In our busy lives, it’s easy to put off taking care of our physical and mental health. When we do take care of ourselves, we tend to focus on physical health: we can see the results of our efforts. And, we have been bombarded with information about how to take good care of our physical health. We know what to do: exercise, eat healthy, drink water, and get enough sleep.
Mental health is more esoteric: What is it? How do we measure it? How do we improve it?
Simply, good mental health is feeling mostly happy and peaceful. To assess your mental health, start by taking some quiet time and asking yourself these questions: Am I happy? Do I feel stress in my body? Am I just getting through each day, or, am I enjoying my life and the people in it?
The thing is, our mental health is just as important as our physical health. And, just like our physical health, there are daily “exercises” we can do to feel emotionally healthier. The suggestions below all have a lot of research linking them to positive mental health. And, they are easy to implement into your busy day.
Ted Talks are free, informative talks, given by experts in various fields. Many are about improving mental health; they will make you laugh, make you cry, and some of them are life-changing. You can view them on your computer, iPad or cell phone if you have internet access. They last 10 to 20 minutes. Go to www.ted.com, click on the playlist icon, and then go to lists titled, “The 10 most popular Tedx talks,” “What makes you happy,” and “a better you.” Don’t miss the talks by Amy Cuddy, Brene’ Brown, Shawn Achor, and Cameron Russell. Try listening to these talks while you are getting ready in the morning or cooking dinner at night.
Journaling, if you enjoy it, is a wonderful habit. Sitting down to write about our day creates a time of quiet, self-reflection. We think through events in our day, and dwell on our feelings about what occurred.
Time with friends isn’t about fun, it’s essential. It’s not just about spending time together though, it’s about finding a few close friends we can really talk with about our thoughts and feelings. We can turn to them when we need support. Regularly spending time with close friends, in person or on the phone, is one of the biggest predictors of well-being.
Feeling grateful is super important. Try setting aside a few minutes each morning and each evening to think about what you are grateful for. Remember, it’s the little things in life that brings us the most happiness, peace and meaning. So, reflect upon small moments you are grateful for like reading a book with your child, walking your dog, and drinking a good cup of tea. Practicing gratefulness trains the brain to pay attention to meaningful moments throughout the day, to really take them in emotionally. It keeps us focused on positive, rather than negative, moments.
Speaking of which, while it is important to be informed, limit how much news and electronics you view. Much of it is negative and meant to grab our attention by provoking fear and anger. Quite simply, it isn’t good for us. It’s not possible to feel happy and peaceful while feeling afraid and agitated.
Praying and/or meditation, even if just for a few moments each day, creates peace.
Like we have all learned about caring for our physical health, fad diets don’t last. It’s the small, daily, lifestyle changes that produce lasting results. Try some of these suggestions for the long haul. While the results may not be visible, you deserve good mental health.