10 Helpful Steps to improve your Mental Health

The University of Michigan has put together a great list of ten points that we can do to improve our mental health, which I think are really quite valuable. Most of us have a pretty good idea of how to take care of our physical body, but I’m not sure we treat our emotional health with the type of care it deserves. I encourage you to review the following list and look for ideas you can embrace that might help improve your emotional health.

1. Value Yourself:  treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self criticism. Make time for your hobbies and favorite projects, or broaden your horizons.  Try doing a daily crossword puzzle, plant a garden, take dance lessons or learn how to play a musical instrument or maybe become fluent in another language.

2. Take care of your body; eat nutritious meals; avoid smoking; drink plenty of water; exercise (it helps to decrease depression and anxiety, plus improves our moods); get enough sleep-researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to a high rate of depression in college students (and others).

3. Surround yourself with good people: People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Make plans with supportive family members and friends, or seek out activities where you can meet new people, such as a club, classes or a support group.

4. Give Yourself: volunteer your time and energy to help someone else; you’ll feel good about doing something tangible to help someone in need – and its a great way to meet new people.

5. Learn how to deal with stress:  Like it or not stress is  part of life. Practice good coping skills – exercise; do Tai Chi; take a nature walk; play with your pet; try keeping a journal. Remember to smile and see the humor in life. Research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and reduce stress.

6. Quiet your mind:  try meditation or prayer. Relaxation exercises and prayer can improve your state of mind and outlook on life. In fact, research shows that meditation may help you feel calm and enhance the effects of therapy.

7.  Set realistic goals: decide what you want to achieve academically, professionally, personally and write down the steps you need to realize your goals. Aim high, but be realistic and don’t over-schedule. You’ll enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress toward your goal.

8. Break up the monotony:  Although our routines can make us more efficient and enhance our feelings of security and safety, a little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule. Alter your jogging route; plan a road trip; take a walk in a different park; hang some new pictures or try a new restaurant.

9. Avoid alcohol and other drugs:  keep alcohol use to a minimum and avoid other drugs. Sometimes people use alcohol and other drugs to ‘self-medicate’ but in reality, alcohol and other drugs only aggravate problems.

10. Get help when you need it:  Seeking help is a sign of strength – not weakness. And it is important to remember that treatment is effective. People who get appropriate care from mental illness or addictions can go on and lead full rewarding lives.

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