It’s tough to be happy when you’re not feeling your best. And it can be even tougher if you don’t know the best way to care for yourself in these moments. The following 5 tips will help fortify your mental health to have a strong defense against any unexpected life events that may come up.
1) Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment and accepting it without judgment. It’s a practice that has been around for thousands of years in Buddhist traditions, but you don’t have to be religious or spiritual to benefit from mindfulness practices. When we’re stressed out or anxious, our brain goes into “fight-or-flight” mode. We stop thinking clearly, and our emotions take over the wheel. By practicing mindfulness, you can “train your brain to stay in ‘thinking’ mode rather than ‘reacting’ mode,” says Dr. Jennifer Taitz of Psychology Today.
Learning to be mindful is extremely simple: all it takes is a few minutes of your day and a little bit of practice. Here’s how to get started with mindfulness:
- Choose one spot in your house or apartment that you can designate as “your mindful space.” It could be something like an empty corner, the floor beneath a window, etc. Sit on the ground (or at least lower than you would normally sit), and place your palms face up on your knees.
- Take a few deep breaths to ground yourself in the present moment, then close your eyes. If you have trouble feeling grounded during this practice, imagine that there’s a string coming from the top of your head that is being pulled toward heaven at all times. That will help you feel like your head is in the right place.
- Now, focus on what’s going on around you. Notice how many sounds there are: maybe a dog barking outside or someone cooking dinner downstairs. Maybe it feels stuffy in here because of the humidity today – notice that feeling too! Don’t judge any of those things; just observe how they are.
Meditation has the same goal as mindfulness: to help you stay in “thinking” mode instead of “reacting” mode when life gets tough. Meditation is a great way to build your mental strength, and research shows that it can even change how our brains function.
To meditate correctly, you have to practice daily, which means you have to take the time for it. During your daily meditation practice, try some of these techniques:
- Use a guided meditation. This is when someone leads you through a series of thoughts and breathing exercises while staying connected with your body through touch (like light handholding). A lot of people find this helpful because they feel like they have someone to hold them accountable.
- Try mindfulness meditation. This is when you focus on your breath and say “in” for the inhale and “out” for the exhale. You can also count each of those breaths to help keep you connected with your body during this time.
- Try a visualization meditation. This is when you close your eyes and imagine yourself in a safe place, like on top of the Eiffel Tower or walking along the beach. You can also visualize things that make you happy: maybe your pet relaxing at home, or even just spending time with someone who makes you feel great!
3) Challenge Negative Thoughts
Patterns of negative thinking can be tough to break, but they only have as much power over your life as you give them. When we’re stressed out or anxious, it’s common for us to focus on the worst possible outcome in any given situation. But these thoughts don’t serve us – instead, they make our anxiety worse.
If you catch yourself thinking something negative, write it down and then challenge it. For example: “I might get fired if I don’t finish this project soon.” Okay… But what would happen if you did, in fact, get fired? Would your life be over because of that one job loss? Most likely not – so try to reframe that situation into something less dire. It could be as simple as: “Well, I’d need to find a new job quickly, but maybe it would open up other opportunities for me.”
4) Get a Good Night’s Sleep
You’ve probably heard this tip before, but it deserves repeating: sleep is so important for your mental health. If you aren’t getting the rest that you need (which usually means seven to nine hours of shuteye per night), then try these tips:
- Try an essential oil diffuser in your bedroom. Lavender and chamomile are both great for helping you relax before bed, while peppermint can help energize your mind if you have trouble falling asleep.
- Create a wind-down routine that occurs every night at the same time. This might include taking a warm bath, meditating, or even just reading a book.
- Try a weighted blanket. This is when you use thick blankets filled with materials like glass beads or sand, which help them feel ten times heavier than they actually are. Since we’re getting more stressed as a society, having some extra weight on your body might help you fall asleep – and staying asleep.
5) Surround Yourself With People Who Make You Feel Good
This one sounds simple, but it’s often overlooked. If you’re around people who make you feel good about yourself and the choices that you’ve made in life, then your mental health will benefit from their positivity. One way to accomplish this is by hosting events at home with friends and family. This way, you’ll get to spend time with people who make you feel good – plus it allows you to meet new friends if that’s something that interests you. Another option is volunteering your time at a place or event where someone else can benefit from your presence. Volunteering or smoking with these glass pipes has been shown to impact our mental health positively, and the time we spend around less fortunate people will be an excellent reminder of how good you actually have it.