First of all, congrats on even looking into ways to improve your mental health. Seeking help can be hard!
At the time I am writing this we are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Feelings of isolation and low mood have been occurring all over the world. While there are tough times in life and it may feel like things could not possibly get better, know that this is your depression or anxiety speaking.
Things will get better, what this list will help you do is take the power back from your mental health disorder!
10 Ways to Improve Mental Health
1. Focus on Setting a Good Sleep Routine
While struggling with mood disorders like Anxiety or Depression sleep is one of the first activities to suffer. I know it may be tempting to take naps or sit on your phone before going to bed but there will be a long term pay off that will be worth not doing these things.
Get back to the basics and write out a list of what you want to do before bed including brushing your teeth and a quiet activity. Checking off those items leads to a feeling of self-satisfaction because you should always celebrate little accomplishments to a better life!
2. Celebrate Small Accomplishments
I think the reason why most people are hesitant to do this is that they feel like they are ‘Coddling’ themselves. Our society puts too much pressure on us being perfect and the notion that what we are doing is not enough.
You know what? Working out for 10 minutes is great, it may not be the hour that other people think is the minimum but you got your body moving and started a new route. GOOD FOR YOU!
Check out my daily guide for small successes with my mental health checklist HERE
3. Read up on Cognitive Distortions
Cognitive distortions are a way of thinking that put a negative filter on situations. There are a ton out there and knowing what they are will help you look at negative situations in your life in a new light.
Spend some time reflecting each day on situations that have been bothering you and find what cognitive distortions may be applicable. Then come up with alternative reasonings for what happened or what could happen. After this take note of your body. Do you feel more calm and a general sense of peace?
HERE is a good worksheet I found on different Cognitive Distortions out there.
4. Reach out and Have Social Interactions
Being around people helps with feelings of loneliness. It is also a great reminder that there are people out there that want to be around you and enjoy your presence.
It can be tempting to think that people don’t want to hang out with you if they are not reaching out. But take the first step because they may be thinking the same thing!
5. Practice Opposite to Emotion Action Coping Skill
This is one of my favorite coping skills out there. It is rooted in DBT (Dialectic Behavioral Therapy) and is basically where you do an activity that is the opposite of how you are feeling.
For example: If you are feeling sad, watch a comedy movie or if you are feeling anxious or jittery do some relaxing yoga poses.
6. Clean Your Living Space
When you are going through an episode of Depression or Anxiety, it is easy to put activities of daily living on the back burner. Your space has then become so messy that it is a new source of stress.
Take an afternoon and clean your space. Or if that seems too daunting clean up for 5 minutes every hour taking the rest of the hour to do a pleasurable activity that will reward your accomplishment!
7. Eat Healthy Whole Foods
Do not worry about counting calories, rather focus on getting proper nutrients in your body. Eating healthy foods does affect your mood and your energy. Not feeling sluggish will allow you to do more activities during the day which will in turn improve your mood. It is all a cycle and small changes have an effect on other parts of your mental health.
Something good to practice is that if you feel like eating a slice of pizza, don’t stress about it too much. Offset it and eat the same amount of another healthy food like a salad or other vegetable.
8. Cut Back on Alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant. If you are struggling with low mood, it is not the greatest idea to add something that is designed to bring down your body even more.
I know it may seem hard because at the time of intoxication you will likely be in a good mood. Just remember how you feel the next day typically when you are tempted to drink and weigh the cost/benefit.
I’m not saying you should completely cut it off, but monitor your drinking and do so in a manner that is responsible for your body!
9. Decrease Time on Social Media
If you are feeling isolated, it may feel like social media is an outlet to combat this. If it does for you then great!
But take a hard look at what your seeing, do you have any feelings of jealously or self doubt because of what you are seeing? If so, take a time out and put down your phone. Often, people share only the best moments of their life. Realize that and reach out to people in more organic methods like seeing them in person.
10. Reassess your Hobbies
Take a moment right now and think. What is something that you have always wanted to try? Now start making a plan to do it. Look for things in life that drive you to go out and live!
For me, one thing I have always wanted to do is pottery. Why have I never done it before? I honestly cannot tell you. You always have the power to make a change in your life, you just need to take the first step.