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8 ways to improve your mental health

Mental well-being should be a priority

Do you ever feel anxious, a little sad, drained or stressed out? You aren’t alone. In fact, mental health issues affect everyone at some point in their life. The good news is, you can make some changes to help improve how you’re feeling.

First things first, what is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing — it affects how we think, feel act and deal with everyday challenges. Mental health issues are common, but so is recovery — whether you seek professional help and treatment or decide to take steps on your own to improve your mental health.

“Making your mental health a priority can help your overall wellness,” says Geisinger psychologist Nicole Quinlan, PhD, who specializes in child and adolescent psychology. “Implement new habits and routines one step at a time to find what works for you. If you need extra help, don’t be afraid to seek it.”

Could your mental health use some TLC? Try working some of these tips into your daily routine.

Below are eight ways to improve your mental health – find one that speaks to you and give it a try today:

1. Write down what you’re grateful for.

Write down three things that you’re grateful for every day — in a notebook, journal or an app. “Expressing gratitude regularly is linked to improved well-being and mental health,” says Quinlan. So, what are you thankful for?

2. Get some exercise.

Whether it’s outside, in the gym or at home, try to get 30 minutes of exercise daily. Our bodies release stress-relieving, mood-boosting endorphins when we exercise, which can help boost your mental health. When possible, try to enjoy some time outdoors — exposure to sunlight and nature boosts those “feel-good” endorphins.

3. Say something positive about

yourself.

Thinking negative thoughts about yourself can affect how you feel. Ever hear of positive affirmations? Stay with us — they’re more helpful than you think!

Affirmations are positive statements that can help you overcome negative thoughts about yourself. It may seem a little silly at first, but repeating positive statements about yourself can help shift your outlook – just like that 5 a.m. workout (that you dreaded) helped you feel stronger.

4. Fuel your body.

Getting the right nutrition can help improve your mood. Try getting in a healthy balance of carbohydrates,

protein-rich foods and fruits and vegetables. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, flaxseeds and nuts can also help.

5. Talk to a friend or loved one.

Talking to a supportive friend or loved one can help improve your emotional well-being. Opening up to someone may be difficult, but a supportive friend that you can trust can help you see new perspectives and remind you of the positives.

6. Write it down.

Is something upsetting or bothering you? Write it down in a journal – or wherever you prefer. “Studies show that journaling can help reduce symptoms of depression, boost your mood and enhance your sense of well-being,” says Dr. Quinlan.

7. Take a break.

Sometimes stepping away from whatever is stressing you out is the best thing you can do. This allows you to take a breath and come back with a fresh mindset. Do a simple breathing exercise, practice yoga, take a quick walk, watch a funny video on YouTube – whatever helps you feel better.

8. Get a good night’s sleep.

“Research has shown that lack of sleep can have a significant negative effect on our mood,” says Dr. Quinlan. Try going to bed at the same time each night and aim for seven to nine hours of sleep.

Have issues getting to sleep? Try cutting back on caffeinated drinks in the afternoon, shutting down all screens an hour before bed or relaxing activities before bed – like a warm bath or a cup of herbal tea.

It’s okay to not be okay. Don’t be afraid to seek help for your mental health.

Just like we need routine checkups and wellness visits to look after our physical health, we need to monitor and maintain our mental health. If you’re struggling with mental health issues, support is available – reach out to a friend, your doctor or resources in your community.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” says Quinlan. “Seeking help will get you the treatment and support you need to start feeling better.”