Tips For Improving Your Mental Health
There are two main mental health problems: depression and anxiety. Many people who suffer from depression don’t realize it, and many people who suffer from anxiety don’t realize they’re suffering from it. Both problems can be debilitating.
Depression, sometimes called clinical depression, is a medical condition in which you have a depressed mood for most of the day for at least two weeks. It’s common, about 15 percent of Americans at some point experience it. But when you’re depressed, you often don’t recognize that you’re in a bad way — maybe you feel sad or hopeless but still manage to get out of bed and go to work each day. When someone is depressed, they might notice that they’re more tired than usual and less social than usual — but wouldn’t expect that to impair their ability to perform basic everyday tasks like dressing themselves or making dinner. When you’re depressed, you might also start to notice changes in your physical health — feeling weaker or gaining weight without trying — but not necessarily realize there’s anything wrong with your body
Anxiety is a different beast altogether and usually starts as mild “stress” before escalating into full-blown panic attacks. People with anxiety tend to recognize their symptoms as unusual, but not necessarily see them as problematic.
If you’re feeling down, a lack of mental health can be a real drag. It’s hard to focus, and your mood can spiral downwards. It’s easy to feel like a failure when you’ve lost control of your emotions. And if you’re on the receiving end of someone else’s bad mood, that can be equally demoralizing.
Fortunately, there are strategies for improving your mental health.
- Stressed out? Try some deep breathing. People who suffer from anxiety or panic attacks often find themselves consumed by their thoughts — and their breathing can help them calm down and feel more in control. Take a few moments to breathe deeply and deeply relax your muscles, then get back to work.
- Stressed out? Take up an activity associated with relaxation. Yoga, meditation classes, massage therapy — any activity that helps you relax can lift your spirits and relieve stress
- Feeling sad? Try to see the bright side of things or make plans for the future instead of dwelling on how things could have been different. Sometimes the situation may be beyond repair, but other times it may be fixable with a little effort
- Listening to music as you go about everyday tasks can bolster your mood. Some studies suggest that music can improve sleep quality, help people deal with stress.
- Writing down your goals can help you track progress and stay on target. A journal serves the same purpose. If you have the discipline to turn off your phone, read an interesting book, or spend an hour playing with Legos, you can use those same tools to improve your mental health.
- Reading is a great way to stimulate your mind — it can get you into a different point of view and expand your knowledge. While research shows that reading fiction is unlikely to be harmful to your mental health (in fact, it may be beneficial), it’s not for everyone. If you want to read fiction but worry that it might make you depressed, try reading something light like a romance novel or a self-help book instead.
- Get counseling or other support. Many people benefit from counseling or therapy to address issues that are difficult or painful to discuss, like abuse or sexual assault, or those that are related to their mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety disorder.
- Get regular medical checkups. Regular checkups can detect diseases early, which makes treatment easier and more successful, reduces the risk of complications, and lessens the impact of a condition on your overall mental health.
- Get enough sleep. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it can affect your ability to focus and make decisions, which can affect both your mental health and physical health.
- Take time for yourself. Life is full of responsibilities and obligations, so it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and bustle of work, family, and recreation. But it’s important to allow time for yourself to recharge — whether you’re doing yoga or reading a book or doing nothing at all. If you take a break from the stress of life and focus on what matters most to you, you’ll be better able to cope with the day-to-day pressures of life and move forward more productively.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity has been shown to improve not only your overall health but also your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins that provide some of the same benefits as prescription drugs used as anxiety medication by millions of people around the world — without any of the side effects or potential for abuse.
- Develop Positive Relationships. Your mental health depends on how you feel about yourself and the people around you — whether they love and accept you as you are, or whether they criticize or reject you. Negative interactions can make us feel bad about ourselves, which in turn makes us more likely to be negative toward others and create conflict in our lives. This makes it harder to be happy because we’re always focused on what’s wrong instead of what’s right.
- Challenge negative thoughts. Negative thinking is at the core of anxiety and depression, so it’s important to work on these issues. When you have a negative thought, question whether it’s true or not. If it’s not, then try to reframe it into something positive and realistic. For example, if you’re thinking, “I’m such a loser,” try changing that to “Everyone makes mistakes sometimes – I’ll move forward and do better next time.”
If you find yourself in a situation that’s causing you anxiety, don’t fight your feelings — learn from them. Anxiety can be a powerful motivator; that feeling of dread when you don’t want to go somewhere can be a sign that you need to work on your social skills or assertiveness.
- Practicing mindfulness is also good for mental health because it gives us a sense of control over our thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness means paying attention to what is happening right now in the present moment rather than focusing on what happened or what will happen later. The goal of mindfulness is to be nonjudgmental, meaning that we are aware of our thoughts but not trying to change them or judge them as good or bad. One way to practice mindfulness is through meditation
Take small steps to improve your mental health every day. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so make sure to take care of it!