By Maxime Lagacé
Maxime is the founder and chief editor of WisdomQuotes. He has been collecting quotes since 2004. His goal? To help you develop a calm, powerful, and peaceful mind. Learn more about him on his about page.
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Mental health is vital.
But most importantly, it’s attainable for each one of us.
For you and me.
With the right habits and mindsets, you can significantly reduce your stress and improve your well-being.
In the following guide, you’ll discover 36 tips and tactics I’ve used since 2004.
You’ll find activities like meditation, journaling, and positive self-talk, and many more.
Are you ready to improve your mental health?
Let’s jump right into it!
- Physical activity. This first tip is one of the most important (1). Indeed, mental health starts with your physical health. “Flowing water never goes stale, so just keep on flowing.” Build the habit of walking outside every day. Even better, aim to exercise at least 20 minutes 3 times per week. Lift weights to improve your self-esteem. If you prefer, you can also try swimming, dancing, stretching, yoga, or tai chi. The goal is to move regularly.
- Sleep. Physical health is a three-legged stool composed of 1) physical activity 2) diet 3) sleep. Thus, your goal should be to sleep at least 7 hours each night. How can you have a good night of sleep?
- Keep your room dark
- Keep it cool
- Keep it calm (no sounds, no TVs, no smartphones)
- Diet. Eat a healthy balanced diet composed mainly of vegetables and fruits (~50% of your plate). A good mantra to remember is “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Favor organic foods to avoid chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
- Top foods. The top foods you should eat to feel better are:
- Bell peppers
- Lean beef
- Chia seeds
- Dark chocolate
- Olive oil
- Omega-3 fatty acids. What are those? They are a family of important fats you can obtain through the foods you eat. They help you build and maintain a healthy body. They are also vital for normal brain function and development. You can take supplements or eat fish like salmon, herring, and sardine or nuts like walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. (1)
- Water. Aim for 3.7 liters of clean water for men and 2.7 liters for women each day. Since your body is composed of 60% of water, you’ll feel better physically and mentally when you’re properly hydrated. Pro tip: bring a water bottle everywhere you go.
- Meditation. Meditation is the art of understanding and calming your mind. It’s the art of rewiring your brain. The more you meditate, the more peaceful you’ll become. You’ll also have fewer negative ruminations and live more in the present moment. Start with 5-10 minutes each day. You should see benefits in 10-15 days if you do it properly. Personally, physical activity is one of the most effective tools I’ve found to improve my mental health.
- Connections. One of the longest studies on happiness (from Harvard) found that connections are the most important factor for well-being. Indeed, close relationships boost your mood and reduce your stress levels.
- Hugs. Another way to feel connected is through touch. By seeing your loved ones face-to-face and hugging them, you not only feel better, but you make the other person feel good too.
- Share. “A problem shared is a problem halved. A joy shared is a joy doubled.” When you feel stressed, talk about it with a friend or family member. You’ll ease your mental pressure. Moreover, you will probably get some help too.
- Let go. Let’s face it: most things in life are out of your control. Thus, a good mindset to adopt is this: “Do your best, then let go of the rest”. You don’t control the results, but you do control your effort and your attitude. By lowering your expectations and being more accepting, you’ll improve your mental health.
- Relax. Modern life is stressful. That’s why you must learn coping skills. Try deep breathing techniques, hot baths, or visualizations. By resting and taking mental breaks, you’ll be less anxious and more focused.
- Self-talk. Other coping skills you can use are positive affirmations and positive self-talk. I’ve been using these techniques since 2004 and they helped me get out of depression. Try it today. Words are powerful. They can change your life.
- Outdoors. Research shows that spending time in nature boosts your mood. So eat your lunch in a park, do camping or find a trail nearby. Take some fresh air. The closer you are to nature, the calmer you’ll become.
- Sun. When sunlight touches your skin your body produces vitamin D which is essential to strengthen your immune system and boost your mood. Ideally, try to see the sun each morning for at least 5 minutes, at noon and when the sun sets. The benefits? You’ll improve your mental and physical health.
- Plan a trip. Research shows planning a trip, even if you don’t make it, will elevate your mood. So don’t hesitate to take a map and imagine yourself in another city discovering new places.
- YOU. Anxiety is often the result of trying to please other people too often. Stop now. Do what’s good for YOU. Taking care of yourself is the highest form of self-respect.
