Like many, you may have emerged from the pandemic feeling a bit wounded. Maybe you lost a job—or even a loved one. Or maybe you experienced feelings of extreme sadness, loneliness, and isolation. Mental health issues are at record high levels, prompting many experts to warn that the U.S. may be in the midst of a mental health crisis. According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 21% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2020. With that in mind, I’m sharing some of my favorite tips to help reboot your mental health.
Take care of your physical health. Your physical health and your mental health are closely related, so it’s important to make them both a priority. Start by eating nutritious meals and getting plenty of sleep (7 to 9 hours in a cool room for adults). Drink plenty of water and get some form of physical activity every day, preferably something you can do outdoors in the light of day. These behaviors can have a positive impact on your mood while also boosting your energy level.
Nurture your relationships. People with strong social connections are generally healthier and happier than others. So make it a priority to regularly connect with people you love and respect, and participate in activities where you will meet new people, such as joining a club, taking a class, or volunteering. Remember that it requires time and effort to cultivate friendships, but the payback is well worth it. Not only will you live a richer life, but you’ll have someone to turn to during down times. Talking to a close, trusted friend or relative goes a long way toward combating feelings of depression.
If you’re working remotely, you may miss the camaraderie you once experienced in the workplace. You can reincorporate those social benefits back into your life, but it requires effort on your part. Initiate Zoom meetings, friendly texts, or in-person gatherings outside the workday as these can all help.
Mix it up. Routines are good for several reasons, especially when it comes to staying productive. But sometimes it’s helpful to alter those routines in an effort to battle the monotony. This is why it’s so important to try new things. Learn to play a new sport. Cook something you’ve never tried before. Or travel to a place you’ve never been.
At a more basic level, there are many ways to alter your routine and create interest, from rearranging the furniture in your house to taking a different walking path or eating at a new restaurant. It’s easy to get stuck in the same routine, and that’s why changing it can be so refreshing.
Make time for smiles and laughter. When you’re trying to navigate multiple responsibilities in one day, it’s easy to become ultra-focused on getting things done. While that’s understandable, don’t forget to incorporate a little fun into your life. Laughter is such good medicine, so look for the humor in each day. Connect with people who make you laugh, read a funny book, or laugh out loud at a hilarious video. Remember that smiling is not only good for your health, but it sends a positive message to the people around you. A simple smile can also calm you down during stressful times.
Stay positive. The mind can hijack your thoughts and take you down a path of negativity faster than you can imagine. Don’t let it. Stop the rumination before you spiral into depression by focusing instead on the positive things in your life. Take a few deep breaths and think about everything you have to be grateful for and everything you’re proud of in life, including your accomplishments and the things you do well. This simple exercise can lead to the release of dopamine and serotonin, the feel-good hormones in your brain.
If you notice that social media is getting you down, log off for a while or make it a permanent change. Spending too much time on social media can lead to comparing yourself with others rather than appreciating the life you have.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.