10 tips for better mental health that you can start doing today
Every day is a good day to think about maintaining your mental health. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Small steps and thoughtful approaches to your lifestyle can make a big difference to your state of mind.
By Lindsay Jolivet
Keeping your mind healthy is a daily balance. We all have stress, be it from work, relationships, money or other challenging aspects of life. That’s normal. But there are steps we can take to manage that stress and offset it with positive experiences.
We’ve gathered expert advice and evidence from research for these 10 tips to care for your mental health. Check them out and see how you can work them into your daily routines.
Exercise reduces anxiety and depression. Whether you run, ski or garden, moving your body is a good way to relax your mind. Can’t find time to make it to the gym? Consider trying videos and apps to help you get moving without leaving your living room.
Limit your caffeine and alcohol
Eating well helps your body and your mind. In particular, avoid having too much caffeine. It can affect your sleep and worsen anxiety, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Drink alcohol in moderation too – it’s a well-known depressant. If you drink a lot of alcohol, there are effective ways to cut down on your drinking.
Take charge of your work stress
Work stress can pile up. Finding ways to keep your work life balanced and your stress in check can help you avoid burnout. Prevention can take many forms. For example, find a friendly colleague you can talk to or take up a hobby. You can also focus on the aspects of the job you find the most meaningful. If you’re struggling, you can try talking to your boss about adjusting your work.
Give your time to a worthy cause
People who volunteer report better mental health. The effects of giving your time are especially big when you do it for selfless reasons, according to a BioMed Central Public Health study. Participants who were motivated to volunteer to help others had higher life satisfaction and less depression.
Dinner with friends is a nice way to spend an evening. These friendships can also help you live longer. Throughout our lives, connections with others influence our health in different ways. At any age, we benefit from having friends with whom we can share our problems. After about 50, having a larger friend circle even seems to protect against high blood pressure and inflammation. The bottom line? It’s worth making the effort to strike up that new friendship. And be aware that while some people do make friends on social media, it can make you feel more alone than you really are.
Let your mind slow down
When life is busy, your brain gets busy too. Slowing down to focus on the present can reduce stress and anxiety. Building time into your day to meditate is one way to teach your mind to focus on the present. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) also recommends cutting down on distractions. For example, put your phone away for a conversation and really focus on what you see and hear.
Make time for fun
While you’re setting goals, doing chores and carrying on with the business of life, you may forget to build in some time for fun. But there’s good reason to. Laughter has real health benefits for your immune system, pain and mental health, according to the CMHA.
Get some sleep
If you’re feeling grouchy, your sleep habits may be part of the problem. Good sleep can help you be alert, productive, focused and happy. To get the best sleep possible, follow simple sleep guidelines like setting a schedule and limiting your screen time. If you’re lying in bed awake, get up and do something else for a while. If nothing is working, talk with your doctor or consider options like cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia.
If today isn’t going your way, remember that’s okay. There are tools available to help you reframe the negative chatter that can sometimes bring you down. CAMH suggests reminding yourself that we all fail sometimes. Let’s say you forget to send an email and think, “I’m an idiot.” Take a minute to be less harsh on yourself. Talk to yourself the way you’d treat a friend. Writing down your automatic thoughts using a thought record could help.
Reach out for help when you need it
If you notice significant changes in your behaviour, mood or productivity, it may be time to consider seeing a therapist. Don’t wait to reach out for help. Fewer Canadians are reaching out to health professionals for mental health concerns, according to the 2019 Sun Life Barometer. Among working Canadians in 2019, 64% said they discussed their mental health with a health professional. That’s a 7% drop from 2017. Canada has different types of mental health professionals available to support you, from psychologists to psychiatrists and social workers. You can start by speaking with your family doctor or search for a psychologist on Lumino Health.