These days, most people recognize that we don’t need to be ashamed of mental health struggles. Instead, we see mental health as part of our overall health and realize that it takes attention and upkeep, just like our physical health.
According to research from Johns Hopkins Medicine, at least one out of four U.S. adults deals with a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Far more than that face the ups and downs that affect our mental health on a daily basis.
While therapists, appointments, and medication are all useful tools for improving mental health, the truth is, that we don’t always have access to these (and other) helpful resources when we need them. What can we do when we need a quick boost?
Here are five easy things you can do for your mental health right now —
1. Take a walk
It almost sounds too good to be true, but science says a simple walk can do wonders for mental health.
According to research, walking “improves self-perception and self-esteem, mood and sleep quality, and it reduces stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Physically active people have up to a 30% reduced risk of becoming depressed, and staying active helps those who are depressed recover.”
What could be better? You don’t even have to speed walk or walk for miles and miles to receive the many benefits. Even just a 10-minute to 30-minute walk can make a big impact during a rough day.
2. Write in a journal
Keeping a journal can be one of the best decisions you make for your health. There’s a reason journaling has been popular for centuries.
Putting thoughts on paper gives us a sense of order when the world feels chaotic.
A 2006 study asked 100 young adults to spend 15 minutes twice a week journaling or drawing about a stressful event or writing about plans for the day. Those who journaled saw the largest reduction in their symptoms of anxiety, depression, or hostility — especially if they were experiencing distress when they sat down to write.
Journaling for mental health doesn’t have to be complicated. Just write what feels right.
Here are five common types of journaling for mental health:
- Dream Journal
- Fitness Journal
- Gratitude Journal
- Ideas journal
- Reading Journal
3. Eat something healthy
Often, we look to food or substances to feel better when our mental health needs a boost. This is why addiction is one potential outcome of poor mental health. But it doesn’t need to be.
For decades, health professionals have said that food is medicine. They’re right, of course. What we put into our body — whether snacks, meals, or medication — has incredible power to impact our minds, bodies, and souls.
Sutter Health in Sacramento, California, said it this way, “From a young age, we’re taught that eating well helps us look and feel our physical best. What we’re not always told is that good nutrition significantly affects our mental health too. A healthy, well-balanced diet can help us think clearly and feel more alert. It can also improve concentration and attention span.”
So if you need to boost your mood or mental health, why not eat something healthy? Here are seven healthy options:
- Dark chocolate (The darker the better!)
- Greek yogurt
- Green tea
4. Try something new
Sometimes our mental health starts to suffer simply because we get into a rut. We start to wonder (or worry) if we’ll spend the rest of our lives doing the same old things we’re doing now.
According to social science researcher Juan Pablo Zapata, “Studies suggest that people who engage in a variety of new experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones.”
Doing something new can trigger the dopamine pathways associated with our brains and help us feel happy and rewarded.
When it comes to trying something new, it doesn’t need to be overwhelming or life-changing in order to be impactful. Here are a few ideas:
- Try a side hustle
- Try a new recipe
- Try yoga
- Try a musical instrument
- Try a new look
The common denominator in all of these (and other) new activities? Try. Just try. You don’t know what you might love until you try.
5. Turn off devices
One of the best things we can do for our mental health is to go on a digital diet.
True, a lot of us use technology for work, so it might be impossible to say no to technology on a long-term basis. But how often do we stay glued to our phones or laptops even after the workday is done? How often is our phone the last thing we look at before we go to sleep and the first thing we check when we wake up? It can be debilitating.
While technology has made a wonderful impact on our world, that advancement has come with a high price.
According to Medical News Today, “Social media and mobile devices may lead to psychological and physical issues, such as eyestrain and difficulty focusing on important tasks. They may also contribute to more serious health conditions, such as depression.”
So while it may not be possible to leave your devices in the dust, it’s a good idea to step away from them — even for short breaks — once in a while. Here are a few ideas:
- Don’t take your phone to lunch.
- Close your laptop when you finish work for the day.
- Set an out-of-office alert when you go on vacation.
- Meet someone in person instead of chatting online.
Caring for our mental health is challenging and requires some creativity and determination at times. But caring for our mental health is always worth it.
It might be easier than we think to make tiny decisions that make a big impact. No matter how your day is going, you can do something small right now that will improve your mental health.