The general rules for improving your physical health are generally pretty straight-forward: eat right, exercise, and drink plenty of water. But what happens when you fall into a mental funk and can’t seem to pull yourself out of it?
Whether you’re going through a rough patch or could just use a boost after a rough work week, here are a few tips to improve your mental health.
Reach Out to Loved Ones
It’s easy to slip into communication oblivion when you’ve got work, PTA meetings, sport games, weekend birthday parties, and a to-do list that stretches for miles. But having a strong support system will ultimately make your responsibilities feel less daunting, so don’t lose touch with your loved ones.
Make it a point to have weekly lunch or dinner dates with those who are close and video calls with those who aren’t. Send a quick email just to say hello to your sister who’s abroad or spare 15 minutes to give Grandma a phone call.
Even a quick walk around the block with Spike can help — in fact, spending time with your dog has been proven to reduce stress and improve your mood.
You could even take the opportunity to regain contact with old friends. Remember, others might be dealing with their own issues, and an unexpected hello to an old classmate or work friend can make you both feel more connected!
Find Ways to Volunteer Your Time
By volunteering your time to a worthy cause, you’ll be doing some greater good for the world, but also for your own health. Volunteering offers a number of health benefits, including reduced anxiety and depression and greater overall wellbeing. Volunteering helps to keep your mind active as well as your body, providing both physical and emotional benefits.
Maintain Healthy Habits
When the blues have you feeling down and out, it’s easy to reach for comfort foods. But many comfort foods are rich in carbohydrates and sugar, which create an initial feeling of energy and then cause your blood sugar to drop. In the long run, these eating habits intensify depression and anxiety. Instead, reach for foods rich in vitamins and nutrients, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains.
And be sure to get plenty of exercise. Getting up and moving is a consistent mood booster so find an activity that you enjoy doing so that you’ll do it consistently. Swimming is a great option, or set up a “walking date” and take a regular stroll around the neighborhood with your partner.
And keep in mind that getting up and moving doesn’t necessarily have to involve something we normally categorize as exercise. For example, gardening is great for improving mental health, and while it’s not technically exercise, it will help you get in some physical activity. Or maybe you love woodworking. Again, this isn’t technically exercise, but it does provide you with a positive outlet for expressing yourself, and it will get you up and moving around.
Take Up a New, Healthy Hobby
Finding a new hobby to learn and master can provide a sense of purpose and help to combat feelings of anxiety and depression. A hobby can be anything that interests you, from bird watching to stamp collecting, painting, crocheting, woodworking, and more.
Taking steps to improve your mental health is an important part of your overall well-being. By getting active through a new hobby or volunteering, getting adequate rest, and maintaining a healthy diet, you can find a greater sense of mental harmony.
A note from Network of Wellbeing:
Huge thanks to Jennifer for contributing this excellent post. We recognise that, as with physical illness, mental illnesses come in a wide variety of forms with different levels of severity. Many people will be able to maintain their mental health through day-to-day practices, focusing on tips such as those helpful tips shared above. Many others, especially those suffering from serious mental ill-health and long-term conditions or disorders may need additional support – including drugs, organised therapies, help to lead their lives and awareness of their difference. Please seek out the support that is best suited for you.