10 ways to improve your mental health
Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and aging.
Mental health is about lives going well, and it is the combination of feeling good and functioning effectively. Sustainable mental health does not require individuals to feel good all the time; the experience of painful emotions is a normal part of life, and being able to manage these negative or painful emotions is essential for long-term well-being. Mental health is, however, compromised when negative emotions are extreme or very long lasting and interfere with a person’s ability to function in his or her daily life.
The concept of feeling good incorporates not only the positive emotions of happiness and contentment, but also such emotions as interest, engagement, confidence, and affection. The concept of mental health effectively involves the development of one’s potential, having some control over one’s life, having a sense of purpose, and experiencing positive relationships.
Evidence suggests there are 10 steps you can take to improve your mental health and well-being.
It’s important to try to have a positive outlook; some ways to do that include finding balance between positive and negative emotions. Staying positive doesn’t mean that you never feel negative emotions, such as sadness or anger. You need to feel them so that you can move through difficult situations. They can help you to respond to a problem. But you don’t want those emotions to take over. For example, it’s not helpful to keep thinking about bad things that happened in the past or worry too much about the future.
Living a life consistent with your values leads to improved wellbeing. Be aware of your own values – of how you would like to lead your life, behave towards others, and treat yourself. Then find ways to ensure your life is in keeping with those ideals. This is better for your mental health than responding to events habitually, without awareness or purpose.
Treat yourself with the same kindness, concern and support you’d show a good friend facing struggles. Rather than reproaching yourself, recognize that life is full of mistakes and inadequacies. This is the essence of self-compassion, which fosters resilience in the face of adversity.
Having deep, meaningful relationships helps mental health. Build a rich social network by flexing your communication skills. Really listen to others and be genuine, sharing your thoughts and feelings. Your relationships need not be just about sharing difficulties. Celebrate everyday positive experiences with friends. Research shows doing this boosts mental health by helping you savor good things and make great feelings last longer.
A good lifestyle supports mental health. Research suggests that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, and regular moderate exercise, boosts your well-being. Making sure some of your exercise occurs in green spaces outside has extra benefits to mental health. Eat a well-balanced nutritious diet, exercise regularly, get out into nature, and avoid excessive use of alcohol and drugs.
Research suggests acting with kindness, generosity, forgiveness and compassion towards others, cultivating a sense of gratitude and appreciation, savoring things you love, knowing and using personal strengths, being creative and feeling optimistic, can improve your mental health. Research suggests it not only improves the skills involved in the activity, but this complete immersion lowers stress hormones and releases ‘feel good’ hormones such as dopamine.
We all have many roles in life. You might be a parent, a partner, an employee, a student, a church member, a teammate, a career or a volunteer. It is easy to feel pulled between responsibilities and it can be tempting to sacrifice important parts of your life. This can leave you less satisfied and more stressed. Researchers suggest that working towards greater balance fosters well-being. Think about how satisfied you are with the different areas of your life: relationships, work, recreation, health, exercise, self-development, and spiritual life. Are you devoting the amount of attention you would like to each? Making more time for some, and putting boundaries around others, might help create that balance.
Laughter really is good medicine. Humor that expresses positive emotion and messages, is good for your mental health. It has been found that laugh release ‘feel good’ hormones, increase optimism, improve your mood over time, and improve relationships by increasing connection and intimacy.
Getting quality sleep, and enough of it, is essential for physical and mental health. Your idea of a good night’s sleep might differ from the next person. Some people need more than eight hours of sleep to feel rested, others less.