The mind plays a game of its own accord. It’s unlike your physical body that tells you it’s tired or sick. But the mind is on its own and you don’t usually get warning signs when all isn’t well with your mental health. However, when you start feeling depressed or getting anxiety attacks, you experience changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal.
Mental illness wasn’t seen as something to be worried about until the suicide rate began to appreciate. The number of people searching for and consulting therapists increased. It soon got recognised as a relevant ailment. Now, there are many ways you can improve your mental health without even visiting a therapist.
What matters is your lifestyle and how you lead it. This includes what you consider important and what you can do away with for the betterment of your health. Here are eight effective tips that can improve your mental health which professional therapists have sworn by. Practising these will help you live a better and healthier life.
There are a million and one ways you can improve your mental health, like journaling and going out with friends. Fortunately, we’ve narrowed down the most effective tips according to experts. These professionals are:
- Thea Gallagher, PsyD, a clinic director at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perlman School of Medicine.
- Tamar Gur, MD, PhD, a women’s health expert and reproductive psychiatrist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
- David Klow, LMFT, the author of You Are Not Crazy: Letters From Your Therapist.
- Psychologist Kathryn Moore, PhD.
- Psychologist John Mayer, PhD, the author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life.
Eight effective tips to improve your mental health
1. Stop worrying
What has worrying solved? It only enhances your distress level. Since it won’t solve anything, learn to remind yourself to stop worrying when you begin to. Ask yourself, “Can I solve this?” If you can’t do anything about it, then you can’t worry about it. And if you can do something about it, then what are you waiting for? Stop worrying! Dr Gallagher says,
“We all have anxiety and things we worry about, but worry is thought garbage. There is no correlation between worry and outcome.”
2. Practice a breathing technique
This is the best thing to do when you feel the anxiety bug coming through. You can also do it at any moment to calm your nerves. A deep, purposeful inhale followed by a prolonged exhale is helpful when something really irritates you. Dr Gur says,
“I can’t say enough good things about deep, cleansing breaths. It helps me take a moment to at least approach the situation calmly and with more grace.”
3. Adopt a mindfulness app
There are many mindfulness applications you can download and use on a regular basis. They help stimulate you and take you to a calmer place. It offers you a targeted, guided meditation based on emotions you’re feeling at that moment. Dr Gur uses Stop, Breathe and Think. She also encourages her kids to use it. She says,
“I use it almost daily. I use it to energise and ground myself and also sometimes to unwind before bed.”
4. What do you feed your mind
What kind of content do you watch or read? Avoid things that affect your emotions at all cost. Dr Mayer has a “no sad entertainment” policy for himself. If you feel sad after watching a sad film, or anxious after a horror or mystery content, then you need to avoid them. He says,
“I prefer not to see entertainment that portrays real-life drama, sad stories and negative endings. I don’t invite it into my personal space.”
5. Talk yourself out of your anxiety
In moments when you feel anxiety creeping up on you, ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen. Dr Gallagher recommends thinking about the worst that can happen to stay in control of it. When she was planning her outdoor wedding, for example, she knew bad weather was in the realm of possibility. She says,
“I took myself down the road of ‘if it was bad, the wedding would be gross, and people might hate me and tell others I should have been more conscientious’.”
Eventually, she realised she’ll still be married at the end. She continued,
“Sometimes taking yourself to the end of your fear or anxiety helps you realise that even if the worst thing happens, you’ll survive it. It’s unlikely the worst will happen anyway.”
6. Meditate daily
It’s hard to include this when you already have a busy schedule. However, meditation is a way to improve mental health if done right. It is also very easy to fit in your schedule. Klow says,
“In the morning, I will take 30 minutes to do centring, grounding, and energy meditation practices.”
Before he leaves work for the night, he sits in his office for 15 minutes and “clears out” the stress from the day using meditation.
“Doing this in the office, right after the sessions have ended, can be the most helpful while the work is still fresh.”
Finally, he does a 30-minute meditation before going to bed “to wrap up the day and get prepared for a restful night of sleep.”
7. Stop jumping to conclusions
It’s very easy to believe the worst when things don’t happen as planned. Dr Gallagher says,
“Instead of a friend not responding to a text because they’re mad at me, I think that maybe they’re having a busy day. Plus, if they are mad, they’ll need to tell me at some point.”
8. Exercise intentionally
Learn to be intentional about exercise and make it part of your daily routine. However, if you skip a day or two, it’s not the end of the world; it can be flexible. Exercising is beneficial to your physical as well as your mental health. Dr Moore says,
“You have to understand that you’re doing the best you can. I practice self-compassion and realise that I have to listen to my body. If I need to sleep a little later instead of going to a 6 am workout class, that’s okay.”