How To Improve Your Mental Health In 12 Months

Matt Lillywhite

Photo by behrouz sasani on Unsplash

Twelve months ago, I struggled with anxiety, depression, and various other problems surrounding my mental health. The truth is that I wasn’t doing anything to change my life. So naturally, I had no reason to believe that things would ever improve.

Within his book, Atomic Habits, there’s a quote from James Clear that completely changed my way of thinking. It goes like this:

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”

After reading that book, I realized that every action I take has the power to shape my future identity. So I immediately began implementing positive habits into my daily routine. And sure enough, the strategy worked. Now, my life is so much better. I’m much happier than ever before.

If you want to do the same, here are several strategies that you can use to improve your mental health. Each of these insights changed my life forever, and I’m sure they will do the same for you, too.

Observe Your Own Behavior.

Unfortunately, you cannot control a lot of external events. However, you can always control your reaction to them. Like the author, Ryan Holidayonce wrote:

“There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself, and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”

One day, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “you need to stop thinking about yourself in such a negative light. Sure, bad things sometimes happen. But everyone experiences adversity. The only thing that matters is how you respond to it.”

Over the past few months, I’ve learned that if you don’t control your thoughts, they will always be in control of you. As Steven C. Hayes Ph.D.writes in Psychology Today:

“Your mind can be your biggest enemy. On a daily basis, it spews out difficult thoughts like “I’m not good enough,” or “I can’t do it,” robbing your energy, and stopping you from going after your goals and your heart’s deepest desires.”

So whenever negative thoughts occur, take a moment to document how you feel so you can understand their triggers and how to prevent them from affecting you in the future.

Observe your own behavior. Understand it. Then, make an effort to remove any triggers of negative thoughts, so you can finally begin living the life you desire.

Let Go Of All Expectations.

This is something I learned while reading several books on stoic philosophy in the Calgary Public Library. When you remove expectations, you suddenly become grateful for everything that happens. In the words of the Greek philosopher, Epictetus:

“Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.”

Instead of worrying about everything you don’t have in your life, a much better strategy is to focus solely on what you do. Quoting an articlepublished by Harvard Medical School:

“Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

See every moment as an opportunity to become a better person. For example, if you’re stuck in traffic, don’t complain about being unable to control the situation. Instead, be grateful for the chance to put on an audiobook and learn something new while sitting in traffic.

It sounds so simple. Yet, the effect that it’ll have on your mental health is profound.

Reconnect With Nature.

I live in the incredible city of Toronto. Every day, I’ll walk along the shore of Lake Ontario or in the forest near my house. It’s extremely relaxing listening to the beautiful sounds of nature.

Research published by Time Magazine shows that “spending time outdoors, especially in green spaces, is one of the fastest ways to improve your health and happiness. It’s been shown to lower stress, blood pressure, and heart rate while encouraging physical activity and buoying mood and mental health.”

Don’t spend the entirety of your day indoors. It’s terrible for your mental health. So whenever you get some spare time, go and visit a nearby beauty spot. Or if you’re unable to visit a forest or lake, a quick walk around your neighborhood for a few minutes is certainly better than nothing.

Adjust & Adapt Your Social Circle.

If you hang out with negative people, you’ll adopt a terrible mindset. In contrast, if you surround yourself with people that inspire you to be your best self, you’ll quickly find yourself becoming a lot more optimistic than ever before. Joel Osteen said it best:

“You need to associate with people that inspire you, people that challenge you to rise higher, people that make you better. Don’t waste your valuable time with people that are not adding to your growth. Your destiny is too important.”

I used to be overly pessimistic as I spent a lot of time with people that had no ambition or desire to live a happy life. And as a result, I adopted a similar mindset. I guess you could say I have a lot of personal experience in being a “Debbie downer.”

But one day, I decided to change my social circle. I began hanging out with people that inspired me to become a better person. And within a short amount of time, my mental health improved due to a renewed sense of optimism and a much better mindset.

Evaluate your social circle. Do your friends inspire you to succeed? Are they willing to help you become your best self? If the answer to either of those questions is no, it might be a good idea to spend less time with them.

Do Something Every Day That You Enjoy.

This strategy is a cliche for a reason: it works. Do something every day that makes you happy. Give yourself something to look forward to after a long day at work or college.

As Paul Hudson writes in Elite Daily, “Doing the things you love makes the world a better place. Making it meaningful makes you accept it as your purpose in life. A meaningful and love-filled life is an exciting life.”

I love reading. I’ll happily sit on the sofa and read a book for a couple of hours during the evening with a mug of hot chocolate beside me. Sometimes, I’ll even add some whipped cream, cookies, and marshmallows to make it even more awesome.

Everyone has things in their life which make them happy. So find something that you genuinely enjoy doing, then include it in your daily routine.

Final Thoughts.

If you want to improve your mental health, you need to look at your thoughts and habits. Although you cannot change the past, you can certainly change your actions in the present moment to improve your future.

My friend, every action you take from this moment onwards shall shape your future identity. All you need to do is implement the above strategies into your daily routine, you’ll quickly find yourself living a much happier life than you ever thought possible. So what are you waiting for?

Start now.

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