10 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

You know how to get physically fit - but what about mentally?

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If you’re interested in working on your physical health, there’s an easy way to do it. The doctor might tell you you’re out of shape, and you need to focus on your diet and exercise. You cut back on sugar, introduce some leafy greens, and hit the gym everyday after work. You’re getting physically fit. But what happens when your mind isn’t in sync with your body? When you want to improve your mental health, the path isn’t so clear.

Unless you visit a mental health professional, your primary care physician probably won’t ask how you’re feeling – at least emotionally. You don’t do “brain lunges” to develop mental muscle, and while certain foods might be good for boosting brain power, you won’t be able to see the fruits of your labor with six pack abs or buns of steel. So, how do we know if we have good mental health?

The truth is, unless diagnosed with poor mental health, only you can answer that question. I like this article by Amy Morin, LCSW – “10 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.”

Why don’t we talk about mental health in the same way we discuss physical fitness? We have doctors for both types of “health.” It’s reported that 1 in 6 Americans take a psychiatric drug. So why aren’t yearly “mental health” checkups a thing? Why don’t we talk about the exercise we’ve been doing on our minds? Why isn’t psychiatry – or self help – more important?

Although I spend a lot of time indulging in self-help literature and topics, it is often just that: an indulgence. What I know intellectually is often not used practically, as is the case for many of us. You need to work to improve your mental health – not just read through a list of strategies. Start with these and see what resonates with you!

1. Get Some Exercise

“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!”

Elle Woods’ statement in Legally Blonde was SO RIGHT. Exercise makes you happy – or something like that! The number one way I keep my mental health in check is by working out. It’s a brain chemical thing, but it’s also a confidence thing.

2. Cut Back on Sugar

What I eat has a HUGE impact on my mental heath. When I’ve had a lot of sugar, I go into meltdown mode. I get super emotional, I cry, I lash out. You might not even realize how it’s affecting you until you get rid of it (it will help trim your waistline, too!).

3. Cut Back on Alcohol

Alcohol has a lot of sugar in it, so you bet this one is on the list. Ever feel super down after a long weekend of partying? Yup.

4. Talk it Out

This is a hard one for me – I’m not the best communicator! We all have different ways of handling our business, but if something’s bothering you, HANDLE IT. Don’t keep things bottled up – say what you need to, when you need to. And do it calmly, if you can.

5. Take a Deep Breath

Some of the top performers in the world use meditation on a daily basis to control their mind and to keep their body in tip-top shape. While you don’t need to sit in silence for 20 minutes to reap the benefits, taking a few minutes everyday to catch your breath and slow down is a great way to regulate your mood.

6. Get Enough Sleep

I get super bitchy when I don’t get enough sleep. Anybody else? My brain doesn’t function properly and I could cry at the drop of a hat. Don’t do this! Aim to get AT LEAST 7 hours of sleep per night. I know everyone says that, but seriously. I’m typically in bed around 10 or 11, and wake up at 7 or 8.

7. Spend Time with Loved Ones

Hanging out with friends and family is a great way to get a mood boost. We seriously overestimate how much we should rely on text communication – pick up the phone and make real plans. This isn’t just for your mental health either! Lack of close relationships is seriously bad for your bod – a Harvard study found that “loneliness could be as deadly as smoking.”

8. Get Off Your Phone

Speaking of picking up the phone – now get rid of it! Have you seen Ingrid Goes West? It’s a movie about the detrimental mental health effects social media has on us. It’s a satire – and totally ridiculous – but really highlights the insane way we remain glued to our phones. Can’t be good.

9. Take Your Vitamins

Vitamins could be your B and C and the multi-V you take everyday – or it could mean whipping up a veggie-heavy smoothie every morning. If you’re not getting the nutrients you need, your body and your brain are missing out. Doing something as simple as drinking a green juice each day could make a huge difference.

10. Go Outside

I used to live right by an amazing hiking spot and I went almost every single day. It was the perfect way to clear my head and get some physical activity in. If you live in a city like I do, you probably spend a lot of time indoors. Not only are you missing out on the essential vitamins the sun provides, but fresh air feels good! Sometimes, being in nature makes you realize just how small and insignificant you and your problems really are

Try these things and let me know if they improve your mental health!

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