Today we are celebrating Mental Health Day. Personally, I feel very fortunate I have not had any mayor mental health challenges in my life. I know there are many people who struggle form depression, anxiety and many other mental health challenges.
I believe that just like with our physical health, we should not wait to get a back up call, to experience anxiety, depression or any other form of mental health challenges to take proactive care of our mental health. In honor of mental health day I want to share a few ways I personally take care of my mental health proactively in hopes it inspires you to be more intentional about protecting your mental health.
Practicing self-care improves your mental health in so many ways. Self-care overall means that we are in:
Good physical and mental health
We have our basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter met
We are finding satisfaction in areas of our lives that contribute to our intellectual and spiritual well-being.
When we want to improve mental health, it is important to observe the steps that we are taking specifically in the area of mental self-care. Mental self-care has to do with our ability to deal with stress, feeling intellectually stimulated, and being able to process information without becoming overwhelmed.
When we take the time to practice self-care in ways that improve mental health, those benefits can be seen in other areas of our lives as well. These can be anything from improvements to our physical health, our social lives, or our work performance.
Here are sixteen ideas for ways you can implement self-care practices for mental health into your day.
1. Practice Gratitude
When you learn to be grateful or what you already have you won’t feel a need to constantly be searching for what fulfills you.
Set up a time daily to practice gratitude for just a few minutes. This can be by writing down 3 - 5 things you’re grateful for, or just thinking about all the things you have in your life.
This will help you see what’s most important in your life, appreciate the little moments, feel more fulfilled, calmed and joyful.
Whether it’s ranting, dreaming of possibilities for your future, or cataloging a special day, journaling is a self-care activity that is also a great way to improve mental health! It is said that journaling can:
Increase our communication skills;
Make us more mindful;
Help to alleviate stress and anxiety;
And even help us in our healing processes!
Journaling can take many forms, so if putting pen to paper isn’t your thing, don’t stress! Perhaps you will choose to dictate your thoughts into the notes app on your phone, make a video diary, do audio recording, or even some form of art journaling.
No matter what form your journal comes in, getting thoughts out of your head will free up metaphorical space for the thing that you would rather be participating in.
3. Spend Time in Nature
There is fascinating science related to both mental and physical health benefits from time in nature. Spending time in nature as a form of self-care can improve mental health by prompting us to slow down, relieving stress, and incorporating more mindfulness into our lives.
Even something as simple as stepping outside and looking for the tiniest detail, a leaf blowing in the wind, an ant crawling along the ground, or a bird flitting through the sky will give us the benefits of having spent a little time with nature. Personally I like to walk in nature and as I do I try to empty my mind and be present by focusing on the things I can perceive through my senses.
4. Physical Activity
There’s a reason that physical activity always makes lists of ways to improve mental health…because it works! The problem (and our aversion to physical activity) probably stems from the fact that we usually try to over-complicate it. Getting some physical activity, even in the form of a walk around the block, dancing, yoga, or playing a sport, releases endorphins, improves us physically, and improves mental health.
I can write an entire blog post just to talk about the connection between exercise and mental health, instead I found this infographic that summarizes it.
5. Drink more water
Yes, water. Staying hydrated can help keep your body refreshed and energized, and it also helps you digest food better. And when your body is comfortable, your mind is comfortable too.
A study conducted in 2018 demonstrated that people who drank less water had a higher risk of depression and anxiety. On the other hand, individuals who drank a sufficient amount of water daily were more likely to be mentally healthy and happy.
6. Eat Healthy
Eating “healthy” means different things to different people. I think as long as you are happy with yourself and your body is able to do what it needs to do, that’s considered healthy.
For me means, eat mainly clean, whole foods. Prioritize veggies, lean proteins and healthy fats. Reduce sugar intake, processed foods and any foods that makes me feel unconfortable after eating it.
There are foods that have been found to have a direct impact to our mental health. You can google it, you will be amazed how much literature there is on this topic. Here are a few foods that have demonstrated to have a positive impact in your mental health.
7. Take Frequent Breaks
Busy isn’t always better. It’s actually good to get into the habit of taking more breaks throughout the day. It can help to set a reminder on your phone every few hours to get up from your desk and stretch. Even if you are really busy throughout the day, make time for yourself. I know it’s not always the easiest thing in the world. But, everything you’re working hard for right now is to have a better quality of life in the future. And one way to do that is by making your mental health a priority so you can be mentally strong enough to push through anything.
