We all have mental health. And that doesn’t just mean health conditions; your mental health is about your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It influences the way you think, feel, and act, and those in turn influence your mental health.
People with good mental health tend to feel well emotionally and think clearly. When you are feeling well mentally, you are better equipped to handle stressful events and maintain positive relationships. When you are not feeling your best, it can be challenging to get motivated and enjoy life to the fullest. Since mental health and physical health are connected, people with poor mental health often feel sluggish and lethargic. And alternatively, when you stay well physically, it helps keep your mind healthy.
Ultimately, taking care of both your mind and body can have a positive impact on your mental health. One way to improve your mental health is to engage in self-care by taking time each day to look after yourself. Just like vitamins and medications can help boost your immune system and heal your body, self-care can boost your mood, lower your stress levels, and improve how you feel about yourself. And when you feel good about yourself, your relationships can improve, your self-esteem may heighten, and your overall outlook on life will be healthier and more positive.
What you choose to do for self-care is personal. It can be anything you want it to be, but it should be something you enjoy and that relaxes you. Is it doing something for your body? For your mind? Is it spending time alone or with a loved one or a friend? The possibilities are endless. We have put together some suggestions to help you figure out what self-care means for you. Choose one of these ideas, or come up with one of your own. Let us know what works for you in the comments below!
Exercise: The mental health benefits of exercise are well documented. Physical activity can help to reduce anxiety and depression by increasing blood flow to the brain, stimulating a physiologic reaction to stress, and improving self-esteem. Exercise also boosts energy and improves sleep and focus. Try incorporating exercise into your daily routine by starting small, such as with 20 minutes of walking a few days each week.
Read: Reading can take your mind off of your worries and allow you to relax. It can also help you to focus and stay calm. So dig up one of your favorite novels, or browse the library or a local bookstore for a new title to absorb yourself in. What are you reading right now?
Listen to music: Grab those earbuds and turn up the volume (but not too loud!). There are scientifically proven reasons why listening to music should be included in your self-care, but be mindful of the type of music that you choose. Listening to calming music lowers cortisol levels, the main hormone that causes stress. Calming music has also been shown to increase levels of dopamine and endorphins, improving the mood of people who suffer from depression. However, loud, violent music can increase stress levels, so choose your Spotify playlist carefully.
Yoga: Yoga exercises both your mind and your body. The use of breathing, relaxation, and meditation techniques helps reduce anxiety and depression. Research has shown that yoga can improve concentration and memory, and can have significant benefits for those struggling with mental illness. Yoga can also build resilience and confidence.
Take a nap: Getting good rest and establishing a healthy nighttime sleep pattern is essential for your body to function at its best. But sometimes, taking a quick “power nap” can be a great boost for your body and mind. A short nap can re-energize you both mentally and physically, and can keep your brain functioning at higher levels throughout the day.
Pet therapy: Research has shown that petting an animal reduces anxiety. Don’t have a dog or cat of your own? Head to the park and find one to pet! Remember to ask first, but most owners are happy to let you have a couple of minutes with their animal. Don’t limit yourself to furry creatures. Simply watching fish swim or petting a turtle can have beneficial effects as well.
Learn something new: Ever wondered how to make an origami swan, how to draw a person’s face, or how to make amazing pancakes? Find a YouTube tutorial. You can learn pretty much anything on YouTube, and mastering a new skill can give you newfound confidence. Go for it — you can find something new to learn each day.
Take a spa day: Take time to pamper yourself. You can have a spa day at home by just taking a bubble bath and relaxing afterwards in your robe while reading a magazine. A warm bath before bed helps you sleep better by allowing your body temperature to slowly drop after you get out of the bath. This helps your body to produce the melatonin you need for sleep. Additionally, lying horizontally in the bath can boost your mood because of how comfortable it is.
Color: Adult coloring books have become the latest fad, and for good reason. Just like the other ideas on this list, coloring can be relaxing and help reduce stress. It takes focus to color, especially in the many detailed adult coloring books that are popping up in bookstores. Coloring can also have a grounding effect, and help to replace negative or unwanted behaviors.
These are just a few ideas to get you started; the possibilities are endless. What’s important is to take care of yourself each day. Self-care can and should become a habit, something you practice consistently. Create a list of what self-care means to you; that list can help you get started when you are not feeling your best and need a little “pick-me-up.”
Remember — you matter. You deserve this time each day just for you. So, in recognition of Mental Health Month, take the time to discover your personal form of self-care and incorporate it into your everyday life.