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Every year, thousands of Americans from all walks of life experience mental health struggles. Many factors can trigger mental health decline, including social isolation, bereavement, stressful or traumatic life events, discrimination, and poverty. According to the Household Pulse Survey results reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 30% of Americans reported feelings of anxiety and depression in 2020.
Improving mental health requires a multifaceted mind-body approach. Natural remedies can supplement, but do not replace, psychiatric avenues like professional counseling and pharmaceutical aids. Fortunately, some simple changes to routine can promote mental well-being.
While not all of these methods for improving mental health may be accessible to every individual, we recommend 10 possible options for taking care of your mind and spirit naturally. Explore our ideas below.
Discover What Matters:
Eat Well | Get Sleep | Exercise | Go Outside | Practice Mindfulness | Volunteer | Pursue Hobbies | Change Your Routine | Write | Talk
10 Mental Health Tips
Many people construe good mental health as the absence of mental illness, but this oversimplified view does not present the full picture. Mentally well people encounter internal struggles, stressful situations, and sadness, but possess the skills to cope with and overcome those obstacles. Good mental health requires practice and maintenance. Keep reading to learn about a few methods for naturally improving mental health.
Mental health depends heavily on physical health and the food that fuels our bodies. Nutritional psychiatry explores the relationship between diet and brain function. Researchers in this field have found that the gastrointestinal tract produces about 95% of serotonin, which aids both digestion and emotional processing. Consider these nutritional tips for improving mental health:
- Drink about 2 liters of water per day to prevent dehydration, fatigue, and constipation.
- Eat complex carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, vegetables, and sweet potatoes to keep you full throughout the day.
- Consume fatty acids like those found in fish, eggs, nuts, and flaxseeds to support brain, eye, and heart health.
Like nutrition, sleep habits impact both physical and mental health. Studies on the relationship between sleep and mental health reveal that insufficient sleep inhibits our ability to regulate emotions. Over time, lack of sleep can cause conditions like anxiety and depression. The CDC recommends that adults sleep 7+ hours per night and practice the following sleep hygiene steps:
- Stick to a consistent bedtime routine every day of the week, including weekends.
- Keep bedrooms quiet, dark, and at a moderate temperature.
- Avoid using electronic devices in the bedroom.
- Maintain physical activity during the day.
Since physical activity can impact appetite and rest, it naturally affects mental health as well. Exercise improves mental health by increasing blood circulation to our brains and influencing our bodies' physiologic reactivity to stress. Gym workouts are not accessible to everyone, but the following exercise modalities fit into many lifestyles:
- Gentle yoga teaches body and breath control. Yoga students can practice independently or through online classes.
- Dancing and following a rhythm can increase blood flow and feelings of happiness.
- Walking offers gentle activity, opportunities for setting goals, and new outdoor experiences.
Many people can improve mood disorders by spending time outside in nature. Research from the growing ecotherapy field suggests a correlation between time spent in nature and decreased stress, anxiety, and depression. In addition to taking a walk outside, consider a few of these outdoor tips for improving mental health:
- Gardening provides a brain break from daily tasks, the benefits of beauty and sometimes nutrition.
- Bird watching can increase appreciation for natural surroundings, bird species, and their habitats.
- Bike riding offers fresh air and exercise and permits longer distance travel than walking.
Mindfulness involves meditating to develop awareness of the present moment. Exercises in mindfulness often include breathing, guided imagery, body relaxation, and mind calming. Mindfulness interventions can reduce stress, prevent depressive relapses, and even help manage chronic pain symptoms.
Mindfulness can also intersect with yoga and psychotherapy to support mental health. Practicing gentle yoga along with mindfulness habits can offer a well-rounded mental and physical health approach. Consider simultaneously checking off three of our mental health tips by practicing mindfulness and yoga while outside in the sunshine.
