7 Mental Health Hacks for A Better Life (and a fun activity to get you started!)
We all know “life hacks” are ideas or strategies that literally make life easier and more enjoyable. They help us manage our time better, get more use out of everyday items, and maybe even save us money. Things like placing your phone in an empty cup to get a louder sound when you don’t have speakers, using a hair straightener to iron clothes in a pinch, or using making coffee ice cubes so that your iced coffee won't get watered down. All these ideas were created to make life easier. But what about our mental health? What can we do to improve or maintain our mental health?
Here are 7 hacks to stay on top of your mental health
1. Plan ahead
We don’t know what each day will look like, or how we’ll feel, but we can all set ourselves up for success by thinking ahead. Print out a blank calendar page, and each day put at least one thing you’d like to do for yourself. Make sure it is something you will likely want to do and is simple enough to follow through on. Some examples are taking a walk in a park, buying yourself your favorite coffee or tea, video calling a friend, lighting your favorite candle, watching your favorite sports team, or making your favorite meal. Another way to make this activity more fun is to make it colorful, so grab some markers, color pencils, stickers or whatever you have on hand and get to it! Click here for a printable calendar template.
2. Keep moving
Most of us know that exercise is important, and yet we don’t make it a priority. We might make excuses that we don’t have enough time or that we don’t have enough energy. I’ll let you in on a little secret…. You don’t need to go hard at the gym for 60 minutes every day of the week! In fact, including 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise three days a week can help to lessen stress, anxiety and depression and improve energy and sleep (and getting good sleep is another way to take care of your mental health). The good news is that you don’t have to do 30 minutes of exercise at one time. An exercise hack is to break up your exercise into 2-15 minute workouts or 3-10 minute workouts. Yay!
3. Get outdoors
There is a lot of research available to show spending time in nature has a positive impact on your mental health. Even in the winter there are ways to appreciate nature. Don’t like the cold? A nature hack in the winter is to find a local, indoor nature conservatory. I personally like to go to Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, IL.
4. Be aware of your own thoughts
Believe it or not, our thoughts have a great impact on our well-being. If you have thoughts like “I’ll never get better”, “I’m a lazy person”, “This is too hard, I give up” and so on, these thoughts will only keep you down. Thoughts are NOT facts. Instead of “I’ll never get better”, you might say “I’m having the thought that I’ll never get better, and I know that’s not true because…”.
5. Find gratitude
Did you know that it can take up to ten positive statements or thoughts to combat just one negative statement or thought? Start each day on a positive note by writing three things you are grateful for, this way you don’t have to work as hard when you have a negative thought later in the day (see number 4 above). If you have a hard time coming up with ideas, try thinking of things you might take for granted, such as access to clean, running water, electricity, or clothes.
6. See your doctor
No more self-diagnosing on “Doctor” google. If you haven’t gone to see your primary doctor and had blood work done in a while, this is a good place to start. The sluggishness, fatigue, anxiety, and other symptoms may actually be attributed to some type of deficiency. It is important to rule out any medical concerns first. You may discover that you are deficient in vitamin D (which is very common for people who live in colder climates), and this can have a huge impact on your energy and mood.
7. Talk to a therapist
You don’t have to be in a crisis to talk to someone. Sometimes, the best hack is to see a specialist before things get too hard. You know yourself better than anyone, and that means you also know when you need some extra support.
If you are currently suffering from mental health struggles, or have concerns about your mental health and would like some support, please don't hesitate to reach out. You do not have to deal with it alone. You can contact me here.