By Dan Scalco
Original Source: huffingtonpost.com
Over the past few years, our culture has developed a bit of a physical health craze. From the fervor over organic produce and green smoothies to skyrocketing gym memberships, Americans are increasingly concerned about their physical wellness.
While this is a great thing, one piece of the puzzle is too often overlooked. Our mental health is just as important as the physical (if not more so), but our culture has yet to embrace an ethos that truly prioritizes mental wellbeing.
That’s all the more reason to be the change we would all benefit from seeing in the world. Prioritizing your mental health isn’t just essential for your personal wellbeing—it will also bring our culture one step closer to making it a priority for everyone. Here are five foolproof ways to jumpstart your own mental health revolution.
1. Do more things you enjoy.
This sounds so simple, but the sad truth is that many of us fall into the trap of prioritizing our daily obligations over the activities that bring us joy. And if you’re regularly engaging in draining activities without doing the things you love, your mental health is going to suffer. In contrast, regularly doing things you enjoy will give you an easy mental boost. Whether it’s hanging out with positive people, engaging in creative pursuits, volunteering at a local non-profit, picking up an old hobby, or simply lying down in the grass or taking a quick nap, doing things you like to do is a simple and effective way to feel a little better.
2. Take more vacations.
Speaking of things you enjoy: How about a vacation? You probably don’t need to be told about the benefits of “vacation therapy,” because anyone who’s taken a break from the daily grind in order to unwind in a beautiful locale already knows taking a vacation is good for your mental health. But in case you’re not aware, taking a vacation can reduce stress and anxiety, improve decision making and memory, facilitate healthier relationships with friends and family, and provide opportunities for self-reflection and re-centering. If you’re like most Americans, you probably aren’t taking advantage of all your vacation days—so resolve to change that today.
3. Spend more time in nature.
Even if you can’t find time for a multi-day vacation, you can certainly make time to get out into nature for an hour (or several). Whether sitting on an urban park bench or backpacking through national forests, spending time in green spaces has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, stimulate positive mood, facilitate relaxation, generally improve psychological wellbeing, and boost feelings of life satisfaction. Pair time in nature with a “digital detox”—aka a break from screens and social media—and you’re likely to experience additional mental health benefits.
4. Get more sleep.
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: Sleep deprivation is the ultimate mental health killer. Feeling tired all the time can reduce your mental clarity, make you grumpy and irritable, damage your relationships, and increase your risk of depression. No matter how busy you are, make a point of going to bed a little earlier, developing a soothing sleep routine, creating a healthy bedroom environment, and so on. If you have chronic sleep issues that don’t go away with the help of healthy routines, it may be time to visit a sleep center. While that might sound daunting, it’s worth getting your sleep issues in check for the peace of mind it will afford.
5. Practice more gratitude.
Studies repeatedly link an attitude of gratitude to improved mental wellbeing, greater feelings of happiness, and life satisfaction. The most effective way to tap into these benefits is to keep a gratitude journal. It doesn’t need to be fancy (and it doesn’t even need to be made out of paper—the “Notes” section on your phone will do). Just choose a time that works for you each day and write down three things you’re feeling grateful for. These could range from the relatively mundane (“That sandwich I had for lunch was delicious) to the major (“I proposed to my partner and they said yes!”). It’s not what you’re grateful for that matters—it’s the act of feeling grateful in the first place.
Of course, if all else fails, it’s a great idea to seek out the help of a trained mental health professional. No matter the strategy that works for you, investing in your mental health is time very well spent.