The conversation about mental health is really opening up lately — and we’re glad to see it! It’s about time we get past the stigmas and start feeling more comfortable sharing about our struggles with anxiety, depression, and more.
There are some situations, of course, that require assistance from a mental health expert, but if you’re dealing with more subtle dips in your mental health — moodiness, exhaustion, irritability, higher stress levels — or if you want to supplement other mental health treatments, there are plenty of simple things you can try. Keep scrolling for eight ideas to help improve your mental health.
1. Spend time with positive people. If your mental health is feeling like it’s in the gutter — or getting close — the last thing you need is to be around negative influences. One of the easiest ways to turn the tide on a persistent bad mood, lagging energy, or depression, is to seek out positivity, instead! Make a mental list of the most positive people in your life, whether they’re friends, family members, co-workers, or casual acquaintances.
Reach out with an invitation for a casual coffee date or happy hour and soak in allll of those good vibes while you’re spending time together. If you’re dealing with people who are especially close to you, you might even consider letting them know that you’ve been feeling a little down in the dumps and that a pep talk from them could go a long way toward making you feel better!
If you have friends or family members who tend to be especially negative or who drain your energy, it might be best to establish just a little distance from them until you’re feeling more like yourself. It’s not forever!
2. Try mindfulness practices. Maybe you’re skeptical about practices like meditation, breathwork, gratitude journaling, and the like. We get it! If you’re looking for ways to improve your mental health, though, it may be time to get over your skepticism and try something new.
According to Harvard Health, these mindfulness practices have proven effective for the treatment of everything from depression and anxiety to eating disorders and couples’ conflicts. They are also beneficial for physical health and overall well-being.
Start small with a basic mindfulness meditation. Find a place to sit quietly, then focus on your natural breathing or on a single word that you can repeat in your head as a mantra. If this feels out of your comfort zone, you can also try journaling to help get in better touch with your thoughts.
3. Give back. We all know that giving to others is the right thing to do. But did you know that it can also ease the symptoms of poor mental health?
Per the Mayo Clinic, volunteering reduces the risk of depression. Research shows that the social interaction and community building that come with giving back are hugely beneficial for anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, and persistent low moods. Giving back can also help reduce stress levels.
Grab some friends and organize a community clean-up project or find a local organization seeking volunteers to tutor, help at animal shelters, or spend time with hospital patients. Choose a cause that’s especially close to your heart for maximum motivation.
4. Practice good health and wellness habits. Yes, we’re talking specifically about mental health here, but healthy physical habits play a role in that, too. Getting regular exercise will take the edge off your stress and ease your anxiety, and Harvard Health notes that diet is especially important for keeping depression at bay.
Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and lean proteins is a great place to start for overall wellness. Omega-3 fatty acids — which you can find in fish, flax seeds, and chia seeds — are commonly used to treat depression, as well, according to the National Institutes of Health.
5. Switch up your routine. Everyone’s been stuck in a rut. We get used to a specific routine and we stick to it day after day, week after week. Routines can be really great for productivity, but they can also be, well… boring.
If you’re not feeling quite like yourself, the first step to boosting your mood might be shaking up your routine. Go to a new workout class, get up a little extra early to make time for self-care, check out a new restaurant, or invite your friends or significant other for a spontaneous hang-out in the middle of the week. It might be just the thing to improve your mental health!
6. Ask for help. Asking for help might look different for different people. For some, it’s enough to simply delegate household chores or ask for back-up with the kids’ carpool so they can free up extra time and brain space for self-care. For others, it’s all about seeking emotional support from another person so they’re not managing their mental health all on their own.
Don’t be afraid to get the help you need! If life is feeling especially overwhelming lately, get advice from a trusted friend or research therapists or counselors who can help get you through this difficult period.
There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help — of any kind.
7. Get some fresh air. According to Harvard Health, spending time outside is another way to give your mental health a boost. This might be because we’re often getting exercise when we’re outdoors, but the science still speaks for itself. So get outside!
Remember: if you’re planning to spend a lot of time outdoors, it’s important to protect yourself from the sun with plenty of sun protection. The vitamin D that comes naturally from sunlight is beneficial for mental health, but there are plenty of dangers that come from sun exposure, too. Safer sun is where it’s at!
8. Treat yourself. Maybe you just need to pamper yourself!
All too often, we get so swept up in the chaos and stress of life that we don’t make time for self-care. A little quality time for you might be just the thing to turn your bad vibes around. Buy yourself a little gift, take a mental health day, or get your glow own with a healthy tan. You’re totally worth it!