8. Set Boundaries
I think it’s hard to set boundaries sometimes because we don’t want to come across as lazy or rude. Boundary-setting is an important part of taking care of your mental health. If you don’t set boundaries, you end up doing a lot of things you don’t want to do and other people end up draining a lot of your energy and time.
Some time ago I did a podcast episode where I talk about how boundaries set us free and I share my approach to set boundaries, you can check it here.
9. Communicate Your Needs
Just like with boundaries is important that we get comfortable with expressing our needs to the people around us. No one will be able to help and support you, unless you share how they help.
If you need peace and quiet at home for 30 minutes, let the people in your family home. If you need a different workspace than what you have, talk to your boss. Express your needs so you can start working at your best. It’s not selfish and it gets rid of built-up anxiety. When you ignore your needs, it can take a toll on your mental health.
It’s shocking how closely that our physical environment and our mental health are related. If our home or desk is cluttered, it can cause issues with our mental health also.
The presence of clutter can increase stress and decrease focus and motivation. When our minds are confronted with so much excessive visual stimuli, they become tired. This is due to the fact that we have to make decisions about everything that we come across within our environment.
Clearing out clutter is a great way to improve mental health and practice self-care at the same time.
11. Make Time for Hobbies
An important part of self-care is enjoying yourself. Making time for hobbies improves mental health through a range of benefits.
When we get deeply involved in a task that we are interested in, it allows our mind to be in the moment and focusing only on that singular task.
This helps to reduce stress and tension, and it also helps improve mental health by providing our minds with a bit of novelty.
In some cases, it may provide a physical outlet as well.
12. Create Routines
Routines may seem boring, but they can actually be an effective form of self-care that also improves mental health. Routines can be used to make self-care part of our lifestyle because routines create habits, which make behaviors automatic. When we build self-care into our routines, it helps us to eliminate decision fatigue, which improves mental health and helps us to take care of ourselves at the same time.
13. Get Some Sleep
Sleep plays a huge role in your mental health. Unfortunately, anxiety can make it impossible to get a good night’s rest sometimes. But, if you’re struggling in the sleep department I’d suggest making this your number one priority. Set up a sleep schedule and reduce caffeine before you go to bed. Shut off all electronics and calm your mind down an hour before bedtime. You can even read a book to help distract yourself from your thoughts, as long as it doesn’t keep you from going to sleep. Don't overlook the importance of sleep as one of the most crucial self-care practices for mental health.
14. Set up a Morning & Night Routine
Morning and night routines can change your life, seriously. I used to wake up and immediately reach for my phone and check my emails which automatically set up on a downward spiral, leaving me feel stressed and not being able to find time for myself during the day. I firmly believe that how you start your day sets the tone for the rest of the day, so investing on your morning routine is the best investment you can make. One of the very first episodes I did on my podcast was around my morning routine and the 7 elements I have been very intentional in adding into my morning routine. If you are interested in learning more about morning routines you can check it out here.
The same thing goes with night time. Having a night routine can help you get a better night sleep (key element for your overall healthy as we discussed) and can help set you up for a good day ahead the next day.
15. Fulfill Your Needs
Each and every day do at least one thing for yourself. No this isn’t selfish and it doesn’t make you a bad person. Spend some time alone, order take out, dance along to your favorite music, watch a guilty pleasure TV show. Or my favorite, listen to an uplifting podcast.
Fulfill your own needs before anyone else’s. As they say, you need to pour into your cup before you pour into some else's cup.
16. Detox from Social Media
It’s no secret or surprise that social media can be toxic. When we are constantly bombarded with curated versions of everyone’s lives, we can be left feeling insignificant, left out, or even like we are failing at life. Taking a social media detox for anywhere from a day to a few weeks is an excellent way to improve mental health. It is also surprising how much time we spend on social media and will suddenly have available for other activities.
Another approach is to conduct a social media audit and unfollow or quiet any account that does not serve you. I do this every so often. If I identify any account that is creating negative thoughts, is leading me to compare myself with other in an un-healthy way, it makes me feel stressed, I just remove them from my feed (temporarily or permanently). I do this all the time as I come across these accounts but at least twice a year I conduct an intention social media audit and detox.
16 Essential Daily Self-Care Practices For Mental Health – Conclusion
For too long, self-care has been looked at as nothing more than an excuse for self-indulgence. This couldn’t be further from the truth! When we practice self-care strategically, it can do wonders for our mental health and wellbeing. Knowing which activities will help to improve and protect your mental health, along with many other benefits.
Try out some of these self-care ideas for mental health and see how they help you be more mindful, to find more joy, to feel more at peace and protect and improve your mental health.