Mental health in the United States is declining. The trend is especially bad among Millennials and Gen Z’ers. The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the downward spiral of our mental health. While severe mental health issues should be addressed by a professional, there are some things you can do to improve your own mental health.
In the rest of this article, we will discuss the top nine ways to help your mental health.
10 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health
If you are noticing a decline in your mental health, the nine tips below can help you. Signs of a mental health problem include
- Constantly feeling sad, low, worried, or anxious.
- Dramatic mood swings.
- Changes in eating, sleeping, and sexual habits.
- Problems concentrating and learning.
- Avoiding social situations.
- Substance abuse.
Many of the tips below will help solve mild mental health issues and can be seen as preventative measures. Remember, if you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, you should seek professional help immediately.
Most importantly, if you are noticing a decline in your mental health, you should try mental health therapy. Mental health therapy takes many forms depending on your symptoms. If you have extreme problems like panic attacks or phobias, your therapist may recommend certain medications in addition to your therapy sessions.
Mental health therapy, whether online or in-person, can be extremely helpful. If you are interested in online therapy, you need to try BetterHelp. Approach your sessions with an open mind, set realistic expectations, and find a therapist with whom you click. These are the steps towards getting the most out of your mental health therapy.
Professional help is a good way to improve your mental health, but some at-home methods may work as well. The next eight suggestions fall into this category.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is extremely important for our mental health and overall mood. Adults needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Too little sleep can make us more irritable, stressed, and prone to overindulging in food and alcohol.
There are a few things you can do to ensure you get the right amount of sleep each night. Try going to bed at the same time every night. Keep electronics and other distractions out of your bedroom if you can. Don’t look at your screens for an hour or so before bed—electronic light can reduce our ability to fall asleep.
Try stress-reduction techniques
It is normal to feel stress every once and a while, especially in the current pandemic. However, the key to good mental health is keeping your stress levels under control. A great way to do this is to practice stress reduction techniques. Yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises are all great ways to keep your stress under control.
Laughing is a research-proven method of stress control as well. You don’t need to force laughter. But remembering to look at the humous side of life can reduce stress, pain, and lift your immune system.
Avoid alcohol and drugs
During periods of mental stress or disturbance, it may be tempting to lean on certain “comfort” foods and alcohol. While there is nothing wrong with a piece of cake or a beer in moderation, do not use these substances to excess. Alcohol, especially, is a depressant, which means it has a depressing effect on our mood. If you are already struggling with mental health, the last thing you need is for a substance to lower your mood further.
Similarly, we recommend staying away from drugs, which can increase anxiety and lower your mental health. Remember that caffeine is also a drug and should be consumed in moderation.
Go into nature
Being in nature is a great way to lower stress levels and raise our mood. It helps that a walk outside is something that we can all still do during the pandemic. When the day is nice, set some time aside for being in nature. This may mean taking a walk, sitting outside and reading or journaling, or even gardening.
Set realistic goals
It is normal to set goals for your future. You can even aim high. However, setting only stretch goals can be detrimental to our mental health. It is better to set realistic goals for yourself.
One way to set realistic goals is to first write down your stretch goals. Then make a list of smaller, more attainable goals that will help lead you to your ultimate goal. The small goals are easier to achieve and can provide a sense of accomplishment.
It is amazing how much gratitude can help our mood. You don’t need to be grateful for terrible things. However, try starting your day by naming, out loud or to yourself, a couple of things that you are grateful for. Some people like to do this at the end of the day.
You can express gratitude for small things like a child helping with the dishes or a spouse saying, “thank you.” You can also choose to be grateful for larger things like your and your family’s health and/or prosperity
Exercise is one of the best stress regulating techniques. Regular exercise is important for maintaining our mental health. When you exercise endorphins are released. Endorphins are the “feel-good” hormone and can create feelings of happiness and contentment.
You can experience the mental health benefits of exercise from intense and moderate activity. So, find movement that you love and do it regularly.
Eat a balanced diet
Food nourishes your body and your mind. A well-balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, and protein is important in keeping our mental health in tip-top shape. There is even research that carbohydrate consumption is important for maintaining our mood. However, that does not mean you will have mental health problems if you follow a low-carb diet. Keep your meals balanced and your sugar consumption low, and you will feel the effects.