During the month of May we are bringing awareness to the topic of mental health. One in four people worldwide will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life.  That’s a huge number of people with a common struggle!  A lot of attention and care should be given to our own mental health. Just as we take care of our bodies physically, we need to care for our brain and our emotional well-being too.  While this may mean seeking professional help, it can also mean adding some simple steps and changes on our own into our everyday lifestyle.

Here are five things you can do to improve your mental health today:

  1. Talk to your doctor – The first step of any sort of health transformation is speaking to a medical professional. Your general practitioner is a good place to start as he or she is able to offer you a depression screening or other mental health consultation.  Even if you are 100% sure your mental health is excellent, it is a very good idea to complete a screening.  Sometimes we are not aware of what is going on deep down internally.  Many doctors even feel depression screenings should be mandatory for all patients.  Your doctor can also help refer you to a mental health professional specific to your needs if that is the appropriate next step.
  1. Journal – The simple process of writing can be very liberating and also can bring clarity to some issues and feelings you may not even be conscious of. There are some different ways you can go about journaling:
    • Try writing about your stresses and anxieties, perhaps making a list and then throwing it away. Studies have shown this process has positive effects, as the act of physically ridding yourself of stressors clears the mind and allows you to move past the negativity.
    • You can also keep a gratitude journal. Writing about what you are grateful for, reviewing those things and basking in those feelings are proven to make you feel happier.
    • We all know that worries can creep into our heads especially at bedtime, causing us a lot of lost hours of precious sleep. Keeping a notebook next to the bed and writing these down helps literally put these worries to rest for a while allowing us to fall asleep more easily and be better rested. (Adequate sleep is also linked to mental health!)
    • Another way to journal is to write out simple, detailed goals that you want to accomplish. Be as specific as possible (for example, “I will spend 3 minutes per day focusing on my breathing for the next 3 weeks.”) Your goals can relate to your physical or mental health. Don’t forget to reward yourself when you accomplish them!
  1. Exercise – When we exercise our body releases feel good chemicals called endorphins. These elevate our moods and make us feel good. Take exercising outside to feel even better! There are many positive effects of spending time outdoors, including lowering levels of depression and alleviating stress.  Exposure to sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which increases levels of serotonin in the brain. Start out small, adding just little bits of activity into your life.   Take the stairs, park a little further away, walk around the block.  All of this counts as exercise!
  1. Have at least one person you can talk to – Whether it be a family member, spouse or friend having someone you can open up to makes a big difference on your mental health. The more you talk about your feelings and emotions, the easier it is to identify any potentially troubling signs. Having someone you can trust to talk to also helps you more easily recognize the positive in yourself because you will see the positive in others as you get closer to them. Even when you are spending time with others doing something fun and casual it’s having a big impact on your health. Many studies show that people with strong social connections live longer, are healthier and happier!
  1. Create some time for calm and relaxation everyday – This really can be anything from meditating, taking a bath, infusing some essential oils, reading a book or listening to soothing music. Just 10 minutes a day for you can really make a difference by allowing your brain to turn off, and for you to refresh and recharge.

Make your mental health a priority today! Try implementing something from this list today and add another one next week.  When you are feeling strong and healthy it is easier to make positive and gradual changes.  If you feel you are in need of some more serious mental health help please talk to your Doctor immediately or look at this list of resources so you can get immediate help.

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