Practices to care for your mental health

Apr 18, 2022


How often do you consider your mental health care? When you think about health, you probably think about eating your vegetables, exercising and getting enough sleep. But what can you do to boost your mental health?

Our physical and mental health is more interconnected than many people think. “It’s important to take a whole-person approach to mental health care,” says Randy Speyer, PhD, LMFT, director of Mission and Spiritual Care with Adventist Health Roseville. “Your physical, emotional, spiritual and social health all affect your mental health. When you take care of all these, you increase happiness and overall well-being.”

For your best mental health, consider these simple practices:

  1. Learn how to love yourself. “A big piece of mental health is learning to be compassionate with yourself,” Speyer says. “Avoid beating yourself up or criticizing yourself.” Create space in your day for the hobbies or projects that you enjoy. It could be crossword puzzles, gardening, dance lessons – anything that increases your overall sense of relaxation and joy. Prioritize taking time off, both by taking breaks throughout each work day and by using your well-earned PTO!
  2. Take care of your body. Research has time and again shown a strong connection between physical and mental health. Follow the basics as much as you can: balanced nutrition, hydration, exercise and sleep. “Taking care of your physical health is also a significant factor in reducing your risk of depression,” Speyer notes.
  3. Consistently engage in life-giving relationships. Whether it’s your family or your friends who are like family, regularly connecting with people you love is crucial. Be intentional about making time to connect with others in your neighborhood, at work or in your church.
  4. Practice gratitude and giving. Volunteer your time or energy to someone else. It can be as simple as dropping off a hot meal to an elderly neighbor or simply sharing your time. Research also shows that gratitude changes the brain to increase our mental wellness. “You don’t even always have to express your gratitude,” Speyer points out, “adopting an attitude of gratitude goes a long way.”
  5. Manage stress with healthy coping techniques. Exercising, getting outside, playing with your pet and journaling are all healthy coping tools for lowering your stress. “Humor is also an important part of stress management,” says Speyer. “Learn to laugh at yourself and see the humor in life. We don’t need to take ourselves so seriously!”
  6. Practice calming the brain. We live in a society that tends to be busy all the time. For many, this “go, go, go” culture significantly increases anxiety. Practicing meditation, mindfulness, prayer or breathing exercises can all improve our mental state and outlook on life. It’s crucial to regularly disconnect from all screens, including your phone, computer and television.
  7. Set realistic goals and boundaries. Working to improve yourself can be healthy, but it’s also important to be realistic and kind to yourself. In the same way, setting boundaries in our relationships, especially the challenging ones, is a positive way to improve self-esteem and mental health.
  8. Practice forgiveness. Let go of your resentments towards others — and towards yourself. “So much research shows that forgiveness is crucial,” Speyer shares. “It leads to better psychological wellbeing, healthier relationships, decreased anxiety and less stress. And it improves your overall sense of self.”
  9. Avoid substances. Minimize alcohol and drug use as much as possible. Although self-medicating may feel better in the moment, most people recognize that it often aggravates the problem and may increase your addiction risk. Reducing or eliminating substance use can go a long way in improving mental health.
  10. Get help when you need it. “Asking for help is a sign of strength,” Speyer says. “Everyone hits a wall at some point and needs someone to come alongside them to bring solutions or offer an objective point of view.” Many forms of mental health treatment can be highly effective, including talk therapy and medication.

If you’re feeling “stuck” with your mental health, it may be time to seek extra support from a professional. To connect with a mental health professional, find a provider near you.