It’s important to promote positive mental health in ourselves and those around us so we feel equipped to take on life. When you’re in a healthy state, you’re able to bounce back from setbacks more easily, and you can take on challenges more readily. In a word, you’re more resilient. Resilience is central to navigating things like conflict, avoiding stressful people and situations, managing expectations, and feeling confident despite facing less-than-ideal situations. So how can we get to that point?
Here are 13 simple ways you can promote positive mental health in your life
1. Take time for yourself Taking care of ourselves should always be a part of our to-do lists. And it’s not something we can cross off and move on from — but rather, self-care is a constant work in progress. It’s about recognizing when your tank is empty, and taking the right steps to fill it back up. Knowing what kind of self-care activities you need to promote positive mental health is a great start. Keep a mental list, or write it down so you have a go-to when you’re feeling drained.
2. Engage with your community
The feeling of belonging is essential in promoting positive mental health for ourselves, and our community. We often feel better after catching up with friends and family, so take advantage of that. Connecting with other people makes us feel supported, less isolated, and gives us someone to turn to when things get tough. Take opportunities to give your support system a call, shoot them a text, or even jump on a video call for that all-important face-to-face time.
3. Practice vulnerability
Vulnerability can feel scary and uncomfortable for many. But it’s also one of the most effective ways to facilitate real connection, openness, and trust within relationships. As Brené Brown says: “Vulnerability is the only bridge to build connection.” It’s a way to share our true thoughts, feelings, and experiences with our loved ones so we feel heard and understood. When we exercise vulnerability, we invite others to do the same. That emotional openness is an important way to promote positive mental health for ourselves, our loved ones, and our overall community.
4. Taking ownership of your life
No one likes feeling out of control. It can be scary and even cause anxiety. That’s why it’s so important to avoid blaming things on external circumstances. One of the best ways to combat that unsettling feeling is to take responsibility over the things you can control, and let go of the things you can’t – or just revisit them later when you have the time and means. When we do this, we break our responsibilities into bite-sized pieces that we can handle, and as a result, avoid feeling overwhelmed. Having an action plan raises confidence, reduces panic, and promotes positive mental health.
Carving out just 5 to 10 minutes of your day to focus on your breathing and calm your thoughts can go a long way. Research has found that meditation can improve focus, and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. It can even help in the treatment of addiction, and soothe pain. It might take some time to make it a habit, but it’s worth it to promote positive mental health.
We’ve all been told that physical activity is linked to better overall health. But what’s this got to do with positive mental health? When we exercise, neurotransmitters are released in the brain that help reduce stress, relieve pain, and improve mood. All of this is linked to lower levels of anxiety, and positive mental health. Not only that, but it leads to other good habits like a regulated appetite and better sleep, which naturally promote positive mental health over time.
7. Eat healthy
Studies show that about 95% of serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract. Why does that matter? Serotonin is the neurotransmitter linked to mood, pain, appetite, and sleep. It’s a big deal. That’s why what you eat has such an important impact on your mental health. Aim for unprocessed, fresh foods. For more information on how to eat for your mind and body, speak to a nutritionist.
8. Avoid drugs and alcohol
Drugs and alcohol can significantly heighten symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially when used as a coping mechanism. It can be tough to bounce back from substance use and abuse, and time spent recovering is time away from promoting positive mental health. If you think you’re struggling with addiction or substance use, it’s important to talk to a counsellor about a treatment plan that’s right for you.
9. Lessen screen time
Smartphone addiction is real. But the good news is, most smartphones can now tell you exactly where you’re spending your screen time. This can be a huge game-changer in controlling your attention, and taking back your precious time. Cutting back might seem difficult, but with the right boundaries it can become almost automatic. Try turning off notifications for specific hours in the day, like for an hour after waking up or before going to sleep. Phone-free mornings and evenings will redirect the attention that would normally go to your phone, to other positive habits. If completely turning off notifications seems drastic, start small, like experimenting with Do Not Disturb mode for 30 minutes at a time. Less time spent on your phone will give you more time to promote positive mental health in your life.
10. Set realistic goals
Goal-setting is great. But setting unrealistic ones is a fast-track to disappointment, unnecessary pressure, and stress. When we set goals we’re actually able to achieve, we feel good about ourselves which promotes positive mental health. Remember to have a set of short-term and long-term goals. The short term ones will help you feel accomplished more often, boost self-confidence, and propel you towards the success you want down the line. Long-term goals will help you see the bigger picture and keep you on-track.
11. Give back to others
This might seem counterintuitive, but it’s a win for everyone involved. Practicing altruism means showing concern for others and giving without an obligation, or expecting anything in return. It’s one of the most powerful ways to promote positive mental health. When we give to others in a selfless way, we feel better, we’re healthier, and our relationships strengthen. It doesn’t have to be complicated — something as simple as holding a door open for a stranger, giving money to those in need, or volunteering for a good cause are all examples of altruism. One of the best ways to start is by turning up your empathy.
12. Speak about your mental health positively
The way you speak about mental health matters. Speaking about mental health in a stigmatizing way can lead to misunderstanding and even prejudice against people who are struggling with their mental health. Those who struggle then have to combat shame — which can get in the way of receiving the treatment they need and deserve. That’s why it’s so important to speak about mental health in a way that’s respectful to those struggling. Removing the shame from mental health dialogue is key to ensuring it is seen as a real health issue, and those who need help feel comfortable reaching out for it.
13. Speak to a counsellor
Sometimes we can do all of these things and still need a little extra support. That’s completely okay! These are moments where we can lean on mental health professionals for their knowledge and guidance. Talking to a counsellor can be one of the best ways to feel supported during stressful periods in life. Counsellors are trained to give you the right tools to cope in a healthy way, and can help unpack complicated thoughts and emotions as they come up. Lighthouse Counseling can connect you with a therapist that fits your unique needs, in an online space that’s safe and convenient.
Promote positive mental health in your life Engaging in activities that improve mental health is essential to living a healthy and happy lifestyle. Incorporating these 13 things into your life is a great place to start. If you’re looking for guidance in your mental health journey, Lighthouse Counseling's knowledgeable counsellors are here to support you along the way.