Daily Habits for Mental Health

Fortunately, mental awareness increases nowadays, although I still think that more could be done to make it more of a priority. Physical health is important too, isn’t it? Your brain is also an organ and it should be taken care of before it is too late and you suffer burnout or depression, or are diagnosed with anxiety or other conditions. Daily habits for mental health are essential. Just like you do regular exercise to keep your body in shape, you should also take action to keep your mental health in good shape.

What are Some Good Habits we can Incorporate into our Daily Schedules?

1. Eat Healthy

Remember how your mom used to scold you as a child when you didn’t eat your veggies? “Eat your broccoli!” “You’re not leaving the table until you finish eating your vegetables!” πŸ˜‰

broccoli

Dark green, leafy vegetables are good for the brain, considered brain-protective. So are fruits and omegy-3 fatty acids. Nuts, seeds, and legumes are also excellent for the brain.

What’s the difference between vegetables and legumes? Vegetables are carrots, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, etc. Beans and lentils are legumes.

Isn’t Healthy Food Tasteless and Boring?

Eating healthy has often been associated with light, bland fare that would leave you hungry. Nothing could be further from the truth. Healthy food tastes good and it doesn’t mean that you have to give up on certain comfort foods. Unhealthy ingredients can be replaced.

An example would be the unhealthy burger. The pattie can be replaced with a portobello mushroom (excellent taste and great for burgers), or a nut or lentil pattie (both are full of flavor). Avoid white bread but buy wholegrain bread instead.

vegan-food
Plant-based food from Fil A Pita Restaurant in Singapore

Instead of just boiling your veggies as a mandatory side dish, you could use them for a veggie lasagna. Broccoli cream is also easy to make and tastes delicious – it might even convert any broccoli hater into a fan πŸ™‚

==> Check out these recipes for cold avocado soup and raw tomato cream soup <==

Make it a habit of drinking a glass of water in the morning before grabbing that cup of coffee or tea. When we wake up in the mornings our bodies are usually dehydrated and a glass of water will do it a world of good. If you don’t mind the taste of lime or lemon, squeeze half a lime (or lemon) in it for a dose of vitamin C.

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2. Go Outside

And I do not mean the bus stop or waiting at the train station for the train to arrive. I am taking about reserving at least half an hour a day for yourself and take a nice, relaxing walk, preferably in nature. Near a lake, river, in a forest, or by the ocean (if you happen to live near there) is always the perfect place to unwind.

Nature has a soothing effect and it clears the mind. If you can’t do half an hour, then make it 15 or 20 minutes, or even 10. The point is that you get out there.

walking

If you can only take a 10-minute walk, then perhaps you could repeat it later in the day. I often get up after working for an hour or two and I take a 5 – 10 minute walk. I repeat this 4 or 5 times a day.

In case you find yourself in the concrete jungle of the city, then perhaps you could find a green area to relax? Maybe a park, a garden, or a green corner at or near the workplace?

3. Be Active

Take up a new class. Have you always wanted to learn to play the guitar but never gotten round to it? How about those dance classes? Dancing salsa is a lot of fun!

Yoga is a great activity for body and mind. Yoga reduces stress and increases body awareness, it also calms the nervous system.

cycling

Cycling is also a great sport that lifts the spirits. It forces you to be outdoors. I am talking about getting on a bicycle and ride on cycling paths, preferably in parks or other calming scenarios, not the indoor gym bike.

Of course, I can’t argue against the physical benefits of going to the gym or working out at home. In fact, I am also going to recommend it. Exercise fuels you with energy.

Exercise reduces anxiety and depression and improves mental health.

Going for a run in the morning before driving to work also works wonders. Personally, I don’t like to run, I prefer to walk, swim, or ride the bicycle, but whatever works for you will do.

Take the dog for a walk, and if you don’t live with a dog take yourself out for a walk. If you are thinking about getting a dog, please consider adopting one from a shelter instead of buying. Shelter dogs (and cats) are in desperate need of good, loving homes. (Having rescued animals for 20 years, I just had to throw that in there πŸ™‚ )

4. Get Some Sleep

A good night sleep is extremely important for good mental health. A lack of sleep or few hours of rest in the long term can cause much damage.

sleeping

Not everyone sleeps like a baby, and some tend to twist and turn for hours before they fall asleep, but here are a few tips that may help you:

  • Have a consistent evening routine, i.e. go to bed around the same time every day. In this way you are training your mind when it is time to sleep.
  • The bedroom is for sleeping. So, it is better to work on your laptop somewhere else, maybe in your study, kitchen, living room? Reserve the bedroom for sleeping only. When you drop on your bed, do not overthink certain situations and stop worrying. The worrying must be done before you get to bed, so as soon as your head hits the pillow, your brain connects that action with sleep. In other words: make your sleeping routine predictable.

