Think about your mental health as a puzzle. You have several pieces (therapy, medication, self-care, life choices, social connections, and more) that fit together to form a full picture of your optimal wellness. These pieces can shift in size and location throughout your life.
While there are a whole bunch of things that influence your mental health, making improvements doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are 5 simple ways to work on your wellness:
5 Simple Ways to Work on Your Wellness
- Exercise. There’s a reason why exercise is consistently at the top of the list for improving our health. When it comes to mental health, exercise gives an outlet for the energy that swirls in a busy mind, releases feel-good chemicals and hormones in our brains, and strengthens your “nanny” neurons, which, over time, help you have more control over your thoughts. Find activities you enjoy, and aim for three to five movement sessions a week.
- Consider Nutrition. Our brain needs the vitamins and minerals that are present in fruits and veggies to effectively manage the chemicals and hormones that are related to our mood. The fiber in fruits, veggies, and whole grains evens out your blood sugar and reduces inflammation. More inflammation in the body is linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety. Aim for five half-cup (4 oz.) servings of fruits and veggies daily.
- Intentionally Consume Media. The news is anxiety-provoking and depressing. Doomscrolling is real. This is great for the mega-corporations that have engineered media to monopolize our attention and not great for your mental health. Consider setting limits on your news sources and how much time you spend with media. Reflect on how you feel after spending time with an app, account, or station and make adjustments that support your well being.
- Harness the Power of Breathing. If you tend toward numbness or depression, taking a longer inhale will invigorate you. If you tend toward over-achieving or anxiety, a longer exhale will relax you. Breathing into your belly sends the message to your brain that you are safe and allows your body and mind to relax. Aim for three to five minutes of intentional deep breathing daily.
- Practice self-compassion. Often a strong inner critic tears us down and makes us feel awful. Reflect on the moments that cause you to be hardest on yourself. Imagine what you would say to a good friend in that situation. Compare how you talk to yourself with how you’d talk to a good friend. Try out some self-talk that’s closer to what you’d say to a good friend than what your inner critic is saying. Keep trying until you land on something your inner critic can accept. Next time that situation comes up, use this more compassionate approach.
BONUS TIP: When you’re working on making improvements to your mental health, know that change can be hard! Our brains and bodies can resist doing new things. Support yourself by starting where you’re at and making small changes. For example, if you rarely exercise, start by moving for ten minutes twice a week. While it’s important to commit to your goals and push yourself sometimes, it’s also important to be kind to yourself when you make mistakes, forget, or don’t feel like it.
Remember our puzzle metaphor. You’re working on figuring out what your pieces are and where they belong and that, in and of itself, is awesome!
About the therapist: Ellen Line, LCSW-C is a healer and creator who helps folks heal not-good-enoughness to transform their relationships with themselves, others, and the collective. She is the founder of ROAR Wellness Co. which is home to her psychotherapy practice and the ROAR Wellness Co.mmunity, an online healing space. She enjoys crafting, doodling, cooking, spending time with friends, figuring out ways to smash the cisheterosexist, white supremacist patriarchy, and learning about herbs. She lives with her partner in Baltimore, MD. Connect with Ellen on their Frame profile.