Our mental health is an important part of our daily lives, but with our fast-paced, hectic schedules, it can be hard to find the time to take care of ourselves and maintain our mental health.
If your life doesn’t lend itself to extended vacations for relaxation or yoga retreats, here are seven daily rituals you can incorporate into even the busiest day to give yourself a break and help improve your mental health:
1. Set goals — small ones!
Since grade school, we’ve all been introduced to the idea of setting goals. These goals give us a path to follow and steps to climb to get us where we want to be. Unfortunately, when we were taught to set goals, our parents and teachers often neglected to teach us to set small, attainable goals we could reach — which led to generations of impressionable youth setting lofty goals that were difficult or impossible.
By setting small, attainable goals, you give yourself something easier to achieve. Additionally, when you do reach these goals, it gives you a great boost of self-esteem and confidence, which can do wonders for your mental health. Go over your goals every day and use them as an affirmation — “I did it. I can do it, and I can keep going.”
Now, that’s not to say that you can’t set enormous, lofty, extravagant goals, but keep the steps to get there manageable. For example, if your goal is to get a degree, don’t make your goal walking across the stage at graduation and leave it at that. Instead, make your first goal to pass your first semester with good grades and move forward from there.
2. Be accountable.
While daily rituals can be a deeply personal thing, they can also be very easy to ignore if you’re the only one thinking about them. Instead of going it alone, call on your people and harness the power of accountability.
Accountability doesn’t have to be complicated. Tell a few friends that you need a buddy to keep you honest when it comes to your habits, your goals, your workout routine or your diet. Find someone who will check in with you on a regular basis — and, if necessary, someone who will light a fire under your rear end to get you going.
3. Keep a routine.
You might have a 5-minute morning routine, but if you’re dealing with concerns about your mental health, it might be hard to stick to that routine. One day you might jump out of bed, brush your teeth, shower and be ready to meet the day, while the next you hit your alarm, roll over and sleep until 3 p.m. For me, it really helps if I have a routine that makes me proud. For example, one of my favorite things to do is wash my face in the morning. Not only am I keeping my skin healthy (which benefits your mental and physical health) but I’m pampering myself as well, making for much needed “me time” each morning.
Setting up the structure of a routine can be very helpful for your mental health. It can help you slow down on those days when you have a ton of extra energy, and help you pull yourself out of bed on those days when it’s harder. Set a routine for your mornings and another one for your evenings, so you’re getting enough sleep as well.
4. Practice gratitude.
You probably say thank you to the barista who makes your coffee in the morning, but when was the last time you sat down and truly practiced gratitude? Being thankful for everything in your life — the good things and the bad — is a concept that might seem like common sense, but it’s a little harder to understand than you might think.
Try picking up a notebook and start a gratitude journal. Spend a few minutes at the beginning or end of your day writing down the things in your life you’re grateful for. On days when you’re having a hard time or feeling discouraged, go back and read what you’ve written. You might be surprised at the things you find there.
5. Write a list.
Writing out a detailed to-do list can be a great way to improve your mental health. We’ve already spoken about the benefits of keeping a good routine, but when you’re in the depths of a downswing, it can be hard to keep track of what parts of your routine need to be done when.
There’s also bullet journaling, which is basically a heavily structured to-do list. There’s a bit of a learning curve to get used to when you first set it up, but it can be a great way to keep track of everything from when your next doctor’s appointment is to what time you need to brush your teeth.
Another list to help improve your mental health is a fear list. Naming your fears helps you to tackle them.
6. Crank up the tunes.
Sometimes the best way to get a bad day at work or school out of your system is to turn on your favorite music and let it wash over you. While we’ve probably all felt the benefits of plugging in and listening to our favorite songs, there is actual science backing up the power of these notes. Studies have found that listening to music has both physical and mental benefits, including improving your overall mental health, elevating your mood and relieving symptoms of depression.
If you’re not sure what to listen to, check out music sites like Spotify or 8Tracks — both have a variety of mood-boosting playlists that are a great place to start.
7. Face your fears.
I mentioned before to make a “fear list.” Now it's time to face those fears! For most of us, facing our fears is the last thing we want to do. It puts us out of our comfort zones and encourages anxiety, but it can also be one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself. Facing your fears stops them from negatively affecting your life. Bolster your own sense of self-esteem and self-worth by putting your fears behind you. Just like achieving your goals, facing your fears gives you that sense of “I did it. I can win,” and you can carry those sentiments with you throughout your life.
Make it a daily habit to face one of your fears or to take a step forward. Even if it’s as simple as talking to someone about something you’re afraid of, every step forward is something to celebrate.
It almost goes without saying that daily exercise and a healthy diet can help you manage your mental health, but those changes can often take a long time to implement. You can also take the time to learn how to meditate or how to manage your mental health from a guru on a mountain top — if you have the time.
However, you can try incorporating one or all of these rituals into your daily routine instead. After all, improving your mental health doesn’t necessarily mean taking drastic measures. Every step you take toward improving it, whether that step is big or small, is a step that should make you proud!
What tip do you plan to add into your daily routine? Tell us in the comments!
Cori Keating is a health and wellness writer and lover. She enjoys reading, running, and doing yoga. Find her writing for her blog, Why So Well, or doing research in the nearest coffee shop.