Not feeling your best? Adding a few simple tweaks to your day, week, or month can give your mood a boost. Here, some small ways you can help yourself BIG time.
It’s not always a quick fix to immediately feel better. After all, when you’re sad, it’s not like you can instantly pivot into super-smiley mode at the snap of the fingers. But, instead of lingering in that mood, the experts say there are some tactical things you can do to cheer yourself up when you’re depressed.
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: “The top three ways people can improve their mental health is to get good sleep, exercise regularly, and spend time in quality relationships with family and friends,” says Luke R. Allen, PhD, a licensed psychologist in Oregon and Nevada. “Typically, if you’re checking off these boxes, then you’re much better off than you would be otherwise.”
But, like most things we need to do to change patterns, feeling better also comes down to changing your attitude and reframing your anxiety—a practice, if you will, that you can achieve on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly basis. Below are several suggestions. Feel free to cherry pick through our ideas or tackle it all. Here’s how to get started.
Start every day with an intention.
You have an opportunity every morning to reframe your mindset, says Angela Phillips, PhD, LICSW, a therapist in Paso Robles, California. “Each morning, set an intention for the day that allows you to use your first five to 10 minutes in the best way,” she says.
While Phillips likes to journal either before she gets out of bed or right after she showers, you can think about your daily intention while you’re sipping your morning coffee or tea. “The goal is to think through what might be challenging that may come up that day and how you would want to embody a desired response,” she says. “For example, if I have a big meeting or an unexpected medical appointment, I might write about how I intend to embody calmness and ease throughout my day.”
Equally important is to take time at the end of the day to find ways to reflect. “I find a few minutes to focus on how I was able to put this intention into practice,” she says. “And, if I struggled, I tap into why that may have been the case. This way I learn from every success and challenge of the day.”
De-Stress with a weekly mantra.
Weekly chores are next to impossible to avoid. But emotional well-being is just as important as laundry and weekly meal prep. Give it the time and attention it deserves. Block off time for a self-care routine.
“Ensure you’ve penciled in activities [exercise, healthy meal planning, socializing, etc.] each week to help you recharge,” Phillips says. “For example, if you want to workout three days per week, schedule this in on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, giving yourself the weekend to rest or add a day if one of your planned days falls through. Repeat for other tasks and keep those self-care activities engaging so you’ll keep doing them.”
Tip: If this begins to feel burdensome, consider enlisting others to ensure accountability if that’s possible. Better yet, delegate some of your responsibilities at the beginning of each week so you can find ways to recharge.
Carve out something fun every month.
It’s way too easy to get bogged down by our to-do lists. This can lead to a feeling of sadness or anxiety. To combat this, be sure to schedule a fun activity you’ll look forward to every month.
“This could mean taking PTO and getting away for a day or two,” Phillips says. “It could also mean scheduling dinner with friends that boost your mood or taking trips to the park, museum or beach. Feeling that sense of awe in nature is an inexpensive and mood-boosting experience we can all take in and profit from.”
At Least Once a Year
Put together an annual report but make it personal.
The idea of finding time once a year to assess your mental health has arrived, says Kristal DeSantis, LMFT, a psychotherapist in Austin, Texas, and author of Strong: A Relationship Field Guide for the Modern Man. We get annual physicals, right? But mental health checkups aren’t really a thing.
Reviewing your emotional health is a good way to become aware of the deficits in your wellbeing. And that doesn’t necessarily mean working with a therapist.
Some people do this on their birthday or at the start of a new year. It’s up to you when you write your “annual report”. “The goal is to ensure that you’re taking care of yourself on a holistic level,” DeSantis says. “The way I frame it is by category.”
The categorical approach can help you spot areas where making some tweaks could improve your emotional wellbeing. See if these categories work for you:
- Physical Health. Consider how much you exercise, and the quality and amount you sleep. Taking a regular walk during the day is an excellent way to add activity to your day which also helps tire you out (so you sleep better!) It’s a win-win.
- Nutritional Health. Taking stock of your diet is important because believe it or not study after study shows that the way we nourish our bodies is directly correlated to our mental health. French biochemist and best-selling author Jessie Inchauspé (aka The Glucose Goddess) has tons of small diet hacks that have big impacts. The key, she says, is glucose. Here’s one of her tips: try eating your veggies first. The fiber in most vegetables helps reduce spikes in blood sugar. According to her research, the order you eat the food you like matters. Sugar is okay but needs to be balanced with fiber or protein. Becoming aware of not just how much sugar you eat but when you eat it can help you see patterns in your mood and energy level. Her research has shown that blood glucose spikes (what happens when we ingest sugary food) are tied to inflammation, hormonal imbalance and weight gain—factors that impact the mind and the body!
- Social Health. This includes friends and involvement in a community. Experts say interconnectedness combats loneliness.
- Family Health. Assess your relationships with your partner, parents, children, and siblings.
- Spiritual Health. Do you have a formal religious practice (attending services at a church on a regular basis) or do you prefer to practice your spirituality in another way such as by meditating.
- Mental Health. Consider whether you might be helped by therapy, self-help, or mental wellness activities such as mindfulness. Psycom’s affordable therapy article can connect you to low-cost or free resources.
- Intellectual Health. Being curious and learning something new can be a good way to engage your mind. Today it’s easy (and often free) to expand your knowledge base. Search just about any topic on YouTube for expert talks, videos, and inspiration.
- Career Health. Work can be a huge source of stress but many employers have resources (and provide networking opportunities for their remote employees) to support your mental health and help you grow professionally. Maybe it’s time to reach out to HR.
- Environmental Health. Fresh air and sunshine can be just what the mental health doctor ordered. Whether it’s hiking, fishing, biking or just taking a short walk around your neighborhood, getting outdoors is an instant mood booster.
Feel Better Takeaways
Whether you find happiness throwing a dance party in your living room or volunteering in a soup kitchen know this: You can find happiness in a myriad of ways that are as individual as you are.
By tapping into these expert-driven tips we hope you’ll reroute your anxiety and find joy in the little pleasures of the day, week, month or year.