Our mental health is like a plant. It needs constant care and attention. But unlike all those fiddle leaf fig trees we lost in 2016 (RIP), when we put in the time, it actually reciprocates.
As someone who deals with anxiety and depression, I feel my best when I commit to working on improving my mental health on a daily basis. Adding a mental health ritual or two to your routine will guarantee you carve out time for this very important check-in with yourself.
Here are some ways to get started:
- Write in your journal. One of the best ways to keep tabs on your mental health is to keep a journal. You can write about your daily experiences, feelings and emotions.
- Make something. Creativity really is medicine for the soul. Try a new artistic endeavor or a craft to create something beautiful for your home. Cook or baking also counts, if you find it soothing, just not if it turns you into Gordon Ramsay.
- Listen to music. If you know one thing about my family, you know we love music. Whether you lie down and get lost in a symphony or channel your inner Cameron Diaz in The Holiday, listening to music triggers the release of dopamine, the “happy” hormone.
- Go for a walk outside. There’s a reason we always “step out to get some air” when we’re feeling overwhelmed. Being out in nature can help calm you and also gives you time to quietly reflect.
- Practice gratitude regularly. Even when everything seems to be going wrong, there’s always something to be grateful for. It may seem buried beneath emails and laundry, but it’s there. Acknowledge it.
- Stretch your body. Sometimes, I’m so tense I feel like one of those stiff vintage Barbie dolls (minus the killer one piece). Taking a few minutes to stretch quiets my anxiety and boosts my energy.
- Set intentionions each morning. We all have a to-do list in our heads. Before you get lost in the chores of the day, set an intention to be more patient, to focus on the positive or to be kinder to yourself.
- Visualize your goals. Visualizing is grown-up daydreaming and there’s nothing wrong with that. Whether it’s a physical vision board (grab that glue gun) or a mental exercise, it helps to focus on an image of what you want.
- Care for your space. The environment you inhabit says a lot about your mental state. Set a cleaning schedule, finally hang those pictures and add some plants to purify the air.
- Schedule a virtual therapy session. Committing to in-person therapy is a big step. If you’re not sure it’s right for you, start with a virtual session. Bonus: You can keep your pajamas on and sit in your own comfy chair.
- Reach out to someone. Try calling (Remember how to dial?) a friend or family member each day or week. Whether you’re venting or simply recapping the week’s minutia, you’ll both benefit.
- Plan ahead. Lists may be tied with chocolate for my favorite thing. I’ll make you a list of all the reasons I love chocolate. See what I did there? Organization and making plans keeps me focused and less anxious overall.
- Practice breathwork. Sitting quietly and focusing on your breath can slow a racing heart, lower blood pressure and reduce stress.Try inhaling through your nose for four seconds, holding for one second and then exhaling through your mouth for another four seconds.
- Have a meditation session. Choose a point in the day to be with yourself and your thoughts. No one is gonna judge you on where or when that is. [Raise your hand if you’re a mom who’s hidden in the closet for a moment’s peace.]
- Get your rest. There’s no substitute for a good night’s rest. Getting at least seven hours of sleep each night is essential for mental (and physical) health, so do what you need to to make it happen.
This year, make a commitment to your mental health. I’m rooting for you! Sharing your favorite rituals to improving your mental health below.