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Mental health is a crucial aspect of our overall wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and behave. Poor mental health and lack of emotional awareness can lead to a range of problems, including emotion dysregulation, substance abuse, anger, anxiety, and possibly even living a daily life that feels miserable. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to improve our mental health. In this blog post, we’ll discuss five simple steps you can take to improve your mental health.
Step 1: Prioritize Self-Care
Self-care is the practice of taking care of oneself physically, emotionally, and mentally. It involves making time for activities that promote relaxation, stress relief, and overall wellbeing. Prioritizing self-care is essential for maintaining good mental health. Some self-care practices include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Practicing mindfulness or meditation
- Engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy
- Taking breaks and vacations when needed
- Focusing on the PLEASE skill in DBT
Self-care is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Taking care of yourself is not selfish; it’s essential for your overall wellbeing and will lead to stronger, more meaningful relationships with yourself and others.
Step 2: Build Supportive Relationships
Humans are social creatures, and we need social interaction to thrive. Building supportive relationships with friends, family, and loved ones is crucial for good mental health. These relationships provide emotional support, a sense of belonging, and a support system to lean on during difficult times. Here are some ways to build supportive relationships:
- Make time for social activities
- Join clubs or groups based on your interests
- Volunteer in your community
- Attend events and gatherings
- Check out group gatherings in your areas of interest on Meetup.com
- Reach out to friends and family regularly
It’s important to remember that building supportive relationships takes time and effort. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to find people you connect with. Keep trying and putting yourself out there and continuing to work on your internal relationship with yourself to build strong and healthy relationships with others.
Step 3: Practice Gratitude and a Dialectical Perspective
Gratitude is the practice of focusing on the positive things in our lives and being thankful for them. Practicing gratitude has been shown to improve mental health by increasing positive emotions, reducing stress, and promoting resilience. It is both important to validate your emotions in life experiences and create balance in your perspective through use of a dialectical perspective. Here are some ways to practice a dialectical perspective and gratitude:
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Write thank-you notes to people you appreciate
- Make a list of things you’re grateful for every day
- Validate your emotional experience and find balance through dialectics.
- Use a dialectical perspective to find the AND in each experience to balance positive and negatives in life experience. “I am feeling sad about graduating from college and I am grateful for this experience.”
- Express gratitude to others regularly
Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean ignoring the negative things in our lives or our emotional experience. It’s about shifting our focus out of the extreme and holding space for both the negative and positive in our experiences.
Step 4: Managing Stress and Practicing Mindfulness
Stress is a normal part of life, but too much stress can have a negative impact on our mental health. Learning to manage stress is essential for good mental health. Here are some ways to manage stress:
- Identify your stress triggers and try to avoid or create a cope ahead plan to better support yourself around them when possible
- Practice daily mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation
- Intentionally use TIPP skills when experiencing intense emotions.
- Exercise regularly – aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
- Prioritize self-care activities that promote relaxation, happiness, and stress relief.
- Seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional when needed
Managing stress is not always easy, but it’s an essential part of maintaining good mental health. Learning to recognize and manage stress can help us feel more in control and better able to cope with life’s challenges.
Step 5: Seek Help When Needed
Therapy can be a wonderful support for improving your mental health and better understanding yourself and how your life experiences continue to effect you in the present. Therapy provides a safe space and unbiased relationship with your therapist to process life experiences and better get to know yourself and your needs in relationships with yourself and others. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and your willingness to grow and work on improving yourself. Here are some signs that it may be time to seek help:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or hopelessness.
- Changes in sleep or appetite.
- Feelings of burnout or irritability, defensiveness, or bitterness.
- Ongoing conflict in friendships or romantic relationships.
- Difficulty functioning at work, school, or home.
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
- Substance abuse or other unhealthy coping mechanisms.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s important to seek help. Mental health struggles and difficulties with our emotional experience and relationships are part of the human experience. Therapy is a support for everyone and there is no shame in asking for help.
Talk to your doctor, a mental health professional or a trusted friend or family member about what you’re experiencing. There are many different treatment options available, such as therapy, medication, somatic treatments such as Chinese Medicine and massage, and self-help strategies. The most important thing is to take the first step towards getting the support you need.
In conclusion, improving your mental health can start today with a few simple changes and being more intentional with your physical and emotional needs. By following these five simple steps – prioritizing self care and basic needs, building supportive relationships, practicing gratitude and a dialectical perspective, managing stress and practicing mindfulness, and seeking help when needed – you can start to take control of your mental health and improve your overall well-being. Remember, mental health is just as important as physical health, and investing in your mental health can have a positive impact on all areas of your life.