5 Ways to Start Improving Your Mental Health Today

 Howard Forman

GIVEN THAT MAY IS Mental Health Awareness Month, it's a great time to consider small changes that can result in remarkable improvements in your mental health. Like basic needs, your mental health is essential to your life and how you achieve your goals. It's time we all started giving it the attention it deserves! A calm, healthy and composed mind is key as you take on life's challenges, so I've compiled a list of five simple activities that can help you improve your mental health.

1. Consider What You're Consuming

Many people spend an average of nine hours a day using social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter viewing photos and imagining the "better life" they aren't living. Excess use of social media causes people to consume and implicitly compare themselves to others. Studies have shown that individuals who spend a significant amount of time on social media report feelings of increased anxiety and low self-esteem. When you're in a deep scroll, consider that social media feeds are carefully and selectively curated by people for the world to see, people are not always who they "post-to-be." Their reality rarely shows up on their timeline. The life you have may be as good as or better than the ones you're fantasizing about.

2. Make New Memories

Take the opportunity to do something you've never done before. If there are activities on your bucket list like hiking, skiing or horseback riding in the Caribbean, begin to research the most cost-effective way to bring these experiences to life. Research shows that experiences lead to greater sustained positive feelings than possessions. Also, consider including a friend on the adventure. Experiences are much more valuable when they're done with someone you love.

3. Drink a Little Less

Although the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism defines moderate drinking as up to four daily alcoholic drinks for men and three for women, new research suggests that, at these levels, adults are exposed to harms including physical and mental illness. Regardless if you've never been someone with a drinking problem, you may improve your mental well-being by reducing the amount of alcohol you consume. Try substituting your drinks for non-alcoholic options like smoothies or virgin frozen drinks.

4. Hear Something Good, Do Something Great

Each day, approximately 3 million people tune into morning radio's Bobby Bones Show produced by Raymond Slater. The show's most popular segment "Tell Me Something Good" shares three positive stories of everyday people doing amazing things to help others. As Slater says: "It's incredible to hear how much joy our listeners have when sharing their stories of helping other people." Does helping others help you de-stress? Don't stay on the sidelines; research volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood. Volunteering has been linked to reducing stress levels, as your time spent in service to others gives you a sense of meaning and appreciation.

5. If You Aren't Feeling Well, Reach Out to Your Doctor

Are you having trouble with your memory? Do you sleep well but feel unrested in the morning? Alternatively, do you find it difficult to stop your racing thoughts at night so you can get to sleep? All of these signs could be related to a mental health conditions, but importantly they could all be related to easily correctable nutritional deficiencies. The first step to getting better is getting a correct diagnosis that can lead to targeted, personalized and effective treatment. The person in the best position to help you with this is your primary care provider. If you don't have one, find one.

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