Are you suffering from depression, anxiety, or melancholy? Do you feel like you’re “stuck in a rut” or do you have a negative perception of yourself? These are all indicators that your mental health could use improvement. Unfortunately, mental health can’t always be cured through medicine, like your physical health. But here are 6 effective steps you can take to improve your mental health, cure your anxieties, and boost your happiness.
1. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
One of the best ways to improve your mental health is to practice healthy lifestyle habits, like exercising and eating healthy.
Eating healthy foods can significantly improve your mental health. When you eat healthy food, you’re providing your brain with nutrients that promote happiness and prevent depression. An unhealthy diet that contains lots of trans fats and sugar will do the opposite and may negatively affect your mental health. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and try to eat more white meat than red meat.
It can be difficult to ingrain healthy eating into your lifestyle. People have busy lives, and it can be tough to find the time to cook healthy meals—picking up fast food is a lot easier and more affordable. Consider signing up for a meal delivery service, like HelloFresh. These services will send you healthy ingredients to your doorsteps, and they provide recipes for the ingredients that are simple and tasty. This kind of service limits your trips to the grocery store, and you’re able to cook healthy food even if you don’t have lots of cooking experience.
Exercise is also good for your mental health. Studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce anxiety, relieve stress, improve memory, help you sleep better, and improve your overall mood. Some studies have shown that regular exercise can help treat depression as effectively as medication. Exercise promotes neural growth, releases endorphins (the “happiness” chemical), and provides you with a calm feeling.
You don’t have to exercise like a professional calibre athlete. Experts say that small doses of regular exercise can have a significant impact on your mental health. Here are a few different ways in which you can get exercise every day:
- Go on a 15-minute run
- Walk for at least one hour every day (doesn’t have to be all at once)
- Spend an hour at the gym
- Go swimming at the beach or local recreation center
- Go climbing at a rock climbing gym
Here’s another great thing about exercise: you could lose weight, which generally has a positive impact on one’s self-esteem.
2. Get More Sleep
Getting more sleep can be a great way to improve your mental health. Lack of sleep means that you’re going to have less energy throughout the day. And when you’re running on low energy, you’re going to have little cognitive power to be productive at work, manage your relationships, and manage your emotions—all consequences that could negatively impact your mental health.
Lack of sleep is often impacted by times of stress, like when you’re dealing with loss, preparing for college finals, or trying to meet a tight deadline at work. Stressful situations can take a toll on your mental health, and that can be compounded by the loss of sleep during those periods.
If you want to be happier, healthier, and more productive, try your best to get at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night. There are some people—typically younger people—who may need 9 or 10 hours of sleep.
Are you having difficulty falling asleep, or do you frequently wake up in the middle of the night? There are several ways you can alleviate insomnia. First, try and put away your electronics at least an hour before you go to bed. The blue light that’s emitted from electronic screens can prevent your brain from releasing the chemicals it uses to make you sleepy. You should also avoid drinking alcohol before bedtime, and try and stop drinking coffee at least 6 or 7 hours before you go to bed. Be sure that you have a quiet, calm environment, prior to settling in for a night of rest.
Need additional help? Try taking a nightly dose of melatonin to help you fall asleep. The one drawback to melatonin is that it often takes repeated doses over a long period of time to be effective, and you can also develop a dependency on it. An efficient alternative to melatonin is GABA, an amino acid that helps you fall asleep. Like melatonin, you can usually find GABA in gummy or chocolate form.
Last, but not least, try and develop a routine in which you go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time every day. Studies have shown that this is the best way to maintain a positive sleep cycle. Try not to vary your wake up/bedtime by more than 30 minutes every day.
3. Pursue Your Passion
Put time and effort into your passions, whether that’s your career, side hustle, or hobby. When you do whatever it is that you “do,” you’ll create feelings of happiness, self-satisfaction, and motivation. You can also improve your self-esteem. Your passion and interests ultimately give you a greater sense of your own individuality and uniqueness, which is important in developing a more positive perception of yourself.
4. Cut Back on Social Media
There’s a reason why the younger generation has worse mental health than in prior decades: social media. A plethora of studies have revealed the harm that comes from the overuse of social media. The main problem is that social media users create “highlight reels” of their life. These posts create a falsified impression of what “life should be,” and stir jealousy and un-fulfillment. Social media also causes anxiety because you can get sucked into constantly refreshing the app/website to see new content.
Social media isn’t inherently a bad thing. Studies have suggested that a moderate amount of social media use can be healthy. But try and restrict it to the morning, evening, and lunchtime.
Travel is a fantastic way to improve your mental health—or, at the very least, to figure out what’s ailing your mental health. It’s fun to explore a new location. Furthermore, you’ll be able to get a new perspective on your life when you’re able to step away from your day-to-day world. You don’t have to travel far: a road trip or a short trip upstate can do a lot of good for your mental health.
6. Develop New Friendships
Here’s a simple way to boost your mental health: make new friends. Loneliness is a negative feeling, and prolonged loneliness can significantly harm your self-esteem and happiness. Humans are social creatures, so it’s important to have friends.
If you’re having difficulty meeting new people, try a website like Meetup.com. On Meetup, you can attend social gatherings that are based on a particular interest, like hiking, reading, or fandoms. It’s a great way to meet people who have the same interests as you do.
Poor mental health is a serious illness, so begin treating it as soon as you can. Try one or more of these 6 tips to get started.