When it comes to measuring how well we care for ourselves, it’s not just about keeping our bodies physically fit. Making sure our minds stay balanced and happy is equally important. While sometimes therapy and medication are needed to achieve mental wellness, there are some small things that anyone can do in everyday life for a mind tune-up. Here we have 20 tips for you to lower your stress and boost your overall happiness:
1. Keep a good posture.
We probably all slouch some of the time. After all, it seems quite natural to hunch over a steering wheel when you drive or over a computer screen when working at your desk. However, slouching may not only cause back or neck pains, but may also make you feel sad. Studies have suggested that when people slump, they are more likely to recall negative memories, which make them feel powerless and small. So, straighten up whenever you can to boost your self-esteem and keep depressing memories away.
2. Write down things you are grateful for.
It may not be so surprising that there is a strong link between gratitude and happiness. Keep a gratitude journal or write a daily gratitude list. These can be some of the smallest things in your everyday life, such as “I have a comfortable bed to sleep in.” Allow your brain to go over your day to find something to be grateful for, and let it fill your heart.
3. Sing in a group.
If you like to sing, you may want to start looking for a choir or singing groups in your local community. Studies have found that singing in groups makes you happier. The act of singing reduces the stress hormone, and doing it with other people will only amplify the positive effect. Not to mention that you will also find yourself less lonely in a group of people who share your interests.
4. Take a social media break.
Social media is a great way to keep up with friends, but when you keep getting anxious over a few likes, followers, or re-tweets, it’s probably a good time to take a social media break. It’s not like you have to give up technology all at once. Feel free to decide when you’re going to log off and when to come back fresher and calmer. You don’t have to be afraid of missing out, because staying off social media will grant you more time for face-to-face interactions, making you feel more connected.
5. When you’re sad, watch a sad movie.
Next time when you’re in a gloomy mood, you may want to watch a movie like “Marley & Me.” According to a research, watching a weepy movie actually make you happier by increasing your tolerance to painful experiences. After watching a good tearjerker, people are more likely to reflect on their own realities in a positive way, and appreciate what they have more.
6. Try on some new clothes.
What you wear can affect how you feel. Scientists call this phenomenon “enclothed cognition.” An outfit that is comfortable and compliments your features can boost your self-esteem tremendously. Visit your favorite clothing store, try on some new outfits, and take a good look at yourself in the mirror. You can get a boost of confidence from your fresh new look. The best part is that you don’t even have to buy anything!
7. Do something else before bed instead of watching Netflix.
Yes, I know you really need to catch up on “BoJack Horseman.” I do, too. But it is not really a good idea to make TV your regular pre-bed entertainment. In order to get you a good night’s sleep, you need to give your brain some time to shift into sleep mode. And watching a TV show won’t help. The National Sleep Foundation recommends reading a book—not a Kindle or an iPad but an actual book, in print. You will find yourself waking up less groggy.
8. Go outdoors and embrace nature.
If you feel like you have accumulated so much stress that you can’t stay focused, you may want to spend some time in a natural setting. In a study, researchers found that people who took a nature walk performed much better in tasks that required creativity and attention than those who took a stroll though the city and those who relaxed indoors. The simplest way to do it is taking a walk in a nearby green space. If you live in the US, make sure to take the full advantage of the country’s great natural sites—the state and national parks.
9. Soak up some sunlight.
Vitamin D, aka “sunshine vitamin,” not only helps our bodies build strong bones but also plays an important role in fighting depression. When ultraviolet rays in sunlight touch our skin, it converts the vitamin D in the skin into usable form. A few minutes of direct sunlight on exposed skin each day can make a significant difference in our mood. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and actually go outside for the full health benefits of natural sunlight.
10. Write a thank you note.
Write those thank-you notes! Recent research has proven that writing thank-you notes will make both you and the recipient feel better. It’s not about the material item, but about letting others know that you appreciate those nice things they’ve done for you. Gift-givers often underestimate the positive psychological impacts and feel uneasy about the message being misinterpreted. But worry not! Express your gratitude more often, and you will realize how powerful a little note can be.
