When you’ve got a busy life, it’s so easy for your mental health to fall on the back burner. Between work, family, a social life, and hobbies, you’ve got enough on your plate.
Adding one more thing to the list, such as your mental wellness, might feel like the last thing you want to do. One in five American adults experienced some form of mental illness in 2019. Clearly, the effects of pushing your mental health aside can be dire.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to actively prioritize your mental health. Here are our top six.
1. Cut Back On Technology
There’s no denying that we live in a digital age. While the advances in technology have done so much good for humanity, there are some downsides as well. Specifically, over the years, we have seen an uptick in problematic technological behaviors, such as Internet addiction and digital dependence.
A 2019 map of reviews indicates that such behaviors have negative effects on people’s psychological wellness. These behaviors can lead to mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, aggression, hostility, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Plus, social media can lead to a wide range of unpleasant side effects on users’ mental health. Some of the common consequences include feelings of inadequacy about one’s life (in comparison to others’ lives), fear of missing out (FOMO), and feelings of isolation.
In fact, one study from the University of Pennsylvania found that high usage of sites like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram increases feelings of loneliness, despite the fact that these platforms are meant to increase feelings of connection.
Make a conscious effort to reduce your screen time as much as possible. Instead of scrolling mindlessly through Instagram, read a book. Rather than spending hours watching television, go for a walk or play a board game with your family. Decreasing your screen time will help you live more presently and improve your mental health.
2. Get Some Sleep
Did you know that the inability to fall asleep is often one of the first signs of depression or anxiety? Additionally, a lack of quality sleep can exacerbate the symptoms of such mental health conditions.
According to the Sleep Foundation, a lack of sleep is particularly harmful to the brain’s consolidation of positive emotions. Subsequently, your mood and emotional reactivity can be significantly impacted. The organization reports that a lack of sleep is closely tied to mental health conditions as well as their severity. This includes the risk of suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors.
Clearly, getting the right amount of high-quality sleep is a game-changer when it comes to your mental health. With that in mind, aim to get at least seven to eight hours every single night. To ensure you get better sleep, avoid screens for at least an hour before going to bed. Instead, try reading or meditating; this will help your brain unwind enough for you to fall asleep.
3. Exercise Regularly
When it comes to bettering your mental wellness, physical activity is an important complement to a healthy diet.
Exercise is incredibly powerful in treating a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, trauma, stress disorders (including PTSD), anxiety, and ADHD. This is largely because exercise releases endorphins in the body, which reduce stress and boost your mood.
Many research studies have conveyed this link. For example, one study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health discovered that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for one hour decreases the risk of major depression by 26%. Research also suggests that maintaining a consistent exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
4. Eat Well
Your diet greatly affects your mental wellbeing – and the research backs this up. For instance, one review of 21 international studies revealed that a healthy dietary pattern (high intakes of fruit, vegetables, fish, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and antioxidants) was linked to a lower risk of depression.
On the other hand, a “Western-style diet” (a high intake of red and processed meats, sweets, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products) was associated with a higher risk of depression.
Do your best to ensure you’re eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet the majority of the time. Not only will this lead to better physical health, but it will also lead to better mental health in the long run.
5. Talk to a Therapist
It may seem daunting, but seeking professional help is one of the most effective ways to look after your mental health. A therapist can act as a completely impartial source of support when you need it most. They can also provide you with the expert insight and tools you need to heighten your mental wellness.
If you’re not ready to visit a therapist in person, online therapy can be an excellent starting point. Platforms like BetterHelp, Talkspace and Emote are perfect for people seeking online counseling services. They offer you the option to communicate with licensed professionals via chat rooms, on the phone, or face-to-face video sessions. Typically, they are also more affordable than traditional, in-person therapy, making it suitable for nearly any budget.
If you’re unsure which website is best suited to your needs, start by comparing Talk Space, Better Help, and Emote Life. Take a look at each platform’s services, their pricing, and the pros and cons of each. In doing so, you’ll likely make your decision much easier.
6. Give Yourself Some Grace
One of the most important and simple steps you can take to improve your mental health is being kind to yourself. Although it may sound easy on paper, it’s often a conscious effort that takes time and practice.
In general, we are so much harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else. We often criticize and condemn ourselves with such intensity that we would never use it with other people. Self-compassion is often seen as a low priority, if not completely selfish or self-indulgent. In truth, it’s neither. On the contrary, self-compassion is completely necessary to improve your mental well-being.
To strengthen your sense of self-compassion, take time to do things you enjoy. Practice self-care. Use kind language when you speak to yourself. To make this easier, try speaking to yourself the way you would speak to your best friend.
When it comes to taking care of your mental health, these six strategies are merely a starting point. There are countless ways you can prioritize your mental wellness, most of which are easier than you think. All you need to do is get started. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits of strong and balanced mental health.