5. Set Boundaries

say no

Make sure you are clear on what you want and set your boundaries for what you do not want. Do not live your life trying to please people, but live according to your values and principles. That doesn’t mean you have to be rude. Although some people may have a hard time accepting that you have your own life, it is – after all – YOUR life and you are living it, no one else is.

Although point nr. 5 comes last in my post, it is one that is incredibly important and often neglected. Setting boundaries is essential for good mental health, not letting others get their way or even take advantage of you.

For example: your neighbor is asking you to buy tickets to support a cause you do not agree with. You do not have to buy those tickets to avoid hurting his or her feelings. It’s OK to say no politely. It won’t make you less of a friend or neighbor.

friends

Poor or unclear boundaries can lead to disappointment, resentment, anger, and even burnout. At work, it is also OK to set boundaries. Years ago I worked really hard at my current job, so hard that I eventually broke down. I never said no. I thought it was expected of me because I worked there, but now I know that sometimes you need to or must say no. Those boundaries will avoid unnecessary stress, burnout, relationship issues, etc. (source: positivepsychology)

Dealing With an Employee Burnout - Supporting Colleagues at Work

Final Thoughts

Staying healthy is a daily task, physically and mentally. We often tend to neglect the mental side of health – and even the physical one. If we learn to turn tasks into habits, then we will start doing them automatically, like second nature, without another thought.

My daily walks have become such a part of my routine that I do not even have to think about it or remind myself. I always do it. Healthy meals are also a daily habit of mine, although I do like to snack sometimes, but I usually snack on nuts or chocolate; I avoid the chemical laden chips.

Creature Cups make great gifts this holiday season!

Especially now during the lockdowns – since they are still not over – mental health issues have increased alarmingly. It is now in particular that we should focus on our daily habits for a good mental health.

If you have any questions, comments, or more tips, please let me know in the comments below.

19 thoughts on “Daily Habits for Mental Health”

  1. Hi Christine
    You make lots of excellent points. I think many of us, I suppose fortunate enough to be working still during the lockdowns are having serious issues setting boundaries for work. I leave my phone on vibrate most of the time and I am not checking work emails all weekend. Then late Sunday evening, i.e. last night, I found an email from my boss’ assistant asking for some notes that he needed to present in a meeting at 9 am this morning. It happens. As I say, I guess I shouldn’t complain. Many others have been laid off, at least I still have regular paid work. As for the walks, our puppy now follows me coming out of the shower every morning wagging her tail knowing that as soon as I am dressed I will be taking her out for her morning walk. We are also lucky to be living near nature. Great pointers and great post. Best regards, Andy

    Reply
    • Hi Andy,

      It’s a good thing to be leaving your phone on vibrate all the time. There can be some exceptions, such as your boss’ request one late Sunday night, so yesterday, but it’s just an exception, not the norm, is it? And then again, it is true that we can count ourselves lucky that we still have work during the lockdown, very good point.
      I’m sure your puppy keeps you busy. Puppies are so full of energy and require our constant attention, they are still in that cute stage. I have a three-year-old Pit Bull who seems to never have left that puppy stage. He is ever so playful and always up for a walk. I call him “my giant puppy” πŸ™‚
      Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  2. Eating healthy and working out are, without a doubt, some of the best things that I’ve incorporated into my daily routine, and the results are more than apparent.

    I feel way more energized, I’m happier, and surprisingly, I look forward to starting the upcoming day with a great deal of pleasure.

    If you’re feeling too lazy to work out, at least make sure you eat the right foods. Avoid junk food, sugar, sodas, and I promise you that your mood will improve drastically.

    Your mental health is directly related to your physical one, so make sure you take care of both of them equally.

    Thank you for this fantastic post, Christine! It’s always an enjoyment to read your content.

    Reply
    • Hi Gorjan,

      Our mental health is indeed related to our physical one. The mind works with the body and we must take care of both of them.
      I’m happy you enjoy my posts! Thank you for your comment! πŸ™‚

      Reply
  3. Hi Christine,

    Since Covid started in April, I’ve been in a never ending avalanche of work (didn’t help that I enjoy every bit of the businesses I’m currently involved in too). On some days I experience burnout – simply because of the lack of sleep.

