How to Improve Your Mental Health In Your Daily Life
Mental health affects how we think, feel and act, and it’s important throughout our entire life.
14:40 09 November 2021
Our mental health encompasses our psychological, emotional, and social well-being. Mental health affects how we think, feel and act, and it’s important throughout our entire life.
We often see the terms mental illness and poor mental health used interchangeably, but they aren’t. You can have low or poor mental health without having a diagnosable mental illness.
Your mental health reduces the risk of many physical health problems, including stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. When you have good mental health overall, it can help reduce the risk of substance abuse and isolation.
There are things you can do in your daily life that are big and small to help improve your mental health.
Plan a Vacation
Traveling and taking vacations is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Whether you’re headed to Branson for live entertainment, or you want to go across the globe for an exotic travel experience, the process of planning and preparing, and thinking about actually going on vacations is so good for your mental and physical health.
Some of the specific ways travel can help your mental health include:
- You get the opportunity to escape what can be monotonous in daily life and try new things, see things you wouldn’t otherwise, and even meet new people. By breaking out of your routine it can change your perspective and shift your general state of mind.
- If you do activities like hiking or walking in scenic areas when you travel, research shows that it can help you feel more hopeful and upbeat. For example, a study in 2020 showed people who were aware of the views and objects around them reported feeling better than other walkers.
- Travel is a great stress-reliever. A study in 2013 found that 80% of respondents felt travel improved their general mood and outlook on life. Seventy-five percent of respondents said travel helped them reduce stress.
- When you travel it improves your brain functionality and can help you be more creative and innovative. When you’re in a new location or experiencing new things, even if it isn’t all that far from your home, it helps you think more deeply and can increase your cognitive flexibility.
- When you take time from your work and daily responsibilities, it can increase productivity and energy.
- On your vacation, if you can integrate time for things like mindfulness or meditation, it will be even more beneficial for your mental health.
- If you travel with your loved ones, it can deepen your relationship and connections with one another, and that is great for your psychological health and sense of overall well-being.
- Researchers looking at thousands of Canadian workers found taking more paid vacation days had a positive association with overall health and life satisfaction.
- One study found men who didn’t take a vacation for several years were 30% more likely to have a heart attack. Skipping vacation for only one year could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- In a small Japanese study, just a short, three-day trip reduced levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone.
Be Physically Active
Sure, exercising regularly is good for your physical health, but it’s also great for your mood, mental resilience and your sleep quality.
Specific ways exercise can help your mental health and overall well-being include:
- When you exercise, research shows it can help treat symptoms of mild to moderate depression like an antidepressant without the side effects. Exercise can reduce inflammation and help create new brain activity patterns promoting feelings of calm and well-being.
- Exercise is a distraction that can help if you’re stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts contributing to depression or a low mood.
- When you exercise, it gives you energy through the release of endorphins.
- Exercise can help promote neural growth.
- If you deal with tension, anxiety, or stress, being active can help with these effects because of the release of endorphins as well. Try to be mindful when you exercise, for example by noticing the rhythm of your breathing.
- When you feel emotional and mental stress, you might also feel that physically. Exercising can help alleviate the physical stress you could experience, like back pain or tension in the neck and jaw.
- Exercising helps reduce age-related mental decline and increases how mentally sharp you feel.
- When you regularly exercise, you’re investing in yourself. That investment will empower you and help you feel stronger; plus, even meeting small exercise goals gives you a sense of achievement. All of this can lead to higher self-esteem.
- We all face challenges throughout our lives. When you face challenges, exercise becomes a healthy coping mechanism that allows you to become more resilient.
Create Healthy Coping Mechanisms
We briefly touched on the importance of healthy coping mechanisms above. Coping mechanisms are what we rely on when things don’t go our way, which is inevitable. Coping mechanisms help you deal with setbacks, failures, and even trauma or loss.
People with poor mental health may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol.
When you develop healthy ways to cope with less than favorable things in your life, you will be a happier person overall. You’ll have the tools to rely on even when you’re upset.
Coping is, in psychological terms, a way to reduce the distress that we may feel when there’s harm, loss, or threats facing us.
Threats don’t mean physical danger alone, although that can be part of it. In psychology, threats can be those situations where we see a part of ourselves in danger, such as our ego or worldview.
Rejection from a potential romantic partner can, for example, fall into this.
You might want to rely on coping skills for things that are happening externally, but also those uncomfortable feelings you may experience internally.
Therapists will also often break problems that might require coping skills into one of two broad categories. You may need to change your situation, which requires problem-based coping, or you might need to find a better way to deal with it within yourself, which is emotion-based coping.
Specific examples of healthy coping skills, in general, include asking for support from a professional like a therapist, creating a to-do list or using problem-solving. Setting healthy boundaries, walking away from situations causing unnecessary stress and focusing on your time management skills are other coping mechanisms that are productive and can improve your mental health.
Along with using alcohol or substances, other unhealthy coping mechanisms to avoid include overeating, sleeping too much, or spending too much money.
Other General Ways to Improve Mental Health
Along with what we touched on above, other tips to help improve your overall mental health and your life in general include;
- Stay positive. You always want to actively try to manage a positive outlook. That doesn’t mean you never feel negative emotions. Negative emotions are part of life, but you should try to balance the positive and the negative. Proactively work on keeping negative emotions from taking over.
- Take yourself away from situations where you’re bombarded with negative information, like the news or social media.
- Practice gratitude every day. Researchers are increasingly finding that when we practice gratitude, it can change our brains. Write down at least one thing you’re grateful for every day, big or small.
- Take care of your physical health overall. Along with being physically active, prioritize sleep. Sleep affects your mood, and too little can cause you to feel edgy and angry.
- Eat well. Nutrition helps improve your mood and reduce stress and anxiety. There are several nutrients that, when you’re deficient in them can also contribute to mental health disorders. For example, there’s a potential link between depression and low B12 levels.
- Connect with other people. We are social creatures, and having at least a few strong, healthy relationships that allow you to feel connected and supported is vital. When you have a support system it can help protect you from the effects of stress.
- Try to incorporate meditation into your routine. Meditation helps you learn how to focus your awareness and attention, and it’s great for stress management. Research even shows meditation can have positive benefits on your physical health.
- Relaxation techniques are something else you can begin to practice and use in your life. You can slow your breathing, lower your blood pressure and relieve physical tension you may be feeling. Examples of relaxation techniques you might try include progressive relaxation using breathing techniques, guided imagery, or self-hypnosis.
- Set goals for yourself because that guides your energy and helps you feel achievement. Make sure your goals are realistic, however, because if they aren’t it can be discouraging if you don’t meet them.
Finally, value yourself and your body. Everything you do from the list above means that you’re already showing you value yourself. You’re investing in your health and well-being. Make time for yourself every day, and avoid getting stuck in negative feedback loops of self-criticism.