Saturday, March 24, 2012

3 Things You Should Do Everyday for Good Mental Health

There are things you do everyday to keep yourself physically healthy: get enough sleep, eat your vegetables, exercise, take vitamins or medication.... What are you doing to keep yourself mentally healthy?

Of course, physical health is a good start toward mental health, and not taking care of your body increases your emotional vulnerability. However, not taking care of your emotional health also takes a toll on your body. Think about the physical effects of stress: it raises your blood pressure, lowers your immune functioning, and is linked to symptoms such as headache, body pain, digestive problems, asthma, and eczema, among other things! If you want to be healthy, mental health has to be part of the equation.

To boost your mental health, make three things a priority in your daily schedule:

1) Have some fun

Yep, fun is part of the prescription for good mental health. We all need some enjoyment in life, to counteract the stress we all experience, and boost the chemicals in our brains and bodies that make us feel good. If you're wracking your brain to figure out what "fun" is, here are some ideas: spend time with friends, go for a walk, spend time in nature, watch a comedy, read a novel, go to the movies, play or watch sports, do something creative, do a puzzle or play a game, play with kids or pets, listen to music....

2) Do something that makes you feel competent

Feeling competent, successful, or productive provides a feeling of mastery and boosts self-esteem. Building some success into each day protects against the inevitable, less-successful experiences. Feeling in control in one area protects against the many, many things that are out of our control. It doesn't have to be a major success, and competence does not require perfection. Think outside the box, and notice the small successes: finishing the crossword or sudoku, getting the laundry all folded and put away, cooking a favorite dish, engaging in a hobby you're good at....

3) Do something that feels meaningful

We all need to feel that our lives have meaning and purpose. It helps our mental health to tap into our sense of purpose by contributing or giving back in our own ways. Some people do this through their work (therapists, for example), or their children. Others volunteer, participate in religious/spiritual activities, and/or contribute to their communities. What people choose depends on what feels meaningful to them - it's individual.

What examples can you come up with for each of these activities? What can you add to your day today to meet your needs for enjoyment, mastery, and purpose?

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