May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s great opportunity to take a look at how your head and your heart are holding up. For some pretty obvious reasons, mental health of Americans has taken a nosedive in the past couple of years.
On the other hand, people are more willing than ever to talk about mental health. They’re open about heading off to their therapy appointment. They’re asking for time off of work for a mental health day. And they’re getting (understandably) angry when they’re not getting mental health support from their jobs. If you’re looking for ways to make progress at a low point in life, read on for 10 well-proven tips to improve your mental health.
Ditch Perfectionism to Improve Your Mental Health
When you saw a list of steps, was your first instinct to see if you could check off all 10? Our first challenge to you is to drop the perfectionism. That desire to complete everything, regardless of whether it’s actually helping you personally, is doing more damage than you might realize. Perfectionism has been linked to depression–the more of a perfectionist you are, the more severe the depression.
Beat the Average On Physical Activity
This is a pretty specific goal, so let’s break it down. The average American gets 17 minutes of physical activity a day. That’s not “17 minutes of gym time” or “17 minutes of running,” just 17 minutes of any physical activity. If you’re already getting more than that, head to the next step (after high-fiving yourself). If you’re not, consider how you might add 17 minutes of something you consider physical activity to your plans for tomorrow.
Bonus challenge: Don’t think of it as exercise for weight loss. This is something you’re doing because it has proven benefits for you mental and emotional well-being.
Try Teletherapy for $1 a Week
When was the last time you tried to schedule an in-person appointment of any kind? You pull up your calendar and try to figure out when you can take 2, maybe 3 hours off of work. It’s not an easy feat for many. Teletherapy is a great option for people who have to worry about the difference between a 30 minute appointment and a 3 hour appointment a bus ride away. Avibra offers teletherapy for just $1 a week.
Unfollow One Thing on Social Media
You almost certainly know at this point that social media is pretty terrible for your mental health in many cases. We’ll leave a little wiggle room in that sentence for those unicorns out there who have perfectly balanced their social media accounts to only bring pure joy.
Seriously though, the chances are so, so high that you currently follow someone on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook or Reddit or Tumblr (does Tumblr still exist?) that brings down your mood. We get it, sometimes it feels necessary to read or watch things that make us feel bad. The news is rarely sunshine and daisies. Important topics are often hard topics.
But what if you just unfollowed ONE account. Left ONE sub. Muted ONE person. Give it a shot and see how you feel at the end of the month.
Try One Thing to Improve Your Sleep
Only you know how well your sleep is going. We’re not in your bedroom taking notes on everything you’re doing right or wrong. If you’re being honest with yourself, there’s probably That One Thing you’ve been putting off trying that you think might improve things. Maybe it’s flipping your mattress. Or setting up a phone charging spot away from your bed. Take this as a sign that it’s time to try what you’ve been putting off. Sleep contributes to mental health in such obvious and hidden ways.
Eat the Way You Say You Want to Eat
We could tell you about how there are foods that may help boost your mood or that certain diets are linked to longer lifespans or that caffeine may affect how you feel. But the truth is that we don’t know what will work best for your body, for your set of health conditions or for your life.
In this day and age, most people have at least an idea of how they might need to be eating for their physical and mental well-being. They’ve gotten advice from doctors, from friends and family and from the messages their own body sends them. Take some time to plan out how you know you’d like to be eating for the next month and see if there are ways to make it more likely for you to succeed.
Rate Your Mental Health Higher
Whether we know it or not, most of us have a running list in our head of how important certain things are in life. Food and shelter are generally right at the top. Our family and friends and pets often rank highly, too. But why does our mental health fall to the bottom of the list? If a situation or a job or even a relationship seems to tick all the boxes–except it takes a toll on your mental health–then is it really working out?
Try Active Gratitude Exercises
No one wants to be told, “You should be more grateful.” In fact, that sounds like a criticism, not a tip. On top of that, it’s so vague! What does it mean to practice gratitude? Some people like to physically write down 3 things that they’re grateful for in a journal at the end of the day. Others like to follow prompts asking them about what they might be grateful for that day (in fact, the Avibra app has this very feature!)
It doesn’t matter if it feels corny to do, either. Your brain still benefits from doing the exercise, just like how your body benefits from doing a Zumba class even if you’re the one in the back who can’t keep time to save their life.
Set Goals with Your Mental Health in Mind
Quit saying yes to things when your schedule is already full. Stop saying no to things you think will make you happy for silly reasons. Don’t plan on achieving the unattainable. And yes, your happiness is worth the work of setting goals in the first place.
Go Outside Right Now
Being outside is good for your mental health. It’s great if there are trees and greenery (even the weeds that grow in some pavement cracks will do in a pinch) but it’s not a requirement. We hope you’re reading this when the weather is pleasant, but even if it’s not you should still probably just go outside anyways.