If you’re feeling mentally exhausted lately, it’s no wonder – this year has been one very bumpy ride. With so many additional stresses in our lives today, it’s now more important than ever to be taking care of our own mental health.
By investing a little time each day to observe a few basic activities, you can strengthen your resilience and enable yourself to stay focused, hopeful and grounded in these difficult times.
By Peta Sigley, Co-founder & Chief Knowledge Officer at Springfox
Here are five simple things you can do daily to strengthen your mental well-being both now and in the long term.
5 Daily Mental-Health Strengthening Practices
Make time for rest:
You’ve heard it before – getting enough sleep is absolutely crucial to good mental health. In times of stress, you’re more likely to find it difficult to sleep, which only amplifies the stress you’re already experiencing. To get better quality sleep, incorporate daily relaxation practices into your routine, such as mindfulness meditation, reading for pleasure, or taking a calming walk.
Springfox’s Global Resilience Report found that daily relaxation practices can improve your sleep by 25%, which in turn will lead to you feeling refreshed and restored, and more resilient to any challenges that may arise.
Move your body:
Exercise is a simple way to instantly boost your mood and overall outlook. In fact, there is a body of research that supports exercise as an evidenced-based medicine for depression. Activities like running, cycling and boxing – and even lower-impact activities like walking and yoga – have been shown to positively impact our mood by releasing hormones like serotonin, which helps the brain regulate mood, and endorphins, which are natural mood-lifters.
Try to incorporate just 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine – whether that’s a morning bike ride to set you up for the day, or an evening run to de-stress. You’ll notice an almost instantaneous change in your mood and your body (and brain!) will thank you.
Positive interpersonal relationships contribute enormously to your own sense of well-being, joy and positivity. Spending time with, or even just speaking on the phone or on FaceTime with loved ones, can help to distract you from other stresses in your life and may even give you a refreshingly different perspective on problems that seem insurmountable.
Humans are social creatures and staying connected with loved ones helps us to feel less isolated and alone. Make time every day to reach out to at least one of these special people in your life – you’ll likely find that you’re providing them with as much support and relief as they give you.
When in doubt, breathe out:
There’s a very simple breathing exercise that Springfox teaches in our resilience programs that can help to regulate your stress response when you feel the symptoms of stress take hold. Your natural urge when stressed is to inhale, which in turn increases your heart rate. This has the effect of intensifying your alertness and heightening your emotions, which can be useful in some situations but not when you’re trying to feel calm.
Instead of taking that inhalation, focus on letting out your breath slowly over five seconds. Then pause for two seconds, and slowly breathe in through your nose over three seconds. Practice this method of breathing for one minute. This technique can immediately help to regulate your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and sharpen your concentration.
Reframe your thinking:
Our natural instinct when stressed is to blame our negative feelings and thinking on the circumstances we find ourselves in. We then end up in a cycle of anticipating our reaction to external stresses to be negative and more likely than not, fulfilling that prophecy.
A simple ‘catch, check and change’ strategy can help to train your negative thoughts towards more positive and constructive ones. So, when you find yourself entertaining a negative thought, catch the thought as it arises, check to see if it’s going to be helpful to you in dealing with the situation at hand and if not, change or re-frame that thought to find a more constructive solution. The way you think about a situation is determined by how you choose to see it so be empowered knowing that you have the ability to direct your thoughts.
Investing in your mental well-being is the most valuable, foolproof investment you can make – and one you’ll reap the rewards of for years to come. To learn more about resilience and mental well-being during challenging times, tune in to Springfox’s new podcast series Resilience Real-Time for insights, research and practical advice on how to take care of your mental health.
 Blumenthal, J. A., Smith, P. J., & Hoffman, B. M. (2012). Is Exercise a Viable Treatment for Depression?. ACSM’s health & fitness journal, 16(4), 14–21. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.FIT.0000416000.09526.eb
Netz Y. (2017). Is the Comparison between Exercise and Pharmacologic Treatment of Depression in the Clinical Practice Guideline of the American College of Physicians Evidence-Based?. Frontiers in pharmacology, 8, 257. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2017.00257