Taking care of your mental health is just as important as safeguarding your physical health. Stress, anxiety and frustration can overtake your thinking, and rob you of your happiness. Just as you build habits to support your physical health, here are 7 simple practices you can adopt to support your mental health.
1. Avoid “catastrophic thinking.” Stay objective.
When we are blindsided by unwanted, unanticipated events, it is human nature to start imagining the worst-case scenario. This is a defense mechanism, but we can teach ourselves to think differently. Instead of expecting the worst, remain detached and remind yourself a good outcome is always possible.
2. Teach yourself to be decisive. (Not as hard as it sounds.)
For many people, the prospect of making a decision creates anxiety – even if the decision is a small one. Too many options can create “decision paralysis.” One way to improve your ability to make decisions is to clarify in advance which your priorities are. Then imagine the top three options, and narrow it down to the best one.
3. When you start to doubt, turn to your journal.
We all have a little voice of doubt inside ourselves, telling us we’re not good enough. To overcome that, keep a journal of your accomplishments, and refer to it often. Become your own best cheerleader.
4. Take a break from technology.
Constant exposure to technology creates a kind of “mind smog.” We are exposed constantly to radiation from cellphone towers, power lines, and wireless and microwave frequencies. There is controversy as to how all this may affect us physically, but it is undoubtedly good for us to get out into nature and unplug. Do this as often as possible.
5. Exercise your mental muscles.
Mental health means focus. Our world is full of distractions, and being pulled in so many different directions causes frustration and anxiety. Meditation and mindfulness exercises are a great way to train our minds to focus.
6. Do a chemical brain hack.
Our brain chemicals drive the way we feel and the way we function in the world. Giving someone a big hug releases the “love hormone,” oxytocin. The fragrance of lavender and vanilla, like the taste of dark chocolate, stimulates the release of endorphins.
7. Drift off to sleep on a positive note.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions available to us. Research shows that people who remain in gratitude have healthier immune systems, are more optimistic, thoughtful and happy. Thankfulness also makes us feel less isolated. Every night, go to sleep thinking of five things for which you are grateful.