In a stressful world that believes in physical disorders over mental ones, it’s fairly common for mental health to be overlooked. Sadly, ignoring problems that manifest psychologically or emotionally isn’t good for your wellbeing and can result in serious disorders or, even at best, you being trapped in your own mind. It’s time to improve your mental health!
Luckily, there are ways that you can strengthen your mental fitness, allowing for a healthier mindset and increased positive thinking. These methods are all backed by science and professionals alike. In short, therapists want you to do these 6 things to improve your mental health!
1. Spin Things To The Positive
It’s impossible to avoid negativity in life. Sometimes, learning to put positive spins on the bad things that will come can help you get through the very worst of times. Here are some expert-recommended ways to do so:
· Note Down Good Things
If you find yourself trapped in a cycle of overwhelmingly negative thoughts, try to spin them towards the positive by writing down two things for each negative one. This will help you shift your perspective and make you realize that some things are going well. It’s also a form of gratitude, says Alicia H. Clark, a licensed clinical psychologist, and a doctor of psychology, and it can completely change your current mindset.
· Counter The Negative
Sometimes, ignoring your negative thoughts isn’t sufficient and simply doesn’t work. Instead, try to counter them with the use of positive thoughts and statements, recommends John Mayer, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist. As an example, when you begin to think negative and anxious thoughts about needing to spend money on repairing an appliance, counter those thoughts with the fact that this means the appliance is safer to use and will not malfunction again for a while.
· See The Good In Things to Improve Your Mental Health
Stress and anxiety can make it difficult to see the silver linings that sit and wait for attention in every dark cloud. So the next time you feel that anxiety, take a breath and try to seek that elusive but very real lining, suggests Clark. Instead of fretting that you’ll perform badly at a sports event, think about the lessons you’ll learn and the experience you’ll receive, for example. And if you can’t find anything positive? Well, consider that your cue to back out of the stressful situation!
2. Maintain Good Social Relationships
Extroverts surround themselves with friends often, but even introverts need a little bit of social interaction to thrive. The same goes for those with social anxiety and other similar disorders that affect their ability to socialize.
Most studies agree that social interaction is somewhat crucial for positive mental health. Not much of it is entirely necessary for those benefits, but a complete lack of it can send your wellbeing tanking. It can even affect physical health, shortening your lifespan, and putting you at risk for diseases.
Skylight Counseling Center founder and licensed marriage and family therapist David Klow recommends making a list of “your people”. These are the people you’re most comfortable with and who care about – those that you trust and know you can turn to in times of need. This allows you to be aware of the people who form the best relationships you have while also reminding you that these people can be there for you when you need them.
Worried that you’re still not getting enough social interaction? Don’t have enough relationships that are close enough to list? Try joining a group of some kind so you can enjoy some regular social interaction. For example, you can join:
- A class
- An activist group
- A volunteer program
- A professional group for your trade or skills
- Local religious community
- A therapy group
- A club for your hobbies
3. Eat Well to Improve Your Mental Health
The things you eat determine your wellbeing in many ways. An occasional unhealthy treat isn’t a bad thing, but constantly consuming junk foods and empty calories while ignoring daily nutritional requirements could affect your mental health.
On the flip side, some healthy foods have benefits for mental health. Your diet can alter hormone production, cognitive processes, and bodily function, so it makes sense that what you put in your body changes its wellbeing! Here are some examples of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that have been found in research to have benefits for mental health and positive thinking:
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin D3
4. Try Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the act of becoming present in the moment. It is meant to teach you to concentrate on the now instead of overly fretting over the past or future, leading to some degree of control over your thoughts.
Although mindfulness meditation is the most commonly discussed form of mindfulness, you don’t need to set time aside to fully meditate in the typical sense to do it. As a concept, mindfulness meditation can be performed anytime you like. It simply involves the process of clearing your mind, grounding yourself, and focusing on the present.
