According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 44.7 million Americans suffer from some type of mental illness. Further, only a portion of these people receive treatment—only 19.2 million out of the 44.7 million (43.1%) received treatment in 2016. With such a dichotomy between illness and treatment, there should be a greater focus on mental wellbeing. There are many things we can do ourselves to improve our mental health and increase our chances of success in life. Here are five ways to improve mental health at home.
Thinking negatively can lead to negative experiences and outcomes, causing depression, anxiety, and increased levels of stress. By changing the way you think and participating in a healthier way of thinking, you can take a more positive and balanced approach toward life. For example, instead of seeing the bad in situations, you’ll be able to see the good and will hopefully hold onto some sort of encouragement. This balanced way of thinking can also have a positive impact on your self-confidence as you make informed decisions.
Exercise allows your body to release endorphins that help reduce stress and elevate your mood. Even if you’re incredibly busy throughout the week, you can still find ways to exercise—no gym membership necessary. Take the stairs at work instead of riding the elevator, go on an evening walk with a friend, or ride your bike throughout your neighborhood.
If possible, go outside. The sun will increase serotonin levels (serotonin is known as the “happy chemical” because it produces feelings of wellbeing). Thirty minutes of exercise daily is the recommended minimum, but the exact amount you exercise ultimately depends on what you’re comfortable with. Start with 30 minutes and adjust according to your fitness level.
Research has shown that sleep deprivation can affect your attention, memory, and decision- making abilities. Just like your daily activities, make a routine to help you sleep better. Designate a time as your bedtime and try to go to sleep during that period every night. To get into the right sleeping mindset, leave your media devices out of bed and train your mind to think of the bed as an exclusive resting place.
Make a habit of having conversations with people close to you and updating them on how you’re feeling and any issues you’re facing. You don’t have to have a large community—simply a few friends or family members in your corner can be beneficial. From quick daily phone calls to making plans to help you get your mind off things, being a part of a community can help you deal with many of life’s difficulties.
You could also consider going to a therapist. Though you may think you don’t need therapy or counseling, having a trained therapist is a game changer when it comes to analyzing behavioral patterns, parsing out memories from your past, and leading you toward making progress. Since therapists aren’t biased toward you and your life, they’re better able to see what you may not be able to and can help you seek more professional help if necessary.
Another way to improve mental health at home is to take breaks and clear your mind. Try to spend at least 10 minutes each day meditating or focusing on your breathing. To avoid getting distracted during this time, create an environment that’s soothing and relaxing. Simple fixes like soft lighting, decluttering, and repairing items that make a lot of noise helps.