As we enter Summer 2022, there’s an understandable need for tips and strategies for better mental health. Just for starters, we’ve hit two years of a global pandemic, and now Californians are monitoring warfare in Europe. When we have limited power over “things” that affect our mental health, sometimes we need to focus our attention on what we can control. With that in mind, here is a list of 11 tips to boost your mental health.
- Sleep: Sleep helps our body and mind recover, which we need in order to live healthy lives. We should be mindful of any changes in our sleep patterns (i.e. sleeping more than usual or sleeping less than usual). Sleep can act as a mirror - it can reflect our mood, stress, and anxiety levels. Tip: If you’re having difficulty falling or staying asleep, instead of trying to force yourself to sleep, consider getting out of bed and doing something soothing before returning to bed.
- Exercise: I recognize that there are different factors that affect one’s ability to exercise. However, I think it’s still important to mention the benefits of exercise on our mental health. Even light aerobic exercise (like a walk around the neighborhood) can help reduce levels of stress hormones and increase natural “happy chemicals” in our brain, which can help improve our mood and make our experience of stress feel more manageable.
- Diet: Just to be clear, diet does not equal “dieting”. Diet literally refers to the food we eat. The kinds of food we eat, as well as the amount of food, affects our mental wellbeing. Food gives us vital nutrients that we need to survive. This is a big reason why food insecurity is a huge deal, but that’s for a larger conversation. Be mindful of any changes in appetite (i.e. is it bigger or smaller than usual). This is another way our body gives us more information regarding our mood, stress, and anxiety levels.
- Social Support: The pandemic has disrupted the way in which most of us receive social support from friends, family members, loved ones, and other communities we are a part of. Humans are social beings - we need to feel connected to something other than ourselves. Isolation is one of the most common threats to mental wellbeing. Reaching out to people for support requires courage, but social support is incredibly important. If you’re struggling to feel connected, you can search for local support groups via websites like Mental Health America and NAMI.
- Boundaries: Just as I stressed the importance of social support and connection, we also need to talk about boundaries. Boundaries essentially help us protect our self-worth, emotional wellbeing, and our relationships. They are necessary for healthy relationships with friends, loved ones, family members, and work. Boundary setting can be difficult for many of us, but remember that they are not selfish or mean. They are fundamental to healthy relationships and a healthy life.
- Limiting Media Intake: In 2022, you can get the news through your television, computer, tablet, phone… heck, even your watch. Staying informed is okay, but be mindful of the impact on your mental health. Finding a healthy balance is key.
- Mindfulness: More people are using mindfulness and meditation than ever before - and for good reason. For decades, empirical evidence suggests that a mindfulness practice can help reduce anxiety and stress. Mindfulness teaches us how to relate to our feelings and thoughts in a less judgmental and reactive way. Thus making it easier to be present, more grounded, and more connected. Check out several guided mindfulness meditations on tryframe.com.
- Journaling: Journaling allows our thoughts, feelings, worries, and concerns to live somewhere else other than our mind. Sometimes our internal world can feel like a big tangled mess, and journaling can help us detangle things in a way that feels more manageable. You can start by writing in a notebook or simply just opening up a note on your phone - whatever works best for you.
- Tiny Steps Technique: Accomplishing tasks when we’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious can be really challenging. With the tiny steps technique, you start by choosing a task and breaking it down into not just small, but tiny steps. For example, let’s say I want to go for a jog. Tiny steps could look something like: 1) Grab my running shoes from the closet 2) Take out my workout clothes 3) Drink some water and so on. It might seem silly, but this technique can be massively effective when we’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Empathy: Empathy is one of the most powerful tools a person can use. It is our ability to understand how and why others feel the way they do. What we are starting to understand more and more is that our ability to understand others also helps us have empathy and compassion for ourselves. Talk about a win-win.
- Small moments of joy: With everything that’s going on in the world and everything that you have been through over the past two years, the little things in life that bring you joy make a world of difference. Maybe it’s that morning cup of coffee, or the sitcom you watch before bed, or some weird thing your pet does… whatever it is, take a moment to pause next time and appreciate the joy you feel.
About the author: Alex Pack is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles. He works with anxiety, depression, stress, and relationship problems, as well as building self-esteem and developing a healthier sense of self. He believes that through collaborative work, healing is possible. You can connect with Alex directly via his Frame Therapy profile here. Reach out to schedule a free intro call.