And most importantly, don’t get so caught up in rigid routines and make room for flexibility. For example, including movement daily doesn’t have to mean jogging at the same time every day. Try other forms of movement, like skateboarding or stretching.
Besides, the tree that knows how to bend grows to be the tallest and strongest of all.
Be sure to check out our Psych2Go YouTube channel for more videos like the one below on tips to stay mentally healthy!
Haghighatdoost, Fahimeh, et al. “Drinking Plain Water Is Associated with Decreased Risk of Depression and Anxiety in Adults: Results from a Large Cross-Sectional Study.” World Journal of Psychiatry, Baishideng Publishing Group Inc, 20 Sept. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6147771/.
McGonigal , Kelly, and Kelly McGonigal Stanford University Kelly McGonigal. “Five Surprising Ways Exercise Changes Your Brain.” Greater Good, 6 Jan. 2020, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_surprising_ways_exercise_changes_your_brain.
Shaw, Gina. “Water and Stress Reduction: Sipping Stress Away.” WebMD, WebMD, 7 July 2009, www.webmd.com/diet/features/water-stress-reduction#1.
Stillman, Jessica. “This 10-Minute Routine Is the Ultimate Mind Cleanse.” Inc.com, Inc., 10 May 2016, www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/this-10-minute-routine-is-the-ultimate-mind-cleanse.html.
Wei, Marylnn. “4 Ways to Detox from Negative Media.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 Mar. 2015, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/urban-survival/201503/4-ways-detox-negative-media.