Mental & Behavioral Health

5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Mental Health

When it comes to taking care of ourselves, we often focus solely on our physical body. However, maintaining your mind is just as important. According to multiple studies, focusing on your mental health can improve your immune system, increase your productivity, and help you live longer. So, there's no reason you shouldn't put as much attention on your emotional wellbeing as your physical.

While taking care of your mental health can mean seeking professional support and treatment, it also means taking steps to improve your emotional strength on your own. There are a number of easy things you can do every day to improve your mental health - here are 5 you can try right now.

Take A Break

In those moments when it all seems like too much, step away.

"Seen as a key aspect of self-care, taking a break can help us clear our mind by just having a quiet moment," said Cynthia V. Catchings, a Talkspace therapist based in Alexandria, Virginia. "It can also be helpful because we can utilize that time to practice mindfulness or creative visualization. A break can be described as a few free minutes between tasks.

However, it can also mean leaving our smartphone at home for a day and disconnecting from constant emails, alerts, and other interruptions. By doing that, we also liberate ourselves from the daily routines and expectations that affect our mental health."

Write In A Journal

Putting pen to paper can be a cathartic experience. Try keeping a journal or even just writing down your anxieties and tossing them in the trash. Writing about what's stressing you out and then physically throwing it away may help clear your mind. Alternatively, consider keeping a journal where you write down what you are grateful for daily or even weekly.

Get Sufficient Sleep

Just because you have other things on your plate doesn't give you an excuse to put sleep on the back burner. Sufficient sleep energizes your brain cells, keeps up your motivation for daily life activities, and gives you a more peaceful feeling about your day.

"The way we feel when we are awake depends so much on what happens when we sleep," Catchings said. "Sleep is involved in repairing of our heart and blood vessels. Lack of sleep is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke."

Try Something New

Take the opportunity to do something you've never done before. If there are activities on your bucket list like hiking, snorkelling, or going to a luau in Hawaii, begin to research the most cost-effective way to bring these experiences to life. Research shows that experiences lead to greater sustained positive feelings than possessions.

Maintain A Well-Balanced Diet

Eating well is key to overall health, including your mental well-being. Try incorporating fruits and vegetables in your diet more often along with brain-boosting foods like avocados and salmon.

"Each one of the mentioned items can help us regain energy, decrease stress, anxiety and depression, and most importantly, release endorphins to help us feel happier in general," Catchings said. "Studies show that endorphins cause a positive feeling in the body. Endorphins also act as analgesics, diminishing the perception of pain. They also give us a natural high that allows us to feel happy and full of energy for hours."

Get Help When You Need It

While these tips are a start, it's important to get professional help - via online therapy or brick-and-mortar - if you need it. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not a weakness. And it is important to remember that treatment is effective. People who get appropriate care can recover from mental illness and addiction and lead full, rewarding lives.

"For some people, it is very difficult to ask for help from friends or family members, and even more difficult to reach out to get counselling from a professional," Catchings said. "The stigma is something we have to deal with, and overcome, while juggling our mental health issues as well. When we find ourselves in this situation, we have to remember that our mental health comes first, and a therapist can help us figure out the cause of our stress, how to minimize it, and how to learn techniques for handling it in the future."

Now that you have the tips, it's time to get started. You have the power to take positive steps right now to improve your resilience and emotional health. Don't wait until you're in a crisis to make your mental health a priority.

About the Author

Dr Leibowitz is a psychiatrist and the Chief Medical Officer of Talkspace. He is an expert in bioethics, with a background in law and private practice. Talkspace is the industry leader in online therapy that makes mental healthcare more convenient and accessible by connecting users with licensed therapists through a HIPAA-compliant and easy-to-use proprietary app. With Talkspace, users can send multimedia messages to their therapists via the web browser or the Talkspace mobile app anytime, anywhere. Therapists engage daily, 5 days a week.

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