    Have always enjoyed working out, so that keeps me sane in the otherwise busy schedule. Nature is free therapy, right? Hahaha. I stay in the city so I would only head down to the nature trails on the weekends.

    Moving forward, I’m seriously attempting balancing things up and setting boundaries as you’ve mentioned. Mental health IS as important as physical health.

    Thanks for this article!

    Cheers.
    SAM

    Reply
  4. I never understand people when they say that fresh natural foods like vegetables are not tasty. I love them. When I’m eating, I really desire to taste the actual food itself, rather than all of the effects of the cooking and then the condiments that are later added. “Let food be thy medicine!” Hippocrates.

    Exercise is so important as you have mentioned because the body and mind are inseparable. What happens in one is reflected in the other, and both create our feelings or emotional state of being. Doing anything is better than doing nothing, but as you say, walking to the bus stop is not really exercise!

    Boundaries are not really something we learned growing up. We were always being told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, by those with authority over us, and unfortunately, many people never developed a true sense of their own identity because of this. So they continue to let others dictate how they should live.
    I agree with you that we need to set boundaries so that our well-being becomes a priority in our lives.

    Great article. Many thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Hi Andrew,

      True, setting boundaries is often difficult because as we grow up people of authority – parents, teachers, and other adults – tell us what to do, how to do it, and so on, and it shapes us in a way. Learning to set boundaries is literally also part of breaking free from those norms and rules that were hammered into us from a young age. My father used to tell me sometimes “What will the neighbors think?” “What will people think?” But you can’t live your life, trying to please others and hoping they won’t say anything bad. It is our life ater all, and we are living it, not them.
      Thank you for your wonderful comment!

      Reply
  5. Oh yes, setting boundaries definitely is one that resonates with me. Not because I don’t, but because I (still!) have to learn to do that in a good way.

    Over here they often say that the Dutch are too direct and too blunt. You, being from Belgium, will most likely agree with that, LOL.

    So I am trying to adjust. Still saying no at times, but sugar coating it more. Not always successfully. πŸ˜‰

    At the moment I don’t have many opportunities to practice that as I hardly see anyone because of the lockdowns. And like you say, it’s horrible that so many people suffer mentally because of the lockdowns.

    I often think the lockdowns do more harm than the virus. I know that if I would be contaminated I would argue otherwise, but still…

    Excellent post, Christine, thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Hannie,

      Haha, yes, my family also say that the Dutch are too direct and although Belgium and the Netherlands are two small countries that are right next to each other and we speak the same language we are still so different, lol. I actually like the Dutch bluntness, so you won’t catch me complaining about it πŸ™‚

      Setting boundaries is not always easy and it takes time – sometimes years – to learn. As long as we’re aware of it, I think that’s a start.
      Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  6. Thank you for this info on the Daily Habits for Mental Health. I think we could all use these great tips to improve our health.
    Daily walks are great to unwind and get some fresh air. I know I enjoy my daily walks with my dogs so much. How long do you walk for?
    Do you have any idea what the stats are for mental health issues due to the pandemic?

    Reply
    • Hi Alyse,

      The stats have risen considerably. I can’t give you an exact number, but when I looked at some statistics it seemed that at least 50% of mental health issues have been reported since covid-19 began. Not only mental health problems have increased, but sadly also cases of domestic violence …

      Reply
  7. Wow, great article at a good time. During the past holiday season, many people have, including me, have done binge eating. But, I want to believe calories don’t count over the holidays, even though they do.

    It is time for me to get back to my carb diet again. For a while I lost 26 pounds in 4 months with that and excercise.

    Reply
  8. These are great daily habits for mental health. I feel like the value of mental health is often minusculed into something of no importance. This, I believe, is erroneous. People really need to read articles like these in order to help out the development of their mental health. Thank you so much for this article. I will be sending this out to my friend

    Reply
  9. I absolutely love portobello mushrooms mmmmmm they are so tasty.  I prefer it over a meat on a burger.  I take a glass of water every morning and drink about 1 Litre throughout the day.  Do you think that is enough or should I drink more water?

    I hate running and I am so glad I am not the only one who prefers to ride a bicycle instead. I am also one of those that turn for hours before falling asleep and when I wake up during the night it is very hard to go back to sleep.  I will definitely follow your tips to solve that Christine.

    Reply
    • Hi Helen,

      I also love portobello mushroom burgers, they are to tasty! I drink around a liter and a half of water per day. The exact amount should be 2 liters according to Healthline. I live in a hot climate, so in the summer I usually drink 2 liters or more. 

      Thank you for your comment!

      Reply

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