Taking a step outside oneself can prove just as beneficial as looking inward. Volunteering can improve your mental health by boosting social connections, providing a sense of satisfaction, and offering intrinsic rewards. Organizations throughout the country provide volunteer opportunities for individuals of all ability levels, including virtual or distance options.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness hosts one of the largest walks for mental illness in the United States. Participants can join NAMIWalks Your Way from any location.
- Translators Without Borders need bilingual volunteers to translate medical texts, crisis responses, and fundraising efforts.
- Table Wisdom connects adult American volunteers with foreign-born students through mentoring video chats that support their transition to American culture and language.
Hobbies offer a release from daily obligations and can increase dopamine production in the brain's reward center. Leisure activities can improve psychosocial and physical health and enhance feelings of well-being. Return to a past beloved hobby or consider picking up one of the activities listed below to promote good mental health.
- Make music by singing or playing an instrument to calm your mind and slow your heart rate.
- Cook, bake, or plan healthy meals to satisfy cravings and nourish your body and mind.
- Practice photography with a camera or even just your phone and allow the pastime to take you to new outdoor spaces.
Change Your Routine
Sedentary habits like sitting at a desk for work and scrolling on electronic devices for leisure can negatively impact mental health. Switching up monotonous habits and incorporating healthy routine practices can alleviate anxiety and depression. Consider incorporating the following activities into your routine:
- Make use of a standing desk or take short walks in between tasks.
- Set aside small blocks of time for new healthy habits like gardening or journaling.
- Swap out old habits for healthier behaviors, like exchanging your usual alcoholic drink for hot tea.
- After completing undesirable tasks, consider rewarding yourself with a movie or healthy snack.
Writing offers a low-stakes opportunity for private reflection and self-awareness. Keeping a journal can also provide a space to process complex feelings and record the progress of your mental health journey. Journaling can seem daunting to inexperienced writers, but recording the following details can provide a good starting place.
- Moments of gratitude and happiness
- Triggers for negative feelings and the resulting symptoms
- Positive self-talk and words of encouragement
- Listing and prioritizing concerns and problems
Reaching out to friends, relatives, mentors, and spiritual leaders to discuss feelings of anxiety and depression can feel uncomfortable, but often proves rewarding. Talking through mental health struggles provides many of the same positive effects as writing, with the added benefit of tapping into a social support system. Friendships can improve mental health by providing reassurance and encouraging positive behaviors.
In the case of serious or persistent unwell feelings, mental health therapists offer professional solutions. Licensed therapists offer guidance and support to patients dealing with diverse mental health issues.
View other resources for improving your mental health:
Best Meditation and Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress
Top 10 Podcasts Exploring Mental Health
30 Best Self-Improvement Books for Those With Depression
10 Great Tips for Dealing With Depression in College
3 Mental Health Tips for Women Over 40
Mental Health Tips for Returning to Normalcy Post-Covid
How to Take Care of Mental Health Professionally
While these 10 tips can offer stress relief and other mental health benefits, self-administered methods may not provide sufficient relief for certain psychological conditions. Genetic predispositions and physical ailments can affect well-being in ways that require expert attention. If persistent negative feelings interrupt your daily life, please seek a professional counselor's help.
If improving others' mental health interests you, follow the links below to learn about becoming a clinical mental health counselor. Even individuals with busy schedules can pursue counseling education through affordable online programs.
Learn more about counseling:
Frequently Asked Questions
What are signs of good mental health?
Signs of good mental health include the ability to process negative emotions, cope with mental struggles, and seek positive solutions in overcoming obstacles.
How can I improve my mental health daily?
Natural steps like healthy eating, sleeping 7+ hours per night, exercising, and volunteering can help improve mental health.
What are some natural remedies for depression and anxiety?
Natural remedies for depression and anxiety include spending time in nature, practicing mindfulness, and pursuing hobbies.
How do you maintain mental health?
Mental wellness encompasses diverse aspects of human behavior and health. Seekers can try out many approaches to maintaining well-being. We recommend taking daily steps to nourish your mind and body.
Feature Image: electravk / Moment / Getty Images