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11 Tips to Improve Mental Health

Like many people, I’ve been thinking a lot about Simone Biles recently and her decision to withdraw from some of the Olympics competitions. Her commitment to do what was best for her and her mental health has opened the door to talk more about mental health issues for athletes, which is sorely needed. But since we all have our own challenges and may sometimes struggle with mental health, I also wanted to share some tips that everyone can use. 1: Take care of your body It’s tempting to think of our minds as being separate from our bodies, but that’s not the case. Our brains are part of our bodies, and many ways of taking care of your physical self will improve mental health. These include:

  • Getting enough quality sleep – this helps adjust the chemicals in your brain that play a part in regulating your emotions

  • Eating a variety of foods to get all the necessary nutrients – your brain, like the rest of your body, needs proper nutrition to function at its best

  • Being active – even moderate activity can release endorphins to improve your mood, and staying active improves sleep and concentration

  • Spending time in nature – this can increase energy levels, as well as reduce stress and depression

2: Practice mindfulness Being mindful, whether in eating or other areas of your life, helps in a couple of ways. It keeps you from dwelling on past things you can’t change or worrying about future events that you don’t have control over. When you pay attention, you’re also more likely to find joy in your everyday life, even when things aren’t going as planned. 3: Accept yourself Practicing self-acceptance isn’t always easy, but it will make you so much happier. Instead of comparing yourself to others or saying how you’re not good at certain things, focus on the skills and talents you do have. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t learn new things or make some changes, but by accepting yourself as you are, you’ll have greater self-confidence and will be more willing and able to learn new things. 4: Do something you’re good at Another option for when you’re feeling down is to do something you’re good at. Most of us enjoy things that we’re good at, so this can help you relax, and it will help your confidence. This could be something creative – writing, drawing, painting, singing, playing an instrument, dancing, etc. – or it could be solving crosswords, doing jigsaw puzzles, cooking, or more. Just find something that you know you can do well and that you’ll enjoy doing. 5: Try something new As much as it can help to do something you’re already good at, it’s also helpful to try something new to change things up a little. This could be a new hobby, or it might be expanding on something you already do. If you love cooking, you might try some new recipes. If you’re a musician, you might get some new music that’s more difficult than you’re used to, to stretch yourself. This could also be a change of scenery. Try a new walking route, visit a new museum or restaurant, pick up a type of book you don’t normally read. Even if you don’t end up liking it, the novelty will give you something new to think about. 6: Practice gratitude Expressing gratitude has come up a lot in recent years as a way to improve mental health, and with good reason. Focusing on what you appreciate and are grateful for encourages you to look for the good in things instead of the negative. Gratitude journals are one way to do this, but you can also send a note to someone and tell them how much you appreciate them. This will brighten both your day and theirs. 7: Set small, achievable goals When you start something new, it can be tempting to aim for mastery all at once, but that usually backfires. If you’re not an overnight success - and odds are you won’t be - you’ll feel discouraged and are more likely to give up. If you set smaller goals, though, that are achievable, you’ll see progress right away. You’ll feel happy and proud of achieving what you’ve done, and that will encourage you to keep going. 8: Connect with family and friends Strong social connections also improve mental health and reduce stress, as long as those relationships make you feel valued and cared for. Visiting in person to chat, play games, or share a meal can be great, but you won’t always be able to do that, especially in these days of COVID. But setting up a time for a call or video chat, or sending a text or email, can give you a boost. 9: Volunteer You can also connect with others by volunteering, which helps in a few ways. Knowing that you’ve helped someone in need makes you feel good, and you’ll also get a different perspective by seeing what’s going on with others. Volunteering can also make you feel more connected to the larger world, and the appreciation of others will improve your self-esteem. 10: Learn stress management It’s also important to find ways to manage stress because you will certainly experience stress in your life. Some things you can try are:

  • Humor - finding something to laugh about will lift your spirits

  • Pets - hanging out with animals reduces stress and gives you something else to focus on

  • Meditation - quieting your thoughts will bring you a greater sense of calm

  • Write - writing about what’s going on can clear your thoughts

  • Breathing - breathing exercises center you and can lower anxiety

  • Offline - getting off social media and staying away from the news for a while can be a big help in reducing stress

11: Ask for help And finally, if you find that you can’t manage on your own, ask for help. Remember that this doesn’t mean that you’re weak or incapable. It shows that you have good self-awareness and that you know an outside opinion may help. You could start with family or friends, but depending on what kind of help you need, you could investigate support groups, or look for counselors who will have more resources. Mental health is health For too long, mental health wasn’t seen as part of our overall health, but thankfully, that’s starting to change. And since we all have times in our lives when we experience stress and need support, it’s important to know what options are available and to feel that it’s okay to get help when needed. And to quote Frasier Crane, I’ll sign off with this thought: “Wishing you good mental health.”


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