Let’s be honest, prioritizing your mental health can seem daunting and intimidating. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements on TV, radio, and social media platforms telling us how we can focus and pay more attention to our mental health. But, what if that one thing is to change your entire mindset or lifestyle so that you can make room for better self-care habits? They make it seem simple, right?
I’m here to ease your concerns and to let you know that sometimes it’s not always that simple! I’m also here to let you know that these “grandiose suggestions” shouldn’t discourage you from focusing on yourself, however that looks for you. But, many of us find it hard to prioritize acts of self-care or self-love. Especially because they can be viewed as time-consuming habits that aren’t “worth” it in the long run. At the same time, we tend to underestimate the power that small, or tiny changes can have over the way we feel mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Tiny changes to our daily habits can help us regulate our mood, boost optimism and hope, and even lower the risk of certain illnesses. If you’re still not convinced, or if you’re looking to refine your self-care routines for better overall well-being, then try these 8 habits. Collectively, they’ll take less time than you think and can have a profound and positive impact on your life.
1. Make your bed.
It may seem trivial to focus on making your bed. But it turns out, that making your bed can actually make you happier and more productive. It’s more than just the act of making your bed. It’s about setting an intention to do the little things that bring some order into your life. As a result, that in turn can set the groundwork for a more thoughtful, responsible, balanced, and successful life.
If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. As a result, you’ll have a quick sense of accomplishment before you begin your day. In addition, making your bed can lower your stress levels, improve your mood, and help you feel calmer and happier.
Hence, spending two minutes in the morning making your bed will make you feel productive for the rest of the day. Even if you don’t do anything else. Remember that making your bed isn’t a magic cure to feelings of anxiety or depression. But it’s a simple step you can take to regain some control over your own life and your own narrative. You may feel like you can’t do anything right or get anything done, but that’s not true! While almost no one can fold a fitted sheet, myself included, almost everyone can make a bed. So, allowing yourself to enjoy this one victory may help you gain a new and better perspective. After all, you have nothing to lose.
2. Lighten up your mornings.
The first thing that many of us do in the morning is jump onto the phone to check text messages, emails, or what’s going on in the social media world. Instead, try to stay away from the phone and get up! Maybe head outdoors (weather permitting) or enjoy your breakfast next to a window where the sun is peeking in to catch some natural sunlight. Research shows that natural light in the morning helps regulate your circadian rhythm. Hence your sleep-wake cycle that aligns sleep and wakefulness with day and night to create a stable cycle of restorative rest that enables increased daytime activity.
In addition, enjoying the sunlight in the morning will give you a healthy dose of vitamin D or, the accurately labeled, “sunshine vitamin”. Vitamin D has a wide range of benefits for the body. Beginning from strengthening your bones to lowering your risk of depression, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer. It also reduces inflammation and boosts your immune system and overall mood.
3. Drink water.
Did you know that the human body is made up of 60% water? But do you also know up to 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated? Yes, they are. So if you find yourself often feeling irritated, nervous, or sluggish, it may be caused by dehydration. Dehydration affects our thoughts and feelings by slowing circulation, which lowers blood flow, meaning less oxygen traveling to the brain and impairing proper functioning.
When the neurons in the brain detect dehydration, it signals the mood-regulating parts of the brain that are experiencing dehydration, and the brain’s dopamine and serotonin levels become dysregulated. As dopamine and serotonin are the natural neurotransmitters that control depression and anxiety, this can have disastrous effects on mood.Researchers have found that there are associations between dehydration and mood, most commonly manifesting in feelings of decreased alertness, fatigue, and tension.
Ultimately confirming that , but drinking enough water daily helps boost your mood.
4. Take 5 deep breaths.
Stress can manifest itself in many forms, including affecting a person’s physical body.
This can include headaches, stomachaches, and even digestive problems. When experiencing stress, breathing patterns tend to present itself as shallow and irregular causing you to use your shoulders rather than your diaphragm to move air in and out of your lungs. This style of breathing disrupts the balance of gas exchange in the body.
Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to the brain to relax, and the brain begins to relay this same message back to your body.
By changing your breathing pattern, there is the potential to trick the brain into suppressing your fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system and increasing the parasympathetic activity of rest and digest. This will not only make you feel calmer, but it will also help you digest your lunch better!
