Improving your Mental Health.
Although getting psychotherapy is one of the best investments you can make in your mental health, for different reasons, not everyone can go to therapy. The good news is that you can do a lot of free things that help improve your mental health without going to therapy. Here are a few suggestions, that if done regularly, you can see an improvement in your mental health.
Surround yourself with supportive people.
If you don’t do anything else, doing this one thing can help you better handle the ups and downs of life. One of the quickest ways to feel bad is to spend time around negative people. Even worse is to be lonely. Loneliness is one of the biggest contributors to depression and poor health. Humans are social beings, we are not meant to be isolated from others. Now, there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. You can be around a lot of people, and still feel lonely. And you can be alone and not feel lonely.
If you don’t have friends or family who are supportive, try to join a club or sport. Being around people you have something in common with is a great way to make new friends. Do you love reading? Spend time at the Library or Book Store and try to join a book club. Do you love sports? How about joining others in fantasy football? Or start saying yes to invitations from coworkers or class mates. Volunteering is another great way to be around people. Plus, when we help others, we in turn help ourselves. The point is that you want to be around people who are positive, supportive, and make you feel good.
Get your body moving.
If the gym is your thing then great. But if not, that’s okay too. You just want to get your body moving. You can go for a walk (it’s even better with a friend), stretch your body, follow along to a work out video, walk around the mall several times, or lift some weights. Get creative with it and do what works for you. When it comes to exercise, something is better than nothing.
If this is hard for you to do, then you REALLY need it. What do you do that helps you slow down your thoughts and relax? Maybe it’s painting, listening to music, taking a bubble bath, cleaning and organizing things, reading, getting a massage, watching a movie, or going for a long car ride. It doesn’t matter. You just have to do what works for you. You might even have to schedule down time if you have a lot going on. If others depend on you, you MUST set time to relax. If not, you won’t be your best self. And that doesn’t help anyone.
Guard your mind.
Every single thing we are exposed to is shaping our thoughts. Think a thought long enough and it becomes our belief. Be careful of the types of shows you watch. Do they promote drama, violence, being unfaithful? Do you start and end your day with watching the news? Do you constantly compare yourself to the pictures you see of skinny woman or muscular men?
We don’t live in bubbles so of course we’re going to be exposed to negative things. But you can limit how much time you are exposed to them. Try to balance it by spending more time doing things that make you feel good versus things that make you feel stressed out or sad.
Meditating has been proven to lower blood pressure, lower stress hormones, help you think more clearly, and so much more. At first it might be hard to slow down your thoughts so I suggest following a guided meditation. You can simply go on YouTube and search “guided mediation” and find one you like.
If meditation is not your thing, find an activity where you have to focus all of your attention. Some people say that going for a run, driving, or working to solve a problem, like cross word puzzles, helps them focus completely.
Take care of your spirituality.
This part of our life gets ignored by a lot of people. There is a difference between religion and spirituality. I think people should practice whatever works for them. If reading the bible or attending church gives you spiritual strength, then that’s what you do. If you don’t consider yourself religious but feel that there is something more to this life, that’s completely okay too.
At some point, usually around our teen years, we begin to ask ourselves, “why am I here?” and “what’s the purpose of life?” This is a very personal area to explore and no one should tell you what is right, only you can determine that. It’s a journey, but finding what it is that strengths your spirit is important. It gives you meaning to life, and the strength you need when you’re going through hard times.
These are just a few, but important suggestions. Just like taking care of your physical health is about doing little things everyday to stay healthy, the same goes for your mental health. Try to do small things daily that make you feel good. Eventually it’ll be a habit and you’ll notice that you can better handle every day stresses.
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About the author.
Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.