The term mental illness encompasses many different disorders. As listed in DSM-5, there are nearly 300 different mental health conditions, which again, can vary from individual-to-individual. Your mental health may be influenced by a wide range of variables, including key life events and your genetics — which is why each person’s experience and journey towards positive mental are unique to them.

For example, depression is incredibly complex. In addition to select brain chemical imbalances, researchers have identified other potential causes, including faulty mood regulation in the brain, stressful life events, medical problems, medications, and genetic vulnerabilities. When compared to OCD or a personality disorder, new variables need to be considered. In that sense, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. However, there are most certainly ways in which you can actively intervene, working towards a healthier, more balanced life.

If you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, it is imperative that you continue to work closely with your therapist. However, you can also implement the self-improvement strategies below to support your general health — both mental and physical. These strategies also apply to those who simply feel overwhelmed due to current life events. The ultimate goal here is to reach a positive mental state, one that allows you to grow and thrive as an individual.

If you or a loved one require mental health support, the following strategies can help you cope more efficiently, all while improving your overall wellbeing.

1. Practice Emotional Awareness

Although self-care and self-improvement are personal matters, everyone can benefit from greater emotional awareness. When it comes to your overall happiness and success in life, emotional intelligence is just as important as intellectual ability. By learning to better manage your emotions, you can then respond more positively to stress, communicate more clearly, empathize more easily, and overcome adversities.

However, the ability to better manage your emotions begins with awareness. By becoming more self-aware of your own emotions, you can then understand how they affect your thoughts and behavior. This will also help you better understand your personal strengths and weaknesses, which can be fairly empowering.

While emotional intelligence and emotional awareness impact all aspects of your life, including your performance levels, relationships, and even your physical health, emotional intelligence also plays a major role in your mental health. If you are unable to control emotions, this can increase vulnerabilities to various disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

To actively develop your emotional intelligence, this is something that you should consider speaking to a mental health professional about.

2. Make Sleep a High Priority

As reported by the CDC, as many as 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. However, rates are even higher among those with psychiatric conditions. Sleep issues are especially common among those living with anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and ADHD.

Although the relationship between sleep and mental health is not fully understood, studies have shown that getting enough sleep supports mental and emotional resilience. In comparison, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to negative thinking and emotional instability.

Many of the recommendations related to sleep changes will also impact your overall wellbeing. One of the most important suggestions, outside of sleep hygiene and regular physical activity, is the reduction of alcohol and nicotine. In fact, research shows that alcohol and nicotine within four hours of bed may actually be worse than coffee in terms of sleep quality.

3. Exercise

Evidence continues to mount regarding the benefits of exercise. Just some of the ways that physical activity can support your mental health include:

  • Mood enhancement — It has been found that people who exercise on a regular basis showcase fewer symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Studies have found that exercise may even help treat chronic depression by increasing serotonin levels, as well as brain-derived neurotrophic factor — which helps neurons grow.
  • Stress-relieving effects — Exercise has many positive effects on stress levels, as it improves your body’s ability to use oxygen and boosts blood flow, having a direct impact on your brain. Whether you enjoy walking, dancing, or swimming, choose an exercise routine that works for you, aiming for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week.

For some, exercise provides meaningful activity and a greater sense of accomplishment. For others, it helps improve physical ailments that contributes to poor mental health. Also, be sure to eat a nutrient-rich diet, working towards a greater mind-body approach.

4. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Yoga has become increasingly popular in western culture over the past decade. However, it’s roots span back over 5,000 years. When it comes to holistic treatment plans, many individuals benefit from options such as yoga, as well as mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, and deep breathing — all of which initiate the relaxation response.

Considering 60 to 90 percent of all medical visits in the United States are for stress-related disorders, which can have a negative impact on both the body and mind, relaxation techniques can have an immense impact on your quality of life. Find a technique that works for you and make it part of your daily routine — even if it’s just for 5 to 10 minutes daily.

5. Manage Self-Talk

Just as negative self-talk causes toxic effects, positive self-talk can have a significant beneficial effect on your mental and physical health. Some of the most common examples of negative self-talk include:

  • Filtering — This is when you filter out all of the positive aspects of a situation or event while magnifying the negative aspects.
  • Personalizing — If something bad happens, you may automatically place blame on yourself, even if the end result likely has nothing to do with you.
  • Polarizing — This is when you see things in a very black and white manner — either good or bad. There is no middle ground.

If you often anticipate the worst, it’s time to actively intervene. By practicing positive self-talk, you can create new psychological habits. To begin, focus on areas in your life that you tend to think negatively about and then throughout the day, stop to evaluate what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.

In addition to following a healthy lifestyle and surrounding yourself with positive people, live by this golden rule — do not say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else. Just as you would encourage others, encourage yourself.

6. Seek Supportive Connections and Relationships

Humans are social creatures and maintaining healthy relationships is important for your mental health. Researchers believe that people spend around 80 percent of their time with others, which is why you need to remain mindful of those you surround yourself with.

You should have people in your life that you trust and respect — which is key for both individuals within a healthy relationship. You’ll want to seek relationships and friendships with those that value the connection you have, which is why you need to make time for those who care about you.

If you require support for your mental health, it’s important to reach out to these individuals you love and trust. However, it is also important that you seek the assistance of a mental health professional. Taking this step could make all the difference as you work towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Whether you are struggling with your mental health, substance abuse, or both, we can help. Your new life can begin today — all you need to do is call. Contact us today to discuss your personal needs. We’re here to help you every step of the way.