5. Be mindful of your social media use
We all know that social media can offer a fun (and sometimes exciting) way to escape the stress of work and demands of a busy life. This is especially evident today, when many of us are taking a break from pre-pandemic activities, such as traveling or participating in social events. But, there’s also a downside to this that directly affects your mental health, including anxiety disorders, depression, and loneliness. Recent studies conducted by The Child Mind Institute and The National Center for Health Research suggest people who frequently use social media feel more depressed and less happy with life than those who spend more time on non screen-related activities.
Here are a few items to be mindful of when utilizing social media:
- The constant feed of fresh content on social media apps and websites mimics the same chemical effect on the brain, a release of dopamine, as other potentially addictive activities such as gambling or recreational drug use.
- Placing too much emphasis on receiving “likes” or interactions can lead to you feeling disappointed or invalidated.
- Comparing your posts to those of others can cause low self-esteem, loneliness, and feelings of anxiety or depression
To help combat unhealthy use of social media, pay attention to how you’re feeling, how often you are checking your apps, and whether your usage is distracting you from your responsibilities, self-care, or in-person relationships
6. Write a Gratitude list.
To be honest, it’s hard to actually define gratitude because it can be understood as both a state of being and a personal trait. Ultimately, it’s a form of appreciation, whether that’s being thankful for a wider life perspective or a specific situation. Research has shown that when we practice gratitude, we shift our attention from what’s wrong or what we don’t have to what we do have at the moment.
There’s a reason gratitude is so popular: It works…at least for some people. Studies have shown that gratitude does have benefits. Especially, gratitudes such as improving sleep quality and emotional regulation, increasing feelings of happiness and resilience, and reducing stress, burnout, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Having said that, it does not, I repeat DOES NOT affect depression or anxiety. In other words, it is not a cure-all for mental health issues. But it does lead to a more positive outlook on life.
But, remember it’s okay to acknowledge the good with the bad in your life. We’re told that just because something terrible happens in your life, that doesn’t mean you can’t also be grateful. This rule also applies in reverse. Just because you’re grateful doesn’t mean your negative emotions aren’t valid. Practice validation alongside gratitude. Don’t think you have to choose gratitude or being upset. Think of it as feeling upset and that you also practice gratitude. Remind yourself that your feelings are real, and you’re worthy of being upset or discontent.
7. Perform an act of kindness.
An act of kindness towards others may help you understand your own difficulties, increase empathy and gain some perspective. Research shows that being kind can reduce stress, improve emotional well-being, and even benefit physical health. So, what exactly does it mean to “be kind”? According to Psychology Today, kindness means, “a behavioral response of compassion and actions that are selfless; or a mindset that places compassion for others before one’s own interests. In performing the selfless act, a person may undercut their own selfish interests.
Now, more than ever, acts of kindness can help. The positive effects of kindness are experienced by everyone who witnesses the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.” The important thing to remember is that being kinder entails making a conscious effort to prioritise others over yourself. Our bodies and minds reward us when we go out of the way for other people.
Generosity is key to our positive mental health!
8. Squeeze a super short workout into a super busy day.
While lack of exercise might emphasize feelings of depression and anxiety, squeezing in a short workout can lead to lots of benefits, like a rush of happy endorphins and a distraction from your daily worries. Over time, active people tend to be more confident and social, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Movement can be a natural boost for your mind, body, and soul. But, when you go a little bit deeper into where you hold tension or what you’re struggling with. You can design short workouts that increase the motivation to sustain an active lifestyle.
It’s very important to understand that your mental health plays a pivotal role in your quality of life. It’s never just one thing that will affect your mental health, rather many factors are always at play. Some things will always remain beyond your control, but adding beneficial habits to your day can promote overall wellness.
A Note to be remembered!
Just remind yourself that when it comes to adopting or implementing new habits, it’s generally better to start with one, maybe two at a time. Instead of trying to do a complete transformation overnight. Then, as time goes by, check-in with yourself to take inventory of how those changes. It has either helped or not helped you will just feel indifferent about it. These moments of self-reflection will help you figure out what works and what doesn’t. So, as a result, you can plan ahead to generate more opportunities to improve your mental health in the future.
But, if your mental health starts to get worse, it could be a sign that it’s time for you to consider reaching out for some professional help. Professional support can be a very powerful tool in your mental health habits toolbox. Having said that, always remember this: “You deserve to enjoy your life to the best of your ability and wake up each and every day with the opportunity to be happy, joyous, and free”.
Keep in mind that our mental health requires regular maintenance and is critical because it has a large impact on our daily lives. However, following the above-mentioned self-help methods can be beneficial. But in reality, helpful advice from a caring professional can frequently motivate us to improve our own health.