If a global pandemic and political unrest are not enough, the shorter days and minimal sun exposure winter brings can be punishing. Given we cannot all go on a week-long vacation to ease our stress, we may need to settle for an at home reset. Over the past year, I have accumulated a few methods that I practice to help me feel mentally refreshed in one week. Think of it as a mental detox. Clearly this routine is no quick fix nor does this serve as a substitute for therapy, but it may help you get out of the occasional funk and incorporate more wellness practices into your everyday life. I’ll lead you through six, evidence based ways to improve your mental health by boosting your overall mood.
- Move Your Body
This doesn’t mean you have to do a three hour long, exhausting workout. All I’m suggesting is to move your body in one way or another for at least an hour every day. This can mean walking, stretching, yoga, pilates, running, etc. Moving your body once a day isn’t just good for your physical health but also benefits your brain health which may lead to an elevated mood. Research shows that exercising can release feel-good endorphins, such as endogenous cannabinoids. This is one major reason exercising is essential for your week-long reset. Physical activity may also help take your mind off a worrisome thought and help you gain confidence.
- Journal Daily
Sometimes you might feel blue without knowing why. This is normal, and while you may just be low on energy, there could be something you’re struggling with mentally that you haven’t expressed yet. Journaling may help you get to know yourself better and sort through intrusive thoughts. You could choose to write down statements of gratitude, self-love, or simply do a thought dump for a few minutes. Dr. Sarkis, an award winning psychologist and writer on Psychology Today, says her clients, “. . .have experienced a reduction in anxiety, depression, and even the frustration tied to ADHD symptoms by keeping a journal. Having time to reflect can do wonders for your psyche.”
- Delete Any Apps That Are Not Serving You Well
This one can be difficult to stick to, but it’s only for a week. Take mental notes on how you feel after you go on certain apps, and if any of them are depressing your mood, delete them for this week. Spend the time you would daily on those apps doing something you enjoy, read a book or go outside. Many of us may need to use social media for work or our studies, but you can limit yourself to cutting out personal media time. Studies done at the Center for Health Research show that overuse of social media can lead to anxiety and depression, especially in young adults.
- Prioritize Sleep
Sleep is something that comes easier to some of us than others. During your reset, try to improve your sleep-hygiene. According to Harvard Health, “any experts believe that people learn insomnia, and can learn how to sleep better. Good “sleep hygiene” is the term often used to include tips like maintaining a regular sleep-and-wake schedule, using the bedroom only for sleeping or sex, and keeping the bedroom dark and free of distractions like the computer or television.” For me, better sleep starts with a nighttime routine of winding down. A routine consistent with skincare, stretching, caffeine-free turmeric lattes and short guided meditations. Use this week to try out a few methods to relax your mind at least 30 minutes before bed and see how you feel.
- Hydration is Key
Proper hydration is something that we all try to do, but many of us don’t make it a top priority. During your week-long reset, it needs to be. According to a study done at the National Institute of Health,
“The results showed that a switch toward an increase in water intake has especially beneficial effects on sleep/wake moods of habitual low-volume drinkers. The switch toward a decrease in water intake has detrimental effects on mood rating of habitual high-volume drinkers, including reduced feelings of calmness, satisfaction and positive emotions.”
So, it’s been shown that hydration and mood are intertwined. Not to mention, hydration may help improve your digestion, skin and immune system.
If there’s one thing we do have control over in today’s world it’s how we care for ourselves, mentally and physically. This week-long reset can serve as a guide for you to follow when you feel your mental health beginning to struggle or if you just feel stuck in the same daily routine. This is not a substitute for therapy or counseling. If you’re deeply struggling with mental health, reach out to your health care provider or the SLO Hotline at (800)-783-0607.