6 Habits Everyone Needs to Improve Their Mental Health

6 Habits Everyone Needs to Improve Their Mental Health

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In school, someone probably taught you about how to improve your physical health. You might have learned the food pyramid or talked about the importance of drinking water. Your PE teacher probably had a lesson or two for you about staying active to stay healthy.

But our health isn’t just physical. We’ve got these things called brains, too, and they need just as much care as the rest of our bodies. And maybe the fact that we haven’t really been talking about that is why mental health problems are on the rise

Let’s change that. The good news is that there’s plenty of research out there about what improves mental health. It’s just a matter of making sure that we all know about it. 

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up six habits that science shows can improve your mental wellness. 

#1: Slow down and unplug

We live in a busy, hyper-connected, screen-based world. Does that sentence make you feel stressed? Yeah, us too.

Too much screen time and too much busyness are bad for our mental health. Fortunately, the opposite is true. Unplugging and being mindful help our brains feel better. 

So if you’ve been having a hard time lately, stash that phone and give yourself the gift of some time for yourself. Slow down and savor what you love, whether that’s a bubble bath, a meditation, or some cookie dough

#2: Get moving outside

We’re not going to tell you that you need some crazy exercise regimen or anything. But study after study has shown that regular phsycial activity directly reduces symptoms of mental illness and low mood. No, really, try it. Go for a walk around the block and see how you feel after.

If you love hitting the gym, good on you. But if you don’t have a preferred indoor workout in place, look for ways to get moving outside. Being outdoors benefits mental health. The sun encourages you brain to make serotonin, a chemical in your brain that helps to stabilize your mood. And the more you can get into a natural environment, the better.  

This isn’t about hitting some steps or weight goal. It’s about moving your body in a way that feels good for you. So find what you like, then try to make it a habit. 

#3: Try gratitude

Gratitude shifts your perspective, improving your mental health. Start looking for the good things in your life. With a little time and focus, they usually become easier to spot.

To help cultivate a habit of gratitude, we recommend keeping a journal

#4: Sleep

Think about it. How great do you feel after a good night’s rest? And how crummy do you feel after tossing and turning all night?

Studies show that good sleep matters for your mental wellness. If it’s hard for you to get quality rest, there are lots of things you can try, like:

  • Establishing a sleep routine
  • Avoiding screens for an hour before bed
  • Making sure your room is cool and dark

#5: Be nice to yourself

Are you hard on yourself? Self-critical? Do you over-analyze everything you say and do?

We feel you. It sucks. But you can actively combat that by working to develop a habit of self-compassion

Basically, this means giving yourself the same grace you’d give a close friend. It also means that you don’t let yourself think anything mean about yourself. If you wouldn’t say it about someone you care about, stop saying it about yourself!

Bonus: being nicer to yourself benefits your mental health (as you’d probably expect). 

#6: Connect

The people in your life are a huge mental health resource. When you’re not feeling great, it’s easy to want to retreat — but that’s only gonna make you feel worse.

Call up a friend. Meet your aunt for coffee. Ask a coworker to lunch. Connecting with the people in your life can do a lot for your brain. 

#7: Eat some cookie dough

Wait, wasn’t this list supposed to have six things on it? Fine. You caught us. 

But even though we haven’t technically commissioned a scientific study on the mental health benefits of treating yourself to some cookie dough, we’ve def felt them. So we wanted to throw it out there. Because you deserve to feel celebrated

Getting hungry?