- Laugh. Avoid taking things personally and seriously. If you laugh, you will get a healthy dose of hormones like dopamine and endorphin which promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
- Smile. Smiling is a brain hack. Indeed, even faking a smile can produce healthy hormones in your body. “When your body feels good, your mind feels good.” (1)
- Gratitude. You are hardwired to be pessimistic. That’s why it’s vital to make time each day to be grateful for simple things in your life. (1) “2 minutes of gratitude will change your attitude.” Here are a few things most of us take for granted (but you should be grateful for):
- Your family
- Your friends
- The food you eat each day
- Your house
- Your bed
- Your body
- Your eyes
- Purpose. Working on something important to you gives meaning to your life. Find a project or an activity you can make progress on. You can also try to volunteer in your local community. You’ll make new friends, learn new skills and improve your self-esteem. Remember: You don’t find luck. You create your luck. You don’t find purpose. You create your purpose.
- Know yourself. Know who you are and what you stand for. It’s the only way you can become truly calm and peaceful. When you don’t understand yourself, it creates confusion and frustration. How can you learn about yourself? Meditate, experiment with new things, spend time alone, reflect or check out the next tip.
- Journal. A great way to better understand yourself and reduce your stress is to journal. Ask yourself simple questions like “what’s truly important right now?”, “what’s my deepest personal value”, “what’s missing in the world?”
- Say no. Human beings don’t want to disappoint people so they say yes to everything. As a result, their life becomes out of control which leads to feeling overwhelmed, tired and depressed. Learn to put limits. Learn to say “no thanks” without explaining yourself. Your mental health will thank you for it.
- Order. One simple thing you can do for your mental health is to keep your room (or your house) in order. If it seems too much, declutter only a small part at a time. You can also start by making your bed each morning. Keep in mind your well-being points toward order, not chaos.
- Simplify. There’s a quote that says: “Wisdom starts when you remove things from your life.” So start removing what’s useless: old clothes, overwhelming commitments, trivial messages, and notifications, etc. Then, focus your time and energy on things you love. Learn about the 80/20 rule: 80% of your happiness comes from 20% of your actions.
- Music. Music acts as therapy. It can also serve as an escape from reality, and boost your mood and happiness. So keep your music player close to change how you feel instantly.
- Divide. When a problem is overwhelming, divide it into smaller and manageable chunks. Remember: “Big steps overwhelm. Small steps motivate.” Making progress, as little as it seems, inspires and energizes you. Remember: One task at a time. One day at a time.
- Seek help. Finally, when you’ve tried most tips on this page and you still feel anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, it’s time to ask for help. Consult a mental health professional or ask a friend who cares about you. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the mountain is too high to climb alone.
What You Must *Avoid* For Better Mental Health
- Avoid too much news.
- Avoid too much screen time.
- Avoid too much social media.
- Avoid toxic people.
- Avoid too much sugar.
- Avoid too much alcohol.
- Avoid too much junk food.
What You Must *Not* Do For Your Mental Health
The following list is the TL;DR version of the tips above.
In sum, for better mental health, you should NOT:
- Sit all day long.
- Avoid exercise.
- Sleep 3-4 hours every night.
- Eat processed foods.
- Avoid drinking water.
- Always be busy. Never calm down.
- Avoid talking to your friends and family.
- Avoid seeing them face-to-face.
- Avoid touching them. Avoid hugs.
- Keep your problems to yourself.
- Avoid learning coping skills.
- See everything as equally important.
- Have negative self-talk.
- Stay indoors all the time.
- Avoid sunlight.
- Avoid visiting another neighborhood, city, or country.
- Make others your top priority.
- Avoid laughing.
- Avoid smiling.
- Avoid saying “thank you.”
- Work on things you don’t care about.
- Avoid being curious about who you are, what you like, and what you dislike.
- Say yes to everything.
- Live in a chaotic place.
- Complicate things.
- Avoid writing your feelings and your thoughts.
- Avoid listening to music.
- Listen to the news frequently.
- Spend at least 2 hours on social media each day.
- Turn on all notifications on your smartphone and check each of them.
- Spend time with people you don’t like.
- Drink alcohol every day.
- Eat lots of sugary foods.
- Eat junk food every day.
- Avoid asking for help.
In sum, the first step to improving your mental health is to make it your top priority.
“You” should come first in your own life.
Yes, other people are important.
Helping, serving, and being present for them is beautiful and noble.
But if you are not mentally healthy and present for yourself, it will lead you to misery.
I hope this short guide will serve as your new mental health resource.
Don’t hesitate to share it with a friend who could benefit from it.
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What’s your favorite mental health tip? How do YOU improve your mental health? And remember: words can transform your life, if you find the right ones.