If there’s anything we’ve learned this year is that taking care of ourselves is important. This goes both for our physical and mental health. Today, we want to talk about ways to boost mental wellness.
The World Health Organization defines mental wellness as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Sounds like a dream come true, right? Well, it’s actually pretty doable.
Below, we’ll walk you through some tips to boost your mental wellness from the comfort of your home.
1. Breathing exercises
Although it sounds basic, and you’re sure to have heard it a million times already, it doesn’t make it any less effective. Connecting to our breath is one of the most fruitful and straightforward ways to boost mental wellness.
When we’re busy coming and going, we don’t realize that we breathe less effectively. The body tends to clam up when under stress, restricting our airway and discouraging us from deepening our breaths. This means our body is not getting as much oxygen as it needs, which leads to stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
The good news it that it’s super simple to reset our breathing. A common solution is the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, consisting of a four-second inhale, a seven-second pause, and an eight-second exhale. By repeating this exercise three or four times, we are able to bring down our heart rate and reconnect with our breath. This is also a helpful technique to use before bed if you’re feeling restless.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need extensive workout routines to reap the benefits. In fact, studies have shown that as little as 10 minutes of exercise per week can boost your mental health. However, the amount of time needed will vary from person to person. The important thing is getting to know your own body and trying out different exercises and routines.
But how does exercise improve mental health? Exercise releases endorphins, a brain chemical that makes us feel happy and energized. At the same time, exercise can help you sleep better and improve your concentration. What’s not to love?
Even if you lead a sedentary life, exercising for 10 minutes a week is not a lifestyle change. Try it out and see how you like it. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be running marathons in two-years’ time.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, mediation can seem complicated and even strange. However, meditation is like the sweet spot between deep breathing and falling asleep. At its core, meditation is a moment to reconnect with our mind and body and bring ourselves back into the present moment.
When we’re stressed, we tend to “leave” our bodies, focusing only on the imaginary scenarios running through our heads. As a result, we lose track of our own physical needs: staying hydrated, eating properly and at the right intervals, sleeping, or having fun.
We’re also starting to see that meditation may have even more profound benefits than we first thought. These include long-term improvements to gene expression and overall health.
If you’d like to try out meditation for a few minutes, this grounding practice could be a good place to start.
An ancient Indian practice, yoga is the perfect marriage between breathing, meditating, and exercising. So, if you enjoyed any of the above activities, you might want to combine them all and settle into a yoga practice.
Aside from its many physical and mental benefits, yoga is a good option for people who don’t enjoy contact sports or high-impact exercising. It can be used both for muscle toning and strengthening as it can be for working on muscle knots and pain.
The key is carving out that time to take care of yourself. There’s something magical about showing up for ourselves, about reinforcing that commitment to look after our own wellbeing. If you’re ready to get started, here’s a sequence for beginners that will walk you through the basics.
So far, we’ve been talking about using our physical bodies to ground ourselves and boost our mental wellness. However, working directly with the brain can also be super effective when it comes to improving mental health and wellness.
Journaling might sound like homework, but it really isn’t. When we say journaling, we mean sitting down with a problem or concern and jotting down how we feel about it on paper. Our brains love solving problems, but if we let our thoughts run loose for too long, we’ll wind up with a jumbled mess of ideas and worries.
When we write, we force ourselves to organize our thoughts. As you journal, you’ll notice how thoughts become much less pronounced once you write down an idea. All your brain was trying to do was ensure you’d remember. Now that it’s on paper, it won’t need to sound the alarms anymore.
But the true magic of journaling comes after the brain dump. Seeing your thoughts written down can help you find solutions, notice patterns, and even come up with more concise ideas. All it takes is pen and paper. And if freestyle writing isn’t your cup of tea, here’s a list of writing prompts to guide you.
Maybe writing isn’t your thing. That’s fair. Here comes doodling to the rescue. Doodling is what you’ve been doing in the margins of your school notebooks or on the back of that receipt that has been sitting on your desk for the past six months.
Studies show that doodling can help our brains solve problems without needing to consciously think them through. Instead, doodling will unleash that creative space within you, kind of like those great ideas you have while showering.
Coloring, doodling’s cousin, can also boost your mental wellness. You can download some mandalas, ancient geometric designs known for improving mental health and concentration, here.
7. Establishing a self-care routine
Be it making sure you moisturize your face before bed, lighting candles, or giving yourself a foot massage, self-care is important. However, the most important part of self-care is ensuring it comes in some form of routine.
By incorporating activities that improve mental wellness in your day-to-day, your body will know to expect these moments of downtime and reassurance. Keeping up with your routine will also increase the chances of reaping cumulative benefits overtime.
8. Keeping promises to yourself
In line with a self-care routine, establishing habits and sticking to them is a great way to honor yourself and your mental wellbeing. Doing something as simple as making your bed every morning can send a strong message to yourself that you are committed to your goals and your overall wellness.
9. Planning and scheduling
While you should still prioritize mindfulness and exercise, getting all your ducks in a row can help you relax and carve out even more time for yoga or journaling.
There are many ways to organize your day or your workload. From having an Excel sheet to putting up a dozen post-its, there are planning styles for every taste.
A good rule of thumb is to start simple. Create a list of your recurrent tasks or responsibilities and figure out what your current schedule looks like. Would waking up an hour earlier be a better way to get some exercise in? Or would ending work sooner free you up for doodling sessions?
The important thing is that you keep modifying your schedule so it works for you. That includes revisiting a tried and true plan when something about your lifestyle or work schedule changes.
10. Organizing your space
Along the same lines of planning and scheduling, organization can help tremendously to streamline your day-to-day tasks.
When you don’t have to host a scavenger hunt to find your notes from yesterday’s meeting, your time can be used more effectively. Decluttered spaces can also have a soothing effect on the brain.
At the end of the day, the hardest part about mental wellness is finding the motivation to engage in these little activities that may seem like nothing but have a massive impact on your mental health.
A cluttered space is an easy, and even understandable, excuse to press the snooze button on your mental wellness journey. Make sure that your space is conducive of positivity and wellness instead of an ally to stress and anxiety.
We know that reading is important as a source of knowledge, but it can also do a whole lot about boosting your mental wellness. Reading can both provide escapism and help organize your thoughts. In other words, by curling up with your favorite book, you can train your brain to better structure your thoughts while also engaging in a therapeutic experience.
And there you have it! The journey to mental wellness is an ongoing process, but a rewarding one. Start with what sounds the most appealing and see where it takes you.
Although modern society wasn’t built around the concept of self-care, you’ll be amazed at how keenly your mind and body will take to these exercises once you get going.