Wondering how to improve your mental health this year? You’re in the right spot! And, side note: you’re not alone!
First off, I’d like to welcome you to the roaring 20’s my loves! Doesn’t that sound crazy? I can vividly remember sitting in my sociology class my senior year of high school and our teacher referencing something in the year 2020 and feeling sure that we’d be driving around in spaceships by then. My husband is definitely disappointed that hoverboards a la Back to the Future aren’t a permanent fixture in transportation yet. What can you do? I feel like this decade just snuck right up on us!
Anywho, I wanted to start the year off right by sharing a list of 20 things I’m doing to improve my mental health this year, in the hopes that some or all of them could inspire you to think about ways you might prioritize improving your own mental health this year (and beyond). If you have any other ideas for improving your mental health in 2020, do tell! I’d love to hear from you in the comments or via email.
How to Improve Your Mental Health by Doing What I’m Doing
1. Prioritizing working out (but, like, for real)
I know, I know, everyone always says they’re going to start working out more at the outset of the new year. But I really mean it this time! Don’t believe me? Well, I’ve actually been making working out a priority for 5 weeks already! Yep, you heard right – I realized during our stressful foster care stuff last month that I’m just a BETTER PERSON when I work out. I’m happier. I know, Elle Woods told me I’d be happy (and avoid murdering anyone) when Legally Blonde came out, but I’m now to the point where I can absolutely no longer make excuses when it comes to working out. For me, if I don’t work out first thing in the am, it’s just not gonna happen, so that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I’ve committed to working out four mornings per week and I’ve actually been doing it! Whether I’m watching something from the vault on Disney+ on the elliptical or sweating my bootie off in spin class, I’m making morning workouts happen. And I’m actually so excited to keep up with it! WOOT WOOT!
2. Taking daily supplements
I’ve shared before that I’m a huge believer in Vitamin D to fight the winter blues, but I also think it’s worth noting that it’s an amazing mood booster for anyone who might be low on vitamin D, like me. I’ve also been taking OMEGA-3s and I notice healthier skin, shinier hair, and just feel good knowing that I’m doing something good for my heart (heart disease runs in my family). Taking care of our physical bodies is another amazing way to improve your mental health – the mind and body are so inextricably connected!! I use Hum Nutrition to get my supplements delivered to my house without me even having to think about it each month, so that helps keep me consistent (and I never have the excuse of running out!). You can use the code 152AC2 to get $10 off your first month if you’re interested! 🙂
3. Making 7+ hours of sleep a non-negotiable
This one goes without saying, does it not? Nevertheless, I’m doing the darn thing. Case in point: I was google-hanging out with two of my favorite people last night and at the stroke of 9:30, I was like “guys, so sorry, I’ve got to get to bed, I gotta get up and work out tomorrow am!” Would I rather have stayed up later talking to them? Yep. But am I glad I hit the hay early so I could get my workout in this am and feel as good as I do right now? Double yep!
4. Limiting alcohol to a couple days a week
Don’t get me wrong, I love a glass of wine (or two) on a girls night or date night with my husband. I mean I love it anytime, really. But that’s just not healthy or responsible. So instead of having a glass of wine while cooking dinner and another one while watching a movie with my husband, I’m just not. I’m looking at my week ahead of time and saying, “ok, what two or three days would I like to have a glass of wine?” and then planning for that. And the other days? I’m drinking water, seltzer, and the occasional Coke because YOLO. Whoever said Coke doesn’t improve your mental health was seriously disturbed. #legallyblondeforlife
5. Having the house cleaned once a month
I have been doing this for over a year now and it is literally the happiest day of the month for me. I will continue having cleaners come once a month as long as the good Lord allows for it!
6. Correcting my negative self-talk as soon as I notice it
Just because I’m a therapist doesn’t mean I’m immune to negative self-talk. Thankfully, it’s gotten WAY better (aka more manageable) over the years, in that I don’t believe everything I feel and I am much quicker to notice when I’m in a negative mindset. I’m going to keep up with this because, like I always tell my clients, I wouldn’t speak to a friend so rudely, so I shouldn’t be talking to myself that way either! And, spoiler alert: neither should you!
7. Spending more time outside
After reading The Nature Fix late last year, I’ve become more convinced than ever that nature is one of the absolute best ways to improve mental health. I see myself (and my kids!) come alive in the best ways possible when we are outside, whether we are hiking a trail or spending a day at the beach, or simply having dinner on the deck. I’ll definitely be making time for outside play for our entire family this year!
8. Intentionally unplugging from time to time
This one isn’t new for 2020. It’s been on my mind and something I’ve been trying to do for a couple of years now. However, I’m actually thinking of doing phone free Sundays and just seeing how that goes. So much of my business is on my phone, so it’s easy for me to make excuses as to why I “need” to have my phone nearby, but the reality is, they’re mostly just excuses.
