You don’t have to look far to find simple and effective steps you can take to improve your mental health. Good news: most of them are free or inexpensive.
1: Exercise Three Times a Week
Everyone knows exercise is good for your body. Did you know it’s good for your mind too? Research shows that regular exercise, especially cardio (e.g., walking or running), enhances your mood. It’s also likely to boost your self-esteem and provide a sense of accomplishment. All these things are good for your mental health! Exercising at least three times per week has been shown to improve depression. It may also ease anxiety or even obsessive-compulsive disorder.
2: See People You Care About
Spending time with people you care about can be a great way to boost mental health. It helps to improve your mood if you’re feeling depressed. The benefits of having a strong social support network are many — it lowers your risk of depression and substance abuse and also bolsters your efforts to cope with stress. Whether things are going well for you or not, being reminded that you’re not alone will help your mental health.
3: Do Fun Stuff
Whether you’re looking to improve your mental health or just maintain it, it’s important to have a regular schedule of enjoyable activities. Aim for several each week. Whether it’s playing with your dog, going for a walk, listening to your favorite music, or helping those in need, there are lots of possibilities for pleasant activities to add to your schedule! If you’re having trouble thinking of options that might work for you, check out this list for dozens of ideas.
4: Forgive Someone
Do you have some grudges? Most of us do, and usually, it feels pretty understandable. Have you asked yourself how this resentment is affecting you? Research shows that forgiving those who have done us wrong can improve our mental health. Sometimes it’s not a question of whether or not they deserve forgiveness — it’s more a question of how we can lead a more peaceful life.
5: Change Up Your Routine
What we do with our time is very important to our mental health. If we get in the habit of avoiding things that used to help us feel good, the consequences are predictable. Avoidance and depression can feed off each other. Give yourself the mental stimulation and variety that you need by trying new things.
6: Reduce Alcohol, Marijuana, or Other Drug Use
If you’re a frequent user of marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, or other substances, you may find that reducing your use is a potent way to boost your mental health. It can be hard to know whether substance use is a problem or not, especially when it makes us feel better in the short term. One guideline: if you use any of the above substances daily (even edibles), you will likely benefit from working to reduce your use. If you try and fail, consider reaching out to a therapist with experience in treating substance dependence.
7: Go for a Walk in Nature
As mentioned above, exercise is good for mental health. But research indicates that doing so in nature is even more helpful. Going for a walk in nature has been shown to reduce rumination, which is related to anxiety and depression. It can help you meet recommendations #1, #3, and #5 above. For that reason, going for a walk in nature may be one of the best mental health habits you can adopt.
If you find that following these tips isn’t enough to get your mental health where you want it to be, consider seeking out a mental healthcare provider. Feel free to contact us if you would like assistance finding one who’s right for you.