Mental health is something that I am incredibly passionate about bringing awareness to. After years of dealing with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder, I know from first-hand experience how crippling a negative state of mind can be.
Mental health is much more than just a diagnosis. It’s your overall well-being. It’s the joy you immediately feel when you wake up or the cloud that is hovering over you. It’s that happy feeling that you have about yourself or the shadow of doubt that you can’t shake. It’s the gratitude that you have for your life and all that is around you or the heartache that you are feeling. Mental health is everything. It determines how we feel, how we act, and how we live our lives.
Slowly but surely, awareness of mental health issues is increasing. Although it’s still not getting the recognition that it needs, more and more lives are being saved each and every day from survivors sharing their stories and the growing number of resources that are being provided.
While improving your mental health can mean seeking professional support and treatment, it also means taking steps to improve your emotional health on your own.
We need to recognize that we all play a role in not only our own mental health but the mental health of others as well. We must create a support network around them. We must continue to bring awareness until the number of mental health-related deaths is zero. We must be open and honest because that is the only way we will ever find a cure for the emotions that we are feeling.
I want to continue to bring awareness to illnesses that have controlled much of my life and share with you 7 ways that I have been able to improve my mental health, and ways that you can start improving your mental health as well.
1. Be open and honest.
One of the best ways to eliminate the negative emotions that you are feeling is to get them off of your chest and share them with others. You will never find a solution to a problem if you aren’t willing to recognize it and seek help from others.
Not only are you given a different perspective on many of the emotions that you are feeling, but knowing you are valued by others will help you to think more positively about yourself and the world around you.
It’s not always easy to be open and honest, especially at first. Personally, I felt isolated, as if nobody cared about my emotions, and didn’t want to burden the lives of others. But after overcoming my doubts, I realized how much others truly wanted to help me. They just needed to know how I was feeling and how they could help in order to actually help me.
By being more open and honest, I have gained a sense of trust with those around me as well as with myself. We all experience challenges. It makes no sense to keep these challenges bottled up only to have them strengthen. Let them out. Share them with the world. Be open and honest.
2. Use positive affirmations.
For the naysayer, it might sound cheesy. But if you have ever tried to use positive affirmations, you can attest to how beneficial they are for improving your mental health.
How you think about yourself is directly correlated to the emotions that you feel. When we perceive our self and our life in a negative manner, we can end up viewing everything around us in a negative way. But when we perceive our self and our life in a positive manner, we start to find peace, happiness, and positivity. All of these emotions are ones that make life so enjoyable to live.
The next time you find yourself in a negative state of mind or putting yourself down, try to change your thinking. Instead of saying “I can’t” say, “I can and I will.” Instead of saying “I am a failure,” say, “I may have made mistakes but I am stronger from the lessons that I learned and won’t give up.”
Remember, in order to improve your mental health, you have to improve your thoughts.
3. Express gratitude for the life that you are living.
Much like mental health, gratitude is also something that is being talked about more frequently. The reason for that is because not only is it good to be grateful for all that we have, but also because gratitude will help with improving your mental health and happiness.
The best and easiest way to increase feelings of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or to have a daily gratitude list. It’s not something that you can just do once and forget about. You need to be willing to practice gratitude on a daily basis in order to start seeing the benefits. And yes, gratitude is a practice that we all have the ability to improve on.
Take a look at your own life. Find something to be grateful for in your life, write it down, stare at it, and feel the happiness and gratitude that will fill your heart.
4. Build a relationship with yourself.
This was another challenge for me. When I was going through a low time in my life, I absolutely despised the person that I was. I could not look in the mirror and find one thing that I liked about myself. I was only focusing on the negatives.
Part of the reason for my negativity came from the fact that I was trying to be the person that others wanted me to be instead of accepting who I already was and prioritizing who I wanted to be. I allowed the judgment and criticism of others to steal my light and consume my life. This just made me hate life and hate myself.
After noticing that I was not getting any closer to the success and happiness that I had envisioned for myself, I made it my goal to change. I let go of trying to be the person that others wanted me to be and I started focusing on myself.
In doing so, I started to find a sense of happiness and joy for the life that I was living. Not only that, but I started making progress towards my goals, and oddly enough, people started to like me more for being my authentic self instead of trying to be somebody that I wasn’t.
The point is to make yourself your own number one priority. Love yourself for who you are. Cherish everything about yourself. Be your own best friend. You spend the most time with yourself, so why not create a positive environment?
5. Stop trying to be perfect.
The thing about perfection is that it is something none of us will ever achieve. There is no such thing as perfection. In everything that we do, there is always going to be room for improvement. Making mistakes and learning from our mistakes is what makes us human.
Speaking from my own personal experiences, a lot of the negativity that I once had towards myself was because I was trying to be perfect and was focused solely on the idea of perfection.
I would beat myself up for any mistake that I made regardless of how big or small it was. I would only do things that I knew I would succeed in. Basically, I felt so low about myself that I wasn’t allowing myself to grow and expand because I couldn’t face the possibility of failure.
Life isn’t about perfection. Life is about progression. It’s about embracing all of the new opportunities that each day has to offer and growing from the person who you were yesterday into the person you want to be.
6. Set goals for your life.
One way to improve your life and the way you feel about your life is to set goals and give yourself a direction in which you want to go in. You are never going to reach your destination if you don’t have a clear direction.
This doesn’t mean you should set goals that aren’t realistic. Set goals that you know are going to be challenging and rewarding, but also ones that you know you can achieve. The more goals you achieve, the more you start to believe in yourself.
Whatever you do, don’t punish yourself for failure. Instead, see failure as a learning opportunity and a way to give yourself something to continue to improve on.
There is no right or wrong goal to have. The only goals that you should set are the ones that are near and dear to you. Follow your vision for your life, create the life that you want to live, and set goals that will help you get there. Whatever your personal goals might be, make sure they reflect you.
7. Get out and experience all that life has to offer.
When my depression started to peak, I did a really good job of shutting myself off from the outside world. I quit talking to friends, I quit going out and creating memories with those who mattered the most to me, and I basically locked myself in my room away from the outside world.
Life became incredibly lonely and miserable. But the more lonely and miserable I felt, the more isolated I became. The more isolated I became, the more I pushed away, and in some cases ruined the relationships that I once had with others.
The point is, one of the most effective ways of improving your mental health is to get out of your comfort zone and experience all that this world has to offer.
Get out of your house. Go outside and inhale the fresh air. Create memories and experiences with those who matter the most to you. Live the life that you were intended to live. None of this is possible if you lock yourself away. Trust me… I of all people would know.
It’s not always easy, but remember to focus on progression instead of perfection. Even if that means branching out every so often or taking small risks at first, start small and progress the further along you get. Life is truly a blessing that we should all get to experience, so make the most of it and cherish all of the time that you have remaining.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Everybody struggles, but those who get back up and continue to move forward are the ones that will prevail. Be the best person that you can be, cherish every moment of your life for the blessing that it is, and make the most of the one life that you get to live.
Start to improve your life by improving your mental health. Use these tips to help you overcome the darkness that I too once felt.