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In honor of National Mental Health Awareness Month, I figured I would share some tips on how to begin (or continue) improving your mental health. College can be a rough time, especially for people who struggle with mental illnesses, and although none of these tips will fix deeply-rooted health issues, they can help people feel better. If you find yourself struggling, please reach out for help, whether it’s from a friend, loved one, trusted authority figure, or a professional counselor. Please get help if you need it, even if you don’t always think you should or deserve it. You do. You deserve to be happy and healthy, and you are loved.

Validate yourself.

Know first that your emotions, whatever they may be, are valid. You are allowed to feel things, and sometimes you feel badly. That’s okay, and that’s normal. Let yourself be sad sometimes, just make sure to recognize what’s sadness and what’s an indication that something more serious might be going on.

Get outside

This sunny weather we’re having is, without a doubt, helping me cheer myself up. Many people who live in places where the wintertime gets dark experience some sort of “winter blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder, so if you find yourself in that group, be sure to soak up the vitamin D (with sunscreen on, of course).

Listen to good music

I listen to a lot of music, so whenever I’m feeling down and don’t want to be, I tend to find music that matches the mood I want to have. Whatever genre you like, whichever artists are your favorite at the moment, play some music that makes you bob your head and want to dance. Throw yourself a solo (or not solo) dance party and move to the beat if you feel so inclined (or even if you don’t feel inclined).

Move your body

Literally just move your body. When I’m feeling blue, it’s so tempting to stay in one place for several hours, but I try to make myself move somehow when I can. It doesn’t have to be going super hard at the gym, although it could be if that helps; you could even just walk around your room if that’s the limit to what you feel you can do. Any movement is better than no movement, and if it gets to be too much, you can stop. Sometimes you just need to get yourself to take that first step, and the ones that follow are so much easier.

Find an animal to snuggle

Whether it’s a plush stuffed animal toy or a living, breathing pup, I often find that animals are a big help for my mood. Something about feeling soft fur on my skin makes me feel better, and even just seeing a dog walk across campus can bring a smile to my face, even on bad days. That’s my dog, Zoey, below.

If you find yourself needing help, please reach out to someone. You deserve to love yourself and you deserve to be happy. I promise.

Rachel Minkovitz is a senior at Bates College double majoring in Psychology and French and Francophone Studies. She spends a lot of time listening to music, hanging out with friends, reading and writing, advocating for social justice, and looking for furry animals. 
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