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Rates of mental illness are rising, and you aren’t alone in seeking ways to improve your emotional health. However, few mere mortals can put their lives on hold to escape to a retreat or even dedicate several afternoons a week to therapy.
Fortunately, your daily habits have more to do with your ongoing emotional state than a single, profound experience. While some people require dramatic interventions, most of us can naturally boost our mental health by embracing those habits that support it.
However, it’s natural to put yourself last when life gets demanding. Self-care isn’t selfish — it’s so essential to positive health that the WHO defines it — but you might need the occasional reminder or, better yet, an action plan. Here’s a full week of positive mental wellness activities to add to your daily planner to improve your emotional health.
Monday: A Nutritious Home-Cooked Meal
Did you know that one way to improve your emotional health is through your diet? Your brain is an organ that requires certain nutrients to function at its best, including manufacturing the right neurochemicals and hormones to keep you on an even keel. For example:
- Fatty fish: The omega-3 fatty acids help lower levels of a protein associated with Alzheimer’s development.
- Berries: Contain flavinoids that preserve memory function.
- Leafy greens: These contain folate, lutein and vitamin K that may slow cognitive decline.
- Nuts and seeds: These contain trace minerals like selenium, magnesium and zinc that help you make neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Why not make your meatless Monday dish do double duty for your mental health? Whip up this walnut-crusted halibut in lemon wine sauce paired with a spinach and berry salad. Take the time to do so mindfully from scratch, reconnecting with your food and the divine process of feeding yourself and renewing your life and energy.
Tuesday: A Moderate Workout
Exercise is also crucial to mental health. Studies show that regular activity does a better job of lifting depression than medications, which often come with a host of side effects. The only downside to fitness might be the tailor fee for taking in your favorite clothes after you shed a few pounds.
However, when depression symptoms strike, movement is often the last thing you want to do. Your secret? Find something that you love and keep it short. For example, maybe you adore the outdoors. Consider a hike in your favorite nature preserve. Do you prefer rocking out? An energetic Zumba class could do the trick.
Pro-tip: If it’s hard to motivate yourself, promise to work out for only ten minutes — and let yourself stop after that time if you still feel low. However, you’ll probably find the energy for a full 30 minutes once the good brain chemicals start to flow.
Wednesday: Improving Your Home Environment
Your environment impacts your mental health. What’s one thing that you could improve in your daily living space to improve your mood? Here are a few small ideas:
- Add a plant or two: Studies show looking at nature improves your mood, and houseplants also clean your indoor air.
- Change a bulb: Overhead fluorescents contain invisible pulsing that triggers migraines in some, and who feels upbeat when they physically feel sick? Take down a heavy curtain to let in natural light or switch to a soft LED.
- Improve your seat: The wrong office chair breeds lower back pain. Upgrading to a better fitting version or experimenting with variable height desks and medicine balls could improve that symptom and your resulting mood.
Thursday: Rebuilding Social Connections
Humans are social creatures, but our modern lives seldom leave time for the deep, quality connections that make life worth living. Sometimes, financial and legal issues tear apart your closest relationships, leaving you lonely and empty.
As you near the weekend, you can improve your emotional health by reconnecting with someone you love. Perhaps you could:
- Set up a date night: How long has it been since you and your partner spent some private time connecting?
- Call an old school friend: Is there someone you think about often but haven’t spoken with in forever? You probably also cross their mind — be the one to reach out.
- Connect with an aging relative: Oder adults often feel isolated, especially if they can’t keep up with technology. If you have someone like this in your family tree, consider calling or stopping by, perhaps offering to assist them with using a cellphone or computer for video chats.
Friday: Embracing the Great Outdoors
Nature can heal like few other things. It has multiple physical benefits, but its most profound may be how it improves your emotional health.
The weekend is here, so celebrate by heading to your favorite park or natural location. Pack a picnic and spend an hour making cloud animals while you dine or stroll the sculpted gardens at a nearby museum, learning about the various plant species near you.
Saturday: An Act of Kindness
Volunteering may be the best thing you can do for your mental health. Why? It prompts the release of several juicy neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
There are plenty of places in need of help. Working in soup kitchens remind you to count your many blessings, while charity events like tree plantings and park cleanups get you moving in the outdoors while meeting others who share your passion for a clean environment. It’s a triple win for your emotional health.
Sunday: A Day of (Guilt-Free) Rest
Despite all of today’s presumably “time-saving” technology, people are working longer and harder than ever. However, humans aren’t machines designed for nonstop productivity. We are living beings endowed by our creator with the innate right to enjoy this precious gift of life — and our inability to relax and do so lurks behind many modern mental health disorders.
This coming Sunday, take a guilt-free day of rest. It might look like binge-watching the latest Netflix hit series, playing video games or heading to the park with the family for an unplugged experience. Whatever you do, ensure you feel indulged, whether that means luxuriating in a spa bath or staying in your pjs all day.
How to Improve Emotional Health
You aren’t alone if you want to improve your emotional health. The number of people with diagnosed mental health conditions continues rising, and there simply aren’t enough affordable therapists for everyone. A DIY approach can help you mitigate some of the stressors that can lead you down a dark path if unaddressed.
Follow this 1-week guide to improve your emotional health, adding these activities to your planner until you get used to making self-care a daily event. You’ll find that you have more to give every other aspect of your life when you put yourself first for at least 30 minutes a day, nurturing and celebrating your precious gift of existence.
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