9. Noticing joyful moments and celebrating them
I just want to be on the lookout for joy, maybe take a picture of it when it’s happening, and then celebrate those pictures and little things. I want to feel and express gratitude for the little joys that I usually end up taking for granted. I hope to be more aware of those beautiful little life moments this year.
10. Tracking my water intake each day
I’ve been trying to drink 8 glasses of water each day for a couple weeks now. Every time I drink 8 oz. of H2O, I mark it down in my planner. Some days it feels easy to get to 8 glasses, and some days – not so much. But I was climbing into bed the other night (after a day of drinking the full 8 glasses) and I said to my husband, “you know what? I seriously do feel SO MUCH BETTER when I drink 8 glasses of water. I’m less tired, I’m less bloated, I feel lighter and brighter and just SO MUCH BETTER.” He looked at me and laughed and said, “It’s not fake news, Cath. Drinking water makes people feel better.” Well file that away under real news, I guess. I’m sold.
11. Not feeling the need to explain myself every time I say “no” (or “yes”)
I used to give a long, carefully crafted explanation every time I told someone something they probably didn’t want to hear or wouldn’t agree with. Well, here in the roaring 20’s (what? It’s a thing, I’m bringing it back!), I’m not about it.
12. Spending time with people who light me up and let me be me
I LOVE being my fully crazy, fully out there, fully MEEEE self. The one where I feel like a kid again and just love to make people laugh and act a fool. I love the people who let me do this and be this and I fully intend to spend more time with them this year. My time is precious (and so is yours!!) and I want to be with people who love the real me so much that they let me be her all the time.
13. Avoiding drama at all costs
I have to agree with the great Mary J. Blige and say, “No more drama in our liiiives!” I’m 37 years old. If you’re bringing drama reminiscent of when I was 12-17 years old into this here space, imma have to say no thanks. I don’t want to be a part of it, and I’m not willing to compromise on this. Gotta protect my heart and mind and not apologize for that.
14. Mixing up my workouts
I’ve discovered an app called Class Pass for this, and it is seriously half the reason (maybe even more!) that I have been able to be so consistent with my morning workouts thus far. You can use the app to schedule fitness classes or gym time in all different studios and gyms near you. I am the type that gets bored with working out in the same way all the time, so I feel like Class Pass was MADE for people like me! It’s also SUPER affordable and I’m getting many of the classes and gym times I book for an awesome discount just by booking through Class Pass! SCORE!
15. Not feeling guilty for treating myself
If my husband is reading this, sorry not sorry. (Love you, babe!) While I have been known to buy a cute shirt on sale or a new skincare product when I run out of old one, there are certain things I’d love to do for actual self-care that I don’t EVER do (like get a massage!) at least once or twice, or maybe even thrice this year. And when I do, I’m going to try super hard not to feel guilty about it. Because there’s no need to feel guilty for treating mama to a little R+R at the spa once in awhile, am I right?
16. Setting myself up for financial success
SO much stress in my clients’ lives and in my own life over the years has been due to money. Ugh. It truly is the root of all stress. And evil too. While I’m SUPER thankful to be in a good place financially right now (otherwise the aforementioned massages wouldn’t be making this here list), I’d like to prioritize getting to an even better place financially and staying there. In short, I don’t want to be worrying about debt or money at all in 2021, if at all possible.
17. Keeping my appointments for the doctor, dentist, etc.
With three kids, it can be hard to make sure they get to all THEIR appointments sometimes, let alone me getting to mine. No matter what, this year, I’m going to keep my appointments as much of a priority as my kiddos’. If mama ain’t healthy….well, let’s be honest, that’s not really an option, is it? 😉 Seriously, I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it till I’m blue in the face! Keeping your physical health in check is absolutely essential to improving your mental health…for reals!
18. Trusting my gut
I just want to prioritize tuning into my gut instinct (and what to God is telling me!) and just listening. I don’t want to look for validation from others as much as just from God and me. I think that will make decisions and life in general a lot easier. don’t you?
19. Scheduling a therapy appointment whenever I want/need one
Again, this one goes without saying. Especially through our foster care journey, therapy has been a game-changer for me. You can read more about my decision to (finally) go to therapy here.
20. Giving myself plenty of grace when I fall short on any of the above
Let’s be honest – it’s going to happen. In fact, I have already had a few days where I haven’t drank all the water or I’ve had a week where I exercised three times instead of four. I’ve let the occasional negativity slip in and stay a little too long. But I’ve learned enough to know that progress is way better than perfection, and perfection doesn’t exist anyway. Grace and more grace. That’s my mantra for 2020. Are you with me?
What else are you doing this year to improve your mental health?