The well-being industry is booming. We spend trillions of dollars worldwide trying to feel good.
Happiness is that elusive holy grail that everyone is searching for more of. But the secret to greater mental well-being doesn’t have to cost a dime.
It can be found in simple daily habits that we cultivate and commit to.
1) Explore mindfulness in a way that works for you
Some people get turned off mindfulness before they’ve even given it a try.
I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve told me that they can’t meditate because they can’t seem to concentrate.
But all of us feel that way, that’s sort of the whole point of why we do it.
In a world where productivity is worshipped, learning to sit on our asses and stay still for 10 minutes becomes a skill that can do wonders for our mental health.
But even if cultivating a meditation practice really isn’t your thing, there are plenty of ways to bring more mindfulness into our day.
It’s about doing something that stills the mind and focuses it on the present moment.
This seemingly humble act has been scientifically shown to bring a whole host of benefits to mental well-being, including…
- Reducing stress
- Stopping us from worrying so much
- Making us less emotionally reactive
You can encourage mindfulness by paying greater attention to your thoughts and emotions without judgment.
Other than meditation, you can try breathwork, a mindful coloring book, and even puzzles like Sudoku or jigsaws.
2) Get enough quality sleep
According to research, over half of us worldwide aren’t getting the sleep we need.
I know some people can power through when they’re tired. I am most certainly not one of those.
When I don’t get enough shut-eye each night I feel it, not just physically, but mentally. My mood is low and I find it challenging to do even the most basic of tasks.
So I am all too aware of the impact that poor sleep can have on us. As highlighted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:
“Sleep deficiency changes activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency has also been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.”
Establishing better mental well-being isn’t always about introducing something new into your routine. It’s more important to get the basics right first.
That means cultivating a consistent sleep schedule to get enough rest.
- Try to wake up and go to bed around the same times every day (even on weekends) as this helps your natural circadian rhythms
- Create a peaceful evening routine to promote relaxation before sleep
- Avoid electronic devices before bed because they can interfere with sleep patterns
3) Find plenty of ways to move your body
It’s very easy for exercise to fall down the to-do list.
When you lead a busy life, you’d be forgiven if you can’t make the time to head off to the gym for a couple of hours a day.
But much like mindfulness, we can still find ways that will work for us — no excuses.
Because the reality is it’s almost impossible to have a healthy mind without a healthy body. The two are inseparable and impact one another in so many ways.
The key is staying active, in whatever way you can.
That can be incorporating more movement naturally by things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or cycling to work instead of driving.
Find physical activities that you enjoy doing so that it doesn’t feel like a chore, such as walking, swimming, or dancing.
However you do it, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day to boost endorphin levels.
4) Create intentions for your day
This is going to give you a sense of direction and purpose.
Even if your days are pretty similar day in and day out, it’s still important to reflect on what you want from the day and make a mental commitment to it.
Personally, I like to start with a morning visualization where I mentally picture everything from how I want to feel that day to the tasks I want to achieve.
It may not work for everyone, but visualization has been scientifically shown to enhance motivation and confidence.
Ultimately, starting your day with intention helps you to direct your energy where it needs to go and provide some momentum to get started.
It’s the same theory behind why you should make your bed every morning when you get up. It helps set the tone of productivity for the rest of the day.
A sense of accomplishment is always good for mental well-being. Set achievable and practical goals for your day to kick procrastination and overwhelm into touch.
5) Cut down on social media
Maybe it’s my age. I was born and raised in the pre-internet era. So social media wasn’t really a big thing until I was in my twenties.
I’m not sure if that’s the reason I haven’t become as absorbed by it, or if it’s my personality type that doesn’t like it so much.
Even the modest social media use I engage in, I usually end up regretting. It turns out that is a pretty common response.
Research showed that the more we get sucked in, the worse we end up feeling.
The data highlights how users regretted at least some part of their social media use in 60% of sessions and regretted all their use in nearly 40% of sessions.
I’m not trying to bash social media tools. They can be fun and useful. But they aren’t great for our mental health a lot of the time either.
Cutting down on your scrolling time by just 20 to 30 minutes a day can reduce symptoms of depression and improve mental health according to researchers.
6) Make time for yourself
Much like the notion of well-being, self-care has become a buzzword in recent years.
I prefer to think of self-care as self-responsibility.
This subtle but significant shift reframes the way I view it. It’s not about selfishly taking indulgent time for yourself.
Rather than be about candles and bubble baths (as nice as they may be) it’s about learning how to best support myself so that I can be a better human being.
It’s an essential, not a luxury.
Carving out time to focus on your well-being every day can be as simple as…
- Getting out into nature and going for a walk
- Listening to music to relax or uplift you
- Trying something new
- Sitting in the sunshine for 15 minutes
- Watching a comedy
- Cuddling your pet
All of these things are known for boosting well-being. However you choose to do it, the key is that it nourishes you in healthy ways.
One of my all-time favorite self-care tools is journaling.
Particularly if something is bothering you, don’t let it go around and around in your head. Put it down on paper.
It’s also a great way to get to know yourself better.
Self-exploration improves our well-being significantly as we can see things like our self-talk, self-image, and self-esteem more clearly.
That gives us the chance to work on and boost all of these things.
Taking time for yourself may mean setting clearer boundaries and learning how to say no when you need to.
We all deserve to find time in our day to devote to activities that bring joy and help us recharge.
7) Make time for others
Of course no man or woman is an island.
We’re hardwired to be a social species, so our mental well-being is also intertwined with others.
So much so that one of the largest studies ever conducted into lasting happiness found that good relationships lead to health and happiness.
But with an important caveat — those relationships need to be nurtured.
Make time for the people you care about. Do things, talk, and connect on a deeper level.
It’s all too easy to come home and sit in front of the TV, barely saying two words to one another.
But we have to make an effort to surround ourselves with supportive and uplifting people,
have meaningful conversations, and spend quality time with loved ones.
It’s not just those we’re close to either. The way we interact with strangers can make all the difference to mental well-being.
Giving makes us feel good — whether that’s our money, our time, our skills, or our energy and effort.
So wherever you can engage in random acts of kindness, pay it forward, do favors, and check in with people around you.
8) Acknowledge what you already have
So much of our discontentment in life is self-created.
That’s not to say that bad things don’t happen, obviously they do.
But we can easily end up feeling flat when we choose to focus too much on what we want but don’t have.
I think wanting more is part of human nature. This expansive attitude has led to some great advancements.
But it also leads to a lot of greed and destruction when it goes unchecked.
The antidote is actively appreciating everything you already have in life.
Reflecting on the positive aspects of your life has been shown to help you focus on the present moment and significantly enhance your well-being.
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Write a thank you note to someone (even if you don’t send it)
- Before bed talk to a loved one about the thing you’re most thankful for that day and what went well
The truth is that despite what we may think, we don’t always need more to be happy.
We just need to make a habit of expressing sincere appreciation for the people and things we are already lucky enough to have.
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