All of us hope to be the best version of ourselves. Sometimes we can even stress about achieving our goals that the overwhelming pressure can stop us in our tracks and leave us unmotivated or stressed. Most of us think we need to start with big changes in order to improve our life and mental health. But, what if I told you some simple small actions you put into place can cause some real change?
It’s the small things that add up and can make a real difference with time – and some with no time at all! Here are seven small changes that will improve your mental health.
1. Put Your Phone on Silent & Face it Down
Social media can be on most of our minds quite often. With our attention being pulled one place to the next, it’s best to slowly peel back our distractions and focus on the present. That means you browsing endlessly like a wide-eyed zombie on social media? A habit undeserving of your time. Leave the zombie-look to the horror movies, not your phone screen reflection. So, try leaving your phone on silent, always. If you need it for work, leave it off when you aren’t expecting a call and on the weekends. When you enter a room or go out for dinner with family or friends? Put your phone away or face down so the bright glow of your screen won’t bother you with a notification. Our phones have a way of causing a bit of undue stress on us. Social media can be unhealthy, emails from work can distract us when it’s the weekend, and those random notifications beside our apps? They aren’t even real notifications! Who cares if my long lost cousin Larry posted a new video?! He posts them all the time! I haven’t seen him in a decade!
2. If You Set Your Alarm, Place it Opposite Your Bed
Do you often wake to the sounds of birds chirping in a sweet morning breeze? The smell of a fresh cup of coffee and splendidly cooked eggs? That’s right, splendidly. Ah, what pleasures. No? You wake to the sounds of that horrid alarm tone – that was, let’s admit it, once set to sound peaceful, (ah, you naive little you). And what is it you smell? Not fresh coffee but dirty socks and last nights take-out pizza? Ah, pizza. Point is, our mornings aren’t always the greatest to wake up to. That’s why sleep is so blissful! I mean, but we can’t sleep all day. Oversleeping can have a negative impact on our mental health. Which is why if your sleep schedule is off, you likely need an alarm to kick things into gear.
If you use an alarm in the mornings, it’s best to place it near the opposite wall from your bed. Keep it as far as possible while still in your bedroom. Or, if you don’t have anywhere to be, or maybe you work nights, make sure your schedule is on track then wake naturally. I know, kinda contradicting right? But if we don’t need to be somewhere we should give our brains the relaxing rest it needs and then wake up naturally. But, if we’re doomed to often sleep in. Set your alarm and throw it across your room to it’s own little pillow. This way, you’ll have to force yourself out of bed to turn it off in the morning, jump starting the ‘awakening’ process. You can’t drowsily hit snooze if you’re already up and walking right? …Right?
3. Carry a Bottle of Water With You, Always
Eight cups a day! That’s what they always say. And hey! I wouldn’t have it any other way. You can even try it today! What do you say? Hehe, sorry I was giving myself a little rhyming challenge. – I can’t stop once I’ve started the rhyming process!
It’s very important that was stay hydrated throughout our day. Drinking plenty of water helps our mood and memory. Not enough water and we feel mentally foggy and unalert. So, try keeping a water bottle by your side at all times. This will remind you to drink when you get the chance. And you may realize you’ve been more thirsty than you thought. My solution? That water by your side? Drink up and drink a lot!
4. Allow Yourself to Say ‘No’
We often times can feel pressured to doing things we don’t want to, or guilty if we don’t do someone a favor. You only have so much energy to expend in a day! Guess what? I am fully giving you permission to say ‘no’. You shouldn’t need to feel guilty every time you turn down your buddy’s bowling invite or invitation for a night out with pizza. I mean… pizza is pizza. It sure is good, but… – you wanted tacos tonight!
The truth is, we can feel good when we grow confidence and make our own decisions. One way to gain confidence? Stand up for yourself. I know doing a favor is a good thing, but if you are often taken advantage of or simply don’t want to do something no longer, say no. And then once you do so, allow yourself to not feel guilty and simply do whatever it is you want to do. It’s tacos for you tonight.
5. Keep a Journal & Share Your Ideas
We can often bundle up our feelings tightly and then shove them in the cold, dark freezer at the back of our mind. Ya know, with that leftover smelly pizza from this morning? But it’s important to get any strong thoughts out in some way. Good or bad. So, who are you going to tell these thoughts? Yourself for starters! But, not in your head. Get them out in words.
Research published in APA’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: General found that expressive writing reduces suppressed and intrusive negative thoughts and can improve our working memory! This ‘freed up’ mental room can allow us to use our cognitive resources to focus on other things and improve how we handle stress!
So, start writing your thoughts down or share your ideas and thoughts with someone who you feel comfortable with. You can even write what you’re grateful for each morning to start your day with positivity! Expression leads us to feeling better about ourselves and frees up some space in our mental room. Even our old mental freezer.
6. Replace the Bad Thoughts with Good Ones by Acknowledging Them First
It’s best to express what’s bothering us by talking to someone or journaling and sorting out the problem on paper. But, if unnecessary worries find a way inside your mind, try acknowledging it and then consciously allow yourself to ‘move on’. This can be tricky for a lot of people. We tend to ruminate and worry about things that generally won’t harm us in the long-run. We can be watching a movie with a worry lurking in the back of our mind. Or the pain from a harsh comment still weighing down on us. Take a moment, take a breath, acknowledge what you’re feeling, and then distract yourself. Lay your feet out, your favorite scene is coming up! Take a potato chip, mmmm how salty! Start up a conversation and tell your friend about how much you enjoyed those tacos last night. Yum. …Sorry, I must be hungry. 🙂
7. Think Before You React
Someone just said the most annoying thing and you can’t help but scream! But you can… can’t you? And well… odds are you won’t scream. But you can sure feel like it. Before you go on to reacting angrily from a bad mood or rude comment. Take a moment and consciously question it. How will your reaction change the scene? Your words hold power in some situations. For better, or for worse. You can worsen a situation, or improve it. It only takes a moment to decide. Which will it be? Just hopefully, you won’t scream.
You were… hun-GREE. Hehe, okay I’ll stop. Actually ‘no’ I won’t. Okay but seriously I gotta eat something. I don’t care if it’s Friday. It’s taco Tuesday tonight.
So, which small change will you enact first? Do you like pizza? Or tacos? Share with us in the comments.
Written by Michal Mitchell
Check out “What Your Favorite Food Says About You, According to Research” or my other articles here.
- Carpenter, Siri. “A New Reason for Keeping a Diary.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/monitor/sep01/keepdiary.
- Wiest, Brianna. “22 Microhabits That Will Completely Change Your Life in a Year.” Forbes, 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/briannawiest/2018/09/18/22-microhabits-that-will-completely-change-your-life-in-2-years/?sh=26fb659e1035.
- D’Avella, Matt, director. 10 Small Changes That Will Improve Your Life, 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIIGCTIpRMk.