Write in a Journal
Journaling helps improve your mental health by letting you reflect on past events to see how well you faced problems and events in your life. Writing your thoughts and feelings down in a journal frees up space in your mind and can make it easier to face your fears. Structure your journal in one of many ways, including drawing pictures, writing down everything you’re thankful for each day, writing unsent letters to people who hurt you or writing about people who inspire you. The goal is to gain insight into who you are and what you want to be.
Get Adequate Sleep
According to the Sleep Foundation, poor sleep habits contribute to declining mental health. Studies have shown the average adult should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night for maximum physical and mental health benefits. Doing this allows the body time to go through the normal stages of sleep and gives it adequate time to repair and reset itself each night. There are several things you can do to improve your sleep habits:
- Maintain a sleep schedule.
- Spend time winding down before bedtime by reading or relaxing.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants late in the evening.
- Exercise throughout the day.
- Choose a comfortable mattress and bedding.
- Put away electronics while in bed.
- Learn to sleep in a dark room.
Spend Quiet Time Meditating
Another way to better mental health is through daily meditation and self-reflection. Through meditation, you focus your mind on relaxation and inner peace, which can help you manage negative emotions like fear, low self-esteem and anger in your everyday life.
Alta Loma’s leading Behavior Analyst, Meghan Landry, recommends, “In the new year, try noticing more. When we run away from a problem, it only increases the distance from the solution; the problem doesn’t go away. When you feel uncomfortable, try practicing a mindfulness activity, whether guided or on your own. Start with 1 minute, notice the emotion you’re feeling, try to name it and let your thoughts flow without trying to grab onto them or change them. Just let them exist and practice noticing them. My favorite guided mindfulness activity is ‘Leaves on a Stream.'”
Staying hydrated can reduce anxiety, improve your mood throughout the day and positively impact your mental health. The average adult should drink 48 to 64 ounces of water per day. The exact amount depends on your climate and how active you are and can also depend on how many fruits and vegetables you get in your diet.
Focus on Nutrition
Nutrition plays a vital role in both your physical health and mental well-being. Eating foods high in nutrition encourages the growth of good bacteria in the stomach. These bacteria are responsible for producing serotonin and dopamine, which directly affect our moods. Choose whole foods or those with few ingredients, and avoid highly processed items like lunch meat and snacks. Eat fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens and beans, and reach for fermented foods, like sauerkraut and kimchi, which are high in natural probiotics.
Physical activity releases endorphins and relieves stress, making you feel better and improving your mood. Try to aim for at least 5,000 steps per day or at least 2 miles. Break it down into smaller, more manageable amounts throughout the day. At Alta Loma, we incorporate recreation and fitness into our daily habits as part of the treatment process.