11. Smile more.
Here’s today’s word of wisdom: when you smile, the world smiles back. There’s nothing supernatural about it. Neural scientists have found that every time you smile, your “feel-good chemicals”—dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin are all released to send your brain a message that you feel good. This will not only ease your stress and pain levels but will also lower your blood pressure and heart rate. So basically, you can live longer if you smile more. When you see other people smiling, the same mechanism will be activated in your own body, and that’s why smiles are so contagious. Allow yourself to put a nice, genuine smile on your face to uplift your mood and the moods of those around you!
12. Get some omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to have many health benefits. Lowering risks of depression and schizophrenia is just to name couple of them. If you’re a senior, it’s particularly important for you to get enough omega-3s to slow brain aging. While some people prefer to get their omega-3s from fish oil supplements, you can always get high amount of them by eating certain foods. Omega-3-rich foods include fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, and plant-based foods such as walnuts, seaweed, spinach, and soybeans.
13. Prep lunches for the next week.
It’s important to have a sense of control in your life. Knowing what you will eat next by making your own meals can give you a strong sense of control. Plan and prepare your food ahead of time to make sure you eat only healthy meals and snacks throughout the week. This will also free you from having to waste time waiting at a busy drive-thru.
14. Explore your own community.
Be a tourist in your own town! Wherever you live, there got to be some interesting places that you would take a tourist to visit. But have you ever visited them yourself? You will probably be surprised how enjoyable the experience can be when you actually explore your own town as if you were totally new to it.
15. Spend some time with animals.
Humans have been enjoying the company of four-legged, tail-waggling friends since before history. Today, we don’t really expect them to do as much as they did for our ancestors; simply keeping them around is enough to make us happy. Studies show that even the smallest interactions with animals will cause your brain to release oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel relaxed and fulfilled. If you don’t own a pet, you can hang out with a friend who does or volunteer at an animal shelter near you.
16. Take a warm bath and relax.
After a long, rough day, what could be better than relaxing in a warm bath? The warmth not only comforts the body, but also soothes the mind. In a Yale study, when participants were asked to recall lonely experiences, those who were given a hot-pack had a harder time telling their stories of loneliness than those who were not. Pick the time that you are most unlikely to be distracted for the most quiet and peaceful experience. Add some essential oil to better clear your mind, calm your nerves, and warm up your body and heart.
17. Eat some dark chocolate.
Chocolates can be great for brain health. Cocoa, which is used to make chocolate, is packed with flavanol, an antioxidant that is key in preventing memory loss. Studies also show that flavanol helps uplift mood and even eases depression. While pure cocoa is best, it might be too bitter for most pallets; chocolate that is over 85% cocoa is plenty, but anything under 70% cocoa will make little difference—milk chocolate doesn’t count. Sorry, milk chocolate lovers!
18. Do something creative.
Humans were drawing and painting tens of thousands of years ago. Perhaps the need to express ourselves by doing something creative is really in our genes. When you feel the urge to unleash your creativity, just do it! Medical researchers also suggest that creative activity is good for our mental well-being. Whether it’s writing, painting, gardening, sewing, or cooking, it will help you calm and focus your mind. Creative activities also keep your brain young, so you’re less likely to be troubled by Alzheimer’s.
19. Keep the room cool for a good sleep.
Your body temperature changes during sleep. It goes down when you settle into bed and climbs slightly as morning begins. This means a room that is too warm will make it harder to doze off for the night. The optimal room temperature recommended by the National Sleep Foundation is between 60° to 67° Fahrenheit (around 19° Celsius), so you may want to cool your room before bed and experiment to find out what temperature makes you most comfortable.
It may look like someone is sitting around doing nothing, but meditation is actually one of the most beneficial practices one can invest time in. It has a wonderfully calming effect on both body and mind, and can lead to a less stressed, more peaceful, and mindful state of being. A 2018 study sponsored by the US Department of Defense finds meditation helps veterans with their PTSD. Another study suggests the combination of physical exercise and meditation can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and improve brain activities. Don’t worry about having little time to do it; even a few minute of meditation each day can make a big difference.