Improve Your Mental Health

Since 1949, May has been observed as mental health month, which highlights a different theme each year. Mental Health America believes mental health is a critical part of overall wellness and has created a series of materials to help individuals and organizations with the 2017 theme: Risky Business.  And no, they’re not referring to the Tom Cruise movie.

According to the organization, “risky business” is engaging in behaviors and developing habits that establish or exacerbate mental health disorders--some of which may be signs of a disorder themselves.  Mental Health America cites specific behaviors relating to marijuana usage, sex, internet addiction, prescription abuse, compulsive buying, and extreme exercise, as potential risk factors or indicators of mental health disorders.

The severity of these behaviors is on a spectrum. Not all of them are particularly risky, but when paired with a compulsion, or used as a substitution or numbing agent, they become detrimental. Seek help if you have any concerns about your mental health or someone you know is struggling.

Want to work on improving your mental health? Here are some simple ways to give it a boost and improve your mood.

1. Track gratitude and achievement
Start keeping a journal--even a bullet journal with short notes--where you close each day by writing three things you are grateful for, and three things you accomplished. If you’re a planner, also write three things you want to achieve in the next day, week or month.

2. Start your day with something warm
Whether it’s a cup of coffee, tea, lemon water, or something else, start your day with a hot drink. Caffeine is linked to lower rates of depression, but even un-caffeinated drinks are a good way to wake up your body from the inside out.

3. Plan a vacation
Looking forward to time away--or just time off work--can give a mood boost that could last for two months! It doesn’t have to be a wildly extravagant getaway. Even a staycation, with some set goals to accomplish like decluttering, has a positive effect. Plus, reducing clutter is shown to improve mental health as well.

4. Sleep better
Getting a good night’s rest is paramount to good health for your mind and body. Start to create a routine to help your body start to relax, making it easier to fall asleep. Try not to use a phone or tablet at least one hour prior to going to sleep (or at least use the blue light filter on your device). Studies also show that the optimal sleep temperature in a bedroom is between 60 and 67 degrees, so consider turning down the thermostat as well.

5. Find a creative outlet
Creative expression and personal well-being are linked, so it’s no accident that the adult coloring trend is tied to improving mental health. Think back to your school days...was there an activity you particularly enjoyed? Writing, painting, pottery, whatever it was, come back to it. Otherwise, embark on something new that you’ve always wanted to try.

6. Treat yourself
Dark chocolate is chock full of flavonoids, theobromine, and caffeine, all of which improve alertness and mental skills.  Have a few pieces when you need an extra boost.

Choose some options on this list and try to engage in them every day for the next month. Remember that it takes 30 days (or more) for something to become a habit, so don’t let any missed days get you down. Summer and longer days are coming, which also help with mental health. Take this opportunity to jump-start your progress!