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This article comes from Heather LeGuilloux, mental health blogger and therapist. Be sure to check out her bio at the bottom to connect!
By creating small changes in our lifestyle, we can experience some major benefits in our overall health and well-being, and most importantly in our mental health. Often times, we place our mental well-being on the back burner of importance. But this often-misunderstood part of ourselves is just as important as any of the other parts that make us who we are. Interestingly, our mental health interconnects with our overall health and well-being, rather than existing as a separate aspect.
Given this great importance, I would like us to walk through a few suggestions of simple changes to our lifestyle that we can make in our everyday lives to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves and, in turn, improving our mental well-being.
1. Set the Intention to Slow Down
When was the last time you spent time just being in the moment? Not worrying about what needs to get done, or the important job interview you have coming up. I mean just really taking the time to slow down, and enjoy a few minutes of downtime. I understand that this may be a totally new concept to you, but hear me out! It might just be something you want to try.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how busy life can be and how stressful it can feel to have endless responsibilities waiting for you to tick off the to-do list. In our society, we associate busyness with success. Yet what happens when all we do is work and get things done? Often times this leads to neglecting our needs and well-being.
So try this (maybe even right after reading this article, if you want). Set aside 5 minutes of your time and find a comfortable spot to sit or lay down. The only decision you have to make is whether you want to keep your eyes open or closed. Notice any thoughts or feelings that come up for you, acknowledge and accept their presence, and continue to just be in this moment.
After these 5 minutes (or longer, if you want), notice how you are feeling. Hopefully, any stress or feelings of overwhelm have subsided just a bit. Continue this practice of slowing down any chance you get or when you’re feeling particularly stressed.
2. Spend Time Doing Things You Love
All work and no play robs us of time doing the activities or interests that bring us joy and fulfillment. Whether it’s being crafty, spending time helping others or volunteering, or getting your hands dirty in the garden, chances are you have something in your life that you love to do.
Yet how much time do you spend on these activities compared to the tasks that you must get done throughout the day, like grocery shopping or work-related activities? If the balance of time tips more towards focusing on your responsibilities rather than an activity that brings you happiness, consider placing more value and time on something you love doing.
It can often feel like this is ‘selfish’ to do something just for your own benefit. But actually, this can help to give you more energy, increase your empathy and emotional capacity to be there for others, and provide you with a great sense of purpose overall. In this sense, spending time doing things you love benefits not only yourself but others around you, as well.
3. Create Genuine Connections With Others
Since the world has become almost entirely digitized, the amount of face-to-face contact you have with others may be much lower than in previous years. This can create a sense of loneliness, especially if you are a remote worker, stay-at-home parent, or retired. It’s important to remember that genuine connections with others makes us human. It’s natural to want this in our lives.
In order to increase your connection with others, and reduce the feeling of isolation, think of ways that you can get out and meet new people, or reconnect with the people in your life you may have lost touch with, like friends, relatives, or past co-workers.
Consider these ideas about how to meet new people in your life:
- join a local club or meet-up group in your area
- learn a new language through a cafe meeting group
- go sightseeing in your local area and chat with others
- be flexible, try something new, go outside your comfort zone
Rather than stressing about making a bunch of new friends, have fun and enjoy the experience, regardless of the outcome. Even having short-term connections with others, especially if you spend time laughing and smiling, can have a hugely positive impact on your overall well-being.
4. Increase Your Water Intake
Okay, I know what you’re thinking… And you probably read that in your mom or concerned aunt’s voice, right? But it’s so true! Water is super important for maintaining a healthy body and mind. It can be so easy to forget to drink enough H2O before we realize that we’re really thirsty, or even dehydrated.
A lack of water in our system can cause all sorts of problems:
- feeling sluggish and exhausted
- lack of motivation and drive to do anything
- impact our mental health and cause us to feel down
- slower digestion
- issues with body temperature regulation (Healthline)
So in order to keep our bodies and minds working at peak levels, ensure that you’re getting enough water. It’s commonly recommended to have eight 8 ounce glasses of water each day, more if your physical activity increases. It’s also important to build in a system of reminders throughout your day. I find it helpful to keep cold water in a pitcher in the fridge handy, as well as adding a bit of sliced up fruit to help naturally flavor my water. Find out what works for you and go for it!
Related: Are You Safety Conscious?
5. Have a Nighttime Routine
Recharging after a busy day can be essential to maintaining our overall well-being. Giving space to your thoughts and feelings can also be beneficial to improve your mental health. After you go through your usual nighttime routine of getting ready for bed, putting some comfortable pajamas on, and unwinding, consider a few practices around taking care of your emotions.
For example, keep a journal next to your bed so that you can jot down any worries, thoughts, ideas, dreams… Literally anything that comes to mind. Often times our body will unwind quicker than our minds, so it can be useful to practice a ‘brain dump’ like this in order to release any lingering thoughts or concerns that might otherwise cause sleep disturbances.
Another idea is to listen to relaxing music or a mental health podcast with examples of mindful exercises to try out. Find what works for you and feel the benefit of drifting off into a more peaceful and at ease sleep.
I hope these strategies have been interesting for you to consider adding into your own life. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about how you can improve your mental well-being in your own life with a few changes to your lifestyle. Take good care!
Heather LeGuilloux | Mental Health Blogger
Hey, I’m Heather! I have a passion for sharing my knowledge and experience as a therapist to help others understand and strengthen their mental health and well-being. As a mental health blogger, I strive to educate individuals like yourself on topics that may seem taboo but actually impact a wide range of people, including anxiety and depression, as well as how to live a healthy lifestyle.