We are in a state of mental health crisis across the globe. With the pandemic, social media contention, racial tensions, economic stress, and the explosion of anxiety and suicidearound the world, it's a "perfect mental health storm."
As we all know, we cannot change yesterday. But, we can take positive steps today and tomorrow to improve ourselves and our world.
Here's what you can do today to improve your mental health:
1. Detox from technology
There can certainly be positive aspects of social media — staying connected, learning from friends and the community, finding employment, having a creative outlet, and more. But there can be significant downsides to too much engagement with digital media. It can create a sense of inadequacy as we see others so happy/wealthy/"together." It can lead to self-absorption, cyber-bullying, and anxiety.
There is good news. You get to decide what you read, and how often you read it. On a daily basis, do an honest self-evaluation of your browsing habits, and where you spend time online. Do the sites you view, and your activity on them, bring you happiness? Do they build you up, or tear you down? It can be challenging to break habit patterns — but work to avoid sites and communities that cause you stress.
Challenge yourself to put your device down for an hour each day, giving yourself permission to disengage from digital media. Then, try two hours a day, until you feel you have both the positive input and the on/off digital media balance you need to feel in control.
2. Practice positive self-talk
Many of us have become so established in our thought patterns that we do not recognize negativity has seeped in over time. Pay attention to your "inner voice," or "self-talk." This voice is powerful and distills your thoughts into your inner dialogue with yourself.
We can convince ourselves that we are unloved, our health is deteriorating, our financial situation is unrecoverable, and so on. During a constant barrage of stress, uncertainty, and negativity that many of us are experiencing in our daily lives, our negative inner voice can take control.
We always have a choice. We have the ability to decide what we think about — positive or negative. We can say, "I am going to smile and laugh with friends, and I have done my very best today." Or, "No one loves me, and I can never seem to get things right."
It is tough to be positive when you are feeling down. We all get there sometimes. But being positive is like working out. If you haven't done it for a while, your body doesn't really want to get started. However, if you keep at it, you begin to feel a difference, and it becomes something you don't want to give up because of how good you feel. It is the same with being positive.
Have grateful, positive thoughts. Use graceful and uplifting words. Be purposeful and mindful in your actions toward others. Watch how the energy you put out will come back to you.
3. Invest in your "temple"
"If you don't have your health..." the saying goes. Our physical health has a direct impact on our mental health. If we are underslept, poorly nourished, and don't move our bodies, we are much more susceptible to stress, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health challenges.
Sleep. Create a calm, quiet, cool sleep environment. Avoid television and digital media in the bedroom, and make it a sanctuary of relaxation. One hour before bed, do not watch television (especially stressful, violent, or anxiety-producing programming). Also, do not eat heavy meals after 8 p.m. Find a routine that you enjoy, such as taking a soothing bath or drinking a calming tea.
Diet. Avoid alcohol, sugars, and simple carbohydrates. Infuse leafy greens and lean proteins into your meals. Eat modestly sized meals evenly spaced. Try to avoid snacking after 8 p.m. This gives your body a full 12 hours to detox and cleanse itself before breakfast in the morning.
Fitness. The goal is to cleanse your body of toxins, increase blood flow, and maintain strength in your muscles. Don't put pressure on yourself to reach lofty goals too quickly. Just get your body moving!
Physical motion needs to become a life choice. It’s not about the next few weeks or the next few months. It’s about establishing a routine, a ritual, if you will, of being good to yourself through movement. In order to experience the maximum benefits, keep at it.
4. Be gentle with yourself
We are all feeling stress and some form of anxiety in today's world. But it doesn't have to overpower us. There is plenty of good, grace, and love among all of us. Work to improve your inner voice, fitness, and diet, and spend less time on your mobile device. But if you fall short, be gentle with yourself.
Acknowledge to yourself where you didn't measure up on this occasion, recommit to doing better, and be ready to make the most of today and tomorrow. Gains are often achieved through mild setbacks. It is our ability to work through them and keep ourselves focused on a better, less stressful, more love-filled future, that will win the day.