We’re sure you’ve heard some variation of the all-too-true cliche before: if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything. But now, maybe more than ever, is the time to talk about the mental health part of our overall well-being.
With a tumultuous political climate – as well as actual climate, with global warming, melting ice caps, and increased species extinction – and news outlets encouraging outrage culture, it’s no wonder it’s much easier for us to get stressed out or depressed fairly regularly.
Luckily, there are everyday remedies to mental exhaustion and upheaval. While it’s true that the best way to work through mental health issues is with a licensed professional (Psychology Today can help you find one if you need), we’ve found 21 little things to help your mental health on a day-to-day basis:
1. Block Out Noise Pollution
Wear earplugs: a German survey of over 15,000 adults found that constant irritating noise can increase the likelihood of depression and anxiety twofold.
2. Buy Yourself Some Flowers
And put ‘em in a vase where you’ll see them every day. A Harvard researcher recently found that energy and enthusiasm levels increased in subjects who had fresh-cut flowers in their presence.
3. Chew Some Gum
If you’re feeling anxious, chew gum: the act of chewing increases blood flow to your brain, which helps lessen feelings of anxiety and improve concentration.
4. Cook Your Own Meals
We know it’s tempting to order in when you’re feeling down, but a recent study found that, because they’re creative actions, cooking or baking can improve your happiness levels.
And really do it like no one’s watching! Just the act of moving your body, especially to music, boosts serotonin levels in the brain and reduces stress. This helps us feel happier even after we stop.
6. Eat Fermented Foods
Probiotics, which are prominent in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and pickles, have been shown in studies to reduce symptoms of social anxiety and neuroticism.
7. Eat Your Veggies!
Research done at the University of Sydney found that people who eat 3-4 servings of vegetables daily experience less anxiety and depression than those who don’t.
8. Get Smoochin’!
Show affection toward those you love: it’s been shown to reduce stress and increase our feelings of well-being due to the immediate release of oxytocin when we kiss.
9. Have a Chocolate
As if you needed another excuse, studies have shown that consuming chocolate or cocoa has beneficial effects on your mood and cognitive performance.
10. Make a Physical Connection
If you’re feeling down, reach out and touch someone (with their permission, of course). Physical contact – whether it’s a high five or a massage – relieves stress and releases oxytocin, which helps promote our feelings of trust.
11. Pet Some Puppies
Do you even need a reason for this one? We’ll give you one anyway: researchers have found that interacting with puppies increases serotonin levels in the brain, making you feel less depressed, less anxious, and less stressed.
12. Pop in a Tearjerker
For total mental health, we have to feel all our feelings, even the not so great ones. Scientists have found that a good tearjerker helps you reflect on your own life and relationships, which makes you feel better. So let it all out; have a good cry.
13. Sing it Out
Grab some friends and head to karaoke night! Singing is therapeutic in that it releases endorphins, which make you happy and lower stress. While you’re at it, make it a group number: performing with other people enhances the experience, making you feel less lonely and depressed.
14. Sit Up Straight
Good posture can improve self-esteem and fight depression. Slouching naturally invokes feelings of powerlessness and fear. Needless to say, these feelings can worsen depressive episodes and lower your self-confidence.
15. Spend Some Money…
…on someone else! Recent studies have shown that people who spend money on others are happier than those who don’t.
16. Stop Trying to Be Perfect
Nobody’s perfect, and that’s okay. Perfectionism leads to burnout because our mental health is linked to how tough we are on ourselves when we don’t achieve what we’re aiming for. For a quick fix, set small, manageable goals and take ‘em out one by one.
17. Take a Power Nap
When you’re sleepy, your brain loses the ability to focus. Even just a 10-minute nap can help you feel more alert and clear-headed for hours.
18. Take a Shower Before Bed
Stressed? Can’t sleep? Take a 10-minute warm shower before bed. The sound and feel of running water relaxes you and improves circulation. Then, going from the steamy bathroom to a chilly bedroom makes your body temp drop, signaling your brain that it’s time to sleep.
19. Take a Social Media Break
Studies have found that extensive social media users – especially young adults – are more at risk of depression and anxiety. The Royal Society for Public Health ranked Instagram as the worst for young people’s mental health, with reports of low body image being common.
20. Wrap it Up
At bedtime, wrap yourself up in a blanket. Participants in one study displayed reduced anxiety after sleeping with a weighted blanket. The weight mimics a warm hug, which helps you sleep better and lowers anxiety levels.
21. Write it Down
Start journaling. Writing about your feelings helps you release your negative emotions and makes you feel happier by reducing activity in the amygdala, the part of our brain responsible for emotions like anger, fear, and sadness.
What are some ways you get through your bad days? Share them with us and our other readers in the comments!
Kat Wiseman is a content writer for Span Enterprises in Rock Hill, SC. She has a B.A. in English-Creative Writing from Winthrop University and her RYT 200 from Yoga Alliance. When she's not writing or doing yoga, she enjoys Netflix marathons, mystery novels, and being at the beach.