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August 14, 2020 • read
A daily mental health routine that works
Everyone’s mental health journey requires an element of self discovery. When it comes to building your daily mental health practice, there’s no one-size-fits-all routine. To build a mental health routine that works, start with a few additions to your daily routine and see what sticks. Your efforts don’t have to be grand gestures. Be gentle with yourself, and start small.
There are lots of chances to boost your emotional state throughout the day. A little experimentation is all you need to find the strategies that work for you. Here are some attainable ways to start a daily mental health routine.
Practice mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a technique that helps reduce stress by slowing down your thoughts. This helps you move your focus away from negative emotions. Mindfulness meditation is rooted in breathing exercises that keep you focused on the present moment. Studies have shown that meditation makes you less distractible and improves your resilience to stress. You can get started by dedicating as little as five minutes a day to developing your practice.
Get some exercise
Getting proper exercise benefits your mental and physical health. If you’re having a tough day, physical activity is shown to have positive effects on your mood almost instantly. There are long term mental health benefits from exercise too. It reduces stress and anxiety by releasing neurotransmitters that help you manage your mood, like serotonin. In Canada, half of those living with mood disorders or anxiety don’t exercise. You don’t have to run a marathon to see results. Start with 30 minutes of exercise, three days per week if you’re looking to boost your mood.
Get quality sleep
Getting quality sleep gives you a headstart on good mental health each day. 36% of Canadian adults who don’t get proper sleep also report chronic stress. The tough thing about sleep issues is that they lead to stress, which leads to more trouble sleeping — and the cycle continues. You can counter this by sticking to a bedtime routine. Try limiting screen time before bed, or going to bed at the same time each night. Developing a predictable routine around sleep can help put your mind at ease when it’s time to rest.
Eat brain-friendly foods
Food can help improve your mood. Not the treats you may be thinking, like a cookie for a job well done. Try foods that are rich in vitamin B-12 and folate if you’re looking for ways to fight depression — like fish, nutritional yeast, or beef. Vitamin D from dairy products is linked to an increase in dopamine, which helps with mood regulation.
When you can, plan meals that are low in sugar and refined carbohydrates during periods where you know you’re likely to be stressed out. Sugar and carbohydrates cause spikes in blood sugar and hormones. This ultimately leaves you feeling even more off-balance.
Reduce your screen time
Our phones, tablets, and televisions are our windows to the world. But every once in a while, taking a break is a good thing. There are lots of studies to support limiting the screentime of children and young adults, and adult studies are trending in the same direction. Excessive screen time has been linked to a reduction in gray matter in the adult brain. When this happens in your frontal lobe, it can lead to problems with impulse control.
Next time you’re looking for a reset, consider doing it the old fashioned way. Try a print version of a magazine or newspaper instead of scrolling on your phone.
Get into nature
Whether you live with mental illness or not, nature has a positive impact on mood. When you feel stress or anxiety, your body produces cortisol. Cortisol stops us from relaxing — it’s the hormone that kept humans on their toes in the presence of predators millions of years ago. Even though you’re more likely to see a predator at the zoo than in daily life, your body still releases cortisol in reaction to stress. Nature’s calming effect on the mind and body reduces the production of hormones that contribute to anxiety and depression.
You don’t have to venture into the wilderness to get the benefits of a natural setting. Start with a nearby park or rooftop garden to see if being near green space makes you feel at ease.
Stick to a routine
Especially when you run a business or a household, a schedule or routine can be an excellent tool for organizing your busy mind. That’s because it limits the number of decisions you have to make each day. Routine prevents decision fatigue — where you tire yourself out by getting bogged down by a bunch of small repetitive decisions. When you plan things like what you’ll wear, or what you’ll have for lunch, you’re less likely to experience decision fatigue.
Planning ahead leaves you with more mental capacity to dedicate to bigger, more complex daily challenges. Try planning your lunches in advance this week and see if it makes your day feel smoother.
There are so many ways to approach improving your mental health. And that’s a good thing, because it means with the right support you can tailor a routine that’s perfect for you. If you’re feeling like you need extra help, our healthcare professionals are here for you online.