There have been numerous recordings of benefits from mindfulness for mental health and positive thinking, including:
- Reduced stress
- Improved memory
- Better concentration
- Healthier relationships
- Decreased anxiety
All you really need to do in order to practice mindfulness is to perform deep, focused breathing while emptying your mind. You can do this during yoga, while on a slow walk, or while sitting quietly anywhere. In general, you should aim to practice mindfulness once or twice daily for about periods of twenty minutes each time.
Want another way to practice mindfulness without the silence? Need help keeping your mind from wandering? Travis Bradberry, a SUCCESS contributor, recommends reciting positive phrases as mantras to yourself. For example:
- I achieve my goals.
- I am strong.
- I’m not my depression.
Lisa Bahar, a therapist, has other ideas for alternative methods of mindfulness: incorporating it into daily tasks and actions. Basically, this involves being extra aware of the things you do every day. For example:
- Pay attention to the taste of your breakfast and identify what you love about it
- Appreciate the scent of your favorite shampoo and take note of the individual components of the scent that you love
- When you pick up an item you regularly interact with, take note of its texture, weight, and other touch-based features
- Look around your room at something you see every day and examine it as if you were looking at it for the first time
- Be present in all your activities, focusing on the task at hand, without letting your mind wander.
5. Engage With Your Negativity
As previously mentioned, completely avoiding negative circumstances is simply not possible in life. For the most part, except when they’re overwhelming, you might be tempted to gloss over them. Don’t! It’s incredibly useful to learn to engage with that negativity and interact with it. Here are some ways to do so:
· Talk Back To Your Negative Voice
When your inner voice becomes negative, make it clear that you won’t stand for that kind of toxicity – even from yourself! That inner critic can, sometimes, be reasonable, but a lot of the time it will provide you with unhelpful thoughts. It might tell you that you’re useless or stupid. This is why Klow says you need to learn to transform that voice to a reassuring one – and you can do so by talking back. When that negative voice crops up, respond to it the same way you would respond to a friend who says the same things. You’ll find that it’s easier to be kind when you think of that inner critic in the third person.
· Write Down Your Thoughts
By writing down what you think and feel, you’re performing the act of venting. As the term “venting” suggests, this involves letting off metaphorical “steam” from your brain, allowing you to get out the worst of your emotions and thoughts. Klow suggests keeping a mental health journal where you can spend time recording your most difficult thoughts. Once you get into the swing of things, start writing daily entries, and even write about your positive thoughts! It’s so much easier to process what you feel when it’s all on paper and not bottled up inside you.
· Challenge Yourself By Asking What’s Next
When anxious or negative thoughts have you in a chokehold, force yourself to move forward. Clark says you should try asking your thoughts, “And then what?”. This forces you to push your train of thought further, allowing for more reasonable thinking of more probable circumstances. This helps puts situations into perspective instead of blowing them out of proportion, and you might realize that the thing you’re fretting about isn’t too bad after all.
6. Exercise Can Improve Your Mental Health
There is no shortage of information that indicates the very close relationship between exercise and mental health. Most research agrees that a complete lack of exercise contributes to mental health problems while even minimal exercise can help reduce the symptoms of mental disorders.
This is mainly due to the fact that exercise increases the production of the feel-good neurotransmitters, endorphins. This increased production reduces stress, helps boost sleep quality, and can be great for mood and anxiety disorders overall. Here are some facts about exercise that can help you plan its inclusion in your everyday life:
- 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can help reduce anxiety levels
- 30 minutes of daily walking can reduce stress levels and boost positive thinking
- 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity and 150 minutes per week of moderate activity is the standard recommended amount of exercise for good health overall
Mental health problems can be just as taxing on your body and mind as physical health problems and should be treated as such. So if you know you’re supposed to work hard on improving your physical health, it only makes sense that you should work to improve your mental health, too.
Working on bolstering your mental health with these 6 things can provide surprising results. You might be impressed by how much better you feel when you start working on keeping your brain healthy. Need some help in the process? Don’t be afraid to reach out to a therapist or other mental health professional! They’ll be able to equip you with the tools and knowledge you need to tackle your mental health problems head-on.