“Mental health matters” has become something of an unofficial mantra for the collective movement towards greater global mental health literacy, and probably now more than ever, people are becoming more and more aware of the value of taking care of not only their physical health, but their social, emotional, and psychological well-being, too.
The problem is, however, a lot of us don’t exactly know the right way of how we’re supposed to go about improving our mental health, just that we should. Stress management and emotion regulation, for example, are practical skills that are key to achieving mental wellness but they’re not exactly taught in school either.
So, with that said, if you are someone who’s looking to better their mental health but don’t quite know how, then you need not look any further. Here are 8 simple, easy, and psychology-backed ways to do just that:
1. Have a healthy lifestyle.
There’s no arguing that mental and physical health go hand-in-hand, so when you neglect one, the other will surely suffer. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed with your mental health lately, a good and easy way to get back on track is by eating something healthy, getting some more rest, or doing something to help you be more active. So next time you’re feeling really down, why not try eating food that’s been proven to boost endorphins, reduce anxiety, stress, and fatigue. Getting a full night’s rest or doing something physical — like running, playing a sport, swimming, dancing, or cycling — just might do the trick, too.
2. Talk to a friend.
In the day and age of social media and the internet, it can be easy to rely on online interactions and the safety net of a carefully crafted persona to fulfill the desire for social interaction we all have. But for us to truly reap the benefits of positive social interactions there needs to be a human connection. So why not go on a social media detox for a while and just spend quality time with your loved ones? Talk to your friends, reach out to your family, or meet new people by joining a club, organization, or volunteering program. Either way, being more socially involved and nurturing your interpersonal relationships is good for your mental health as studies show that it is the most important determinant of our overall life satisfaction (Waldinger, 2015).
3. Find a hobby/goal.
According to world famous psychologist Martin Seligmann (2012), there are six building blocks to positive well-being known as the PERMA-H model, and we’ve already covered two of them (health and relationships). Well, this tip covers three: positive emotions, engagement, and achievement. And you can experience all these things when you have a hobby or a goal in your life that you love and are passionate about. It can be anything at all that you enjoy doing, makes you lose track of time, and motivates you to excel.
4. Learn relaxation techniques.
Relaxation techniques are often taught by therapists to those suffering from trauma, anxiety, panic attacks, and phobia, but they can benefit just about anybody. Some of the most popularly recommended ones include progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, abd guided imagery — all of which you can easily learn about from numerous self-help books or online guides available. Relaxation techniques improve our mental health because they’ve been proven to decrease stress, lower blood pressure, and reduce psychosomatic symptoms (such as heart palpitations, muscle tension, sweaty palms, or difficulty breathing). Another great way to boost your mental health is through increased mindfulness and meditation. And while it’s admittedly more difficult to get the hang of than simple relaxation techniques — you may have heard stories about monks and buddhists taking years to fully master it — mindfulness meditation can be a very powerful and effective tool in combating any challenging thoughts, emotions, and experiences (Teasdale & Segal, 2007).
5. Practice gratitude.
Finally, psychologists have found that optimism and gratitude are the two most important factors in a person’s happiness and life satisfaction that we can directly control (Alspach, 2009). So if you’ve been feeling down lately or if there are things in your life that have been taking a toll in your mental health, try starting a gratitude journal to cultivate more optimism in your daily life. When you make a conscious effort to practice gratitude in your life, you start to realize how much you actually have to be thankful for.
6. Set healthy boundaries.
Building better boundaries is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Because when we fail to set boundaries with others, no matter who they are or how important they mean to us, we can easily fall victim to unhealthy relationship dynamics such as people-pleasing, overcommitting, and emotional co-dependency. So practice communicating your boundaries more clearly and kindly asking people to respect them. Protect your mental and emotional energy and spend it only on the things that truly matter to you.
7. Build emotion regulation skills.
Finally but perhaps most importantly, emotion regulation has been proven to be a key component of positive social relationships, personal achievement, and overall life satisfaction. That’s why it’s so crucial that we learn how to properly identify our emotions and deal with them in a healthier way. Even feelings like anger, jealousy, or hopelessness can be beneficial to us once we are able to understand what’s causing them and how to work through them.
So next time you feel your emotions starting to get the better of you — such as when you’re in the middle of a heated argument, or about to burst into tears with embarrassment — take a deep breath and step back for a moment, mentally, emotionally, or even physically if you really need to. Find healthier outlets for you to express your emotions and practice communicating them to others more constructively.
In summary, although all of these tips seem relatively simple and easy to do, especially on an everyday basis, they’re already a huge step in the right direction towards taking care of our mental health and flourishing in life. If you suspect, however, that there might be a more serious underlying issue to these feelings, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental healthcare professional today and get the help you need to live a happier, better quality life.
- Mind Org. UK (2017). Food and Mood: The Relationship Between Mental Health and Eating. Retrieved 2022 July from https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/2929/food-and-mood-2017.pdf
- Walker, M. P., & van der Helm, E. (2009). Overnight therapy? The role of sleep in emotional brain processing. Psychological bulletin, 135(5), 731–748. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016570
- Waldinger, R. (2015). What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness. Retrieved, 15, 2018.
- Seligman, M. E. (2012). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Simon and Schuster.
- Teasdale, J. D., & Segal, Z. V. (2007). The mindful way through depression: Freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness. Guilford Press.
- Alspach, G. (2009). Extending the tradition of giving thanks recognizing the health benefits of gratitude.