Anxiety, depression, suicide, and ohter mental health issues are on the rise today. In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about one in five adults in the United States experience some type of mental illness each year. What’s more, one in six youth between the ages of 6 to 17 years also experience mental illness every year. And, since the onset of COVID-19 more and more people across the world are experiencing mental health issues.
It’s vital to seek professional help for mental illness, especially serious mental illnesses including those listed above as well as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, manic depressive disorder, substance abuse, and severe forms of depression and anxiety disorders. When it comes to mental health issues, you don’t have to go it alone—and you shouldn’t.
Mental health professionals have a variety of tools and therapy techniques they use to help adults, adolescents,and children learn to manage mental illnesses and get back to the life they once loved. And while there is no replacement for professional mental health services, there are some things you can do in your daily life to help combat some less severe mental health issues.
Here are five easy things you can implement into your daily life to start feeling better now. And, none of these five additions will cost you a dime.
- Make a daily gratitude list
Gratitude and gratitude lists have become ‘popular’ over the last few years. And while many roll their eyes when it’s suggested to make a gratitude list each day, it really does work. When you are able to see the good in your life today, more good will undoubtedly come to you. From the very basic things like having eyes to see and air to breathe to more personal items like family who care, a safe place to live, a job, friends, and more, if you take a look, everyone has a lot to be grateful for.
Making a gratitude list isn’t designed to make you feel guilty that you have these things and are still depressed or anxious, it’s purpose is to really help you begin to see the good in your life. Each one of us has numerous things to be grateful for each day. It may take a moment to change your perspective to see them but it’s well worth the time.
There are many individuals who reluctantly started a gratitude list (thinking they’d have nother to put on it) who now practice this every day and swear by its benefits. All you need is a piece of paper or journal and a pen. Start by trying to name three to 10 things you are grateful for and then make it a habit to practice this each day. And, remember to give thanks for these items on your list.
- Connect with nature
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), taking a simple stroll in nature can reap many positive rewards on the body and mind. The APA reports that spending time in nature can have the following effects on one’s body and mind:
- Improved mood
- Decreased stress
- Increased attention span
- Decreased risk of psychiatric disorders
- Increased empathy
- Increased cooperation with others
Lisa Nisbet, Ph.D., is a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada who studies how nature impacts people. She stated the following,
“There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human well being,” said Nisbet. “You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”
Additionally, research shows that being exposed to green spaces results in increased cognitive abilities in both children and adults. But that’s not all. Research shows that being in nature also has the following effects:
- Increased happiness
- Decreased mental stress
- Increased feelings of wellbeing
- Increased sense of purpose
- Increased sense of life being meaningful
- Increased positive social interactions
You don’t have to spend hours in the mountains hiking to garner these benefits either. Studies show that walks in urban parks and green spaces, as well as hikes in the woods and other more rural areas, have equally beneficial results.
So grab your walking shoes and head out if you’re ready to improve your mental health and cognitive functions.
- Give back
It’s been said for years that when you help someone else you are actually helping yourself too. Taking time to volunteer in the community or even just lend a helping hand to someone in need not only can make someone else’s life better, but it can also make you feel better too.
According to an article in the Journal of Happiness, individuals who volunteer are more satisfied with their lives and experience better health when compared to their counterparts who don’t volunteer. What’s more, those who volunteer more often experience even greater benefits including improved mental health and wellness.
In addition to making us feel good for helping another person, another benefit is that it boosts our social connections which lead to more good feelings. As mentioned, you don’t have to join a group to volunteer, you can simply make it a point to help someone out each day or week. However, there are many organisations that need volunteers, and being involved with one of these groups can help you to engage in this positive behavior on a regular basis. Not only will you be helping those in need, you can also form connections with other like-minded individuals who are also volunteering.
- Read every day
While reading may not seem like a way to improve your mental health and feel better, research reveals it can be. According to research, not only does reading literature improve your brain’s cognitive functions, but it can also help to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Additionally, according to a study, reading can reduce stress by up to 68%. This study revealed that after just six minutes of reading participants experienced reduced muscle tension as well as slowed heart rates. Neuropsychologist and study co-author, Dr. David Lewis, stated the following in regards to reading and stress reduction:
“It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination. This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.”
Reading doesn’t have to cost you a thing either. Get back to your local library and grab a book. You’ll not only be helping yourself feel better you’ll be supporting libraries to stay afloat so they can continue to be resources in the community.
- Spend quiet time praying or meditating
No matter who or what you believe in taking time each day to be quiet, reflect, and ‘pray’ can really go a long way. Getting connected to some type of higher power, whether it’s God, Buddha, Mother Nature, Universal Love, or another, is a great way to ward off stress, worry, and anxiety.
Forming trust with a higher power and knowing that all is happening in your life for your good—whether it seems like that or not—can really help to develop your sense of purpose and provide a sense of security in a sometimes chaotic world.
You can start by just saying a prayer, meditating quietly, following a guided meditation, or using a daily prayer or reflection book. When you begin to make this a habit you’ll see your life become calmer and more focused. And, what’s more, praying and meditating is something you can do anywhere at any time. This is a great tool to have in your toolbox to ward off feelings of stress and anxiety.
Each of these five ways to feel better now is easy to start and costs you nothing. While they are no replacement for professional mental health treatment, they can certainly boost your mood and help you feel better while you get into and continue professional treatment.
If you or someone you care about is dealing with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders, Futures Recovery Healthcare is here for you. Futures offers a mental health program for adults struggling with mental health concerns. To find out more about our program or talk to an admissions counselor contact us online or call 866-804-2098.