14 Tiny Changes You Can Make To Improve Your Mental Health This Year
Small steps make a big difference
Let's be real about it, this time of year can have a seriously crap effect on your mind and your mental health.
When you’re struggling with things like anxiety, depression or mood swings, it probably feels like there’s enough of a dark cloud hanging around in your head - let alone the ones outside too.
Here's Courtney Act's guide to all things first dates, for anyone who needs a kick in the right direction...
We’re by no means saying that any of this lot are a miracle cure when it comes to mental health problems, but there are a few tiny, barely-there changes that you could think about making if you feel up to it, to see a positive effect over the next few weeks.
Sure, they totally won’t work for everyone, but here’s 14 minimum effort ideas that might just make you feel a little bit better this year.
1. Go to bed just half an hour earlier
Your mum is not wrong - everything really does seem better in the morning. Life can feel about ten times more of a hopeless black hole when you’re exhausted and wide awake in the middle of the night.
We’d say that an unbroken eight hours of sleep is necessary, but telling you to get good quality shut eye when you’re anxious or depressed is like asking a dog to knit you a scarf.
Instead, take the small step of getting into bed half an hour earlier than normal. Get into the habit of reading to unwind, and aim for just 15 minutes earlier every couple of days to build up a solid sleeping pattern.
2. Download a meditation app
You’re probably envisioning doing the Downward Dog like a Curly Wurly, wearing pink leg warmers on your ankles and chanting ‘Omm’ to the sounds of pan pipes in the background for this one, but don’t panic.
Just get yourself a mindfulness app like Headspace, and dedicate ten minutes a day (literally, that’s all you need) to sitting quietly, focusing on your breathing and calming down your mind.
It can work WONDERS and it’s a super easy habit to build into your daily routine to help cope with anxiety and stress.
3. Drink more water
Cursed with headaches? Drink more water. Bad skin breakout? Drink more water. Handling a broken heart? Drink more water.
There’s a reason that everyone reckons water is such a miracle cure for every single problem under the sun. It's legit, and keeping a bottle with you at all times can be a big mood booster.
Getting dehydrated affects every single part of your body including (and especially) your brain, so make sure you’re chugging back your two litres throughout the day no matter what.
4. Step back from toxic friendships
One of the most important aspects of looking after your mental health is surrounding yourself with the right people, so take a step back and think about your friendships.
If a friendship feels toxic, it’s more than okay to put yourself first, step away from what’s making you unhappy, and move on from it. It doesn't make you selfish.
You don't need to turn it into a big, dramatic fall out either because that won't help your stress levels. Just put some subtle distance between the two of you, and you’ll soon see whether they make the effort to still stick around. Friendships are all about quality, not quantity.
5. Ditch bed time social media
Hands in the air if you’re guilty of wrapping yourself in a duvet burrito, snuggling down for a decent night’s sleep, and then scrolling through your ex’s new girlfriend’s second cousin’s cat-themed Instagram until 3am?
When you’re in a bad place mentally, social media often does a big, fat amount of nothing to help - especially when it's late at night, leaving your brain super switched on and screen-focused instead of sleepy and relaxed.
Someone v wise once said that comparison is the thief of joy, so make sure you’re not making things ten times worse by focusing on likes and retweets.
6. And unfollow any account that doesn't help you
This one might be the easiest step of all, y’know. It’s SO important to remember that the corner of the internet that you’re spending all of your time in is completely curated by you. You’re the one who hits the follow button.
If you’re finding that you’re constantly comparing your life to others, you might be following all the wrong kinds of accounts. Instead, look for content that you find engaging and supportive of your issues.
Eliminate anything that doesn’t help you. Plus, it’s seriously like an empowering breath of fresh air every time you hit unfollow.
7. Spend one evening a week doing what you love
Try and put aside one evening a week to spend a couple of hours just doing what you love. Arty? Get your paints out. Sporty? Join a netball club. Harry Potter lover? Put Prisoner of Azkaban on.
The world we live in is a busy one, and it's all too easy to spend all of your time working and looking out for everyone else around you.
Whatever it is that you love the most, allow yourself the time to do it and bonus points if it's a new skill or a new club. Say it from the rooftops - JUST DO MORE OF WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.
8. Start a positivity diary
Yeah we know it sounds kinda (very) lame, but making a conscious effort to find the positive in every day is never gonna be a bad thing to do when your moods are unpredictable.
When it feels like you're floating from Monday through to Sunday in one big, empty blur, start a positivity diary. You just need one sentence that picks out something good that happened each day.
Some days it'll be a brilliant time with your pals, and other days it'll be the smell of a new shower gel - but focusing on the good can help to shift your space into something a little brighter.
9. Leave a tidy bedroom to come back to
Nothing’s gonna make you feel claustrophobic and frustrated like a bedroom that’s got a hot mess, carboot vibe. It’s supposed to be your safe space for chill time and a good sleep.
The entire contents of your wardrobe spread across the bed probably doesn’t help much for keeping your head clear, so even if you don't feel like cleaning properly, just set a resolution to at least make your bed every morning.
You will NOT regret it when you're sleepy later, and it’ll make you feel like you’ve at least got the teeniest, tiniest amount of your shit together.
10. Shower every day
For some this’ll sound like a no brainer but seriously, don't laugh. Anyone who’s struggled with depression or just mental health issues in general will know that the simplest of tasks can feel next to impossible some mornings.
Looking after yourself enough to have a shower every day can make SUCH a difference to helping you feel a bit more human and getting on with everyhting else.
Even when you don't know what the point is and even if you're gonna get straight back into bed, try and drag yourself under the hot water for a wake up.
11. Enjoy the moment
This one kinda goes back to the whole social media thing too (it's got a lot to answer for), but you’ll find that you’re loving life so much more if you put down your phone once in a while and enjoy the moment itself.
Soak up the loveliness of seeing your friends having a great time, enjoy laughing with them rather than trying to capture the perfect candid photo of it to put on Instagram.
Keep those amazing memories to think back on later, rather than something that might bring in a few likes with the right filter choice.
12. Move more
We are absolutely, 100 per cent NOT talking about signing up to the marathon next summer (unless you wanna, in which case COOL).
We’re just talking taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking to the next bus stop along, and being outside in the fresh air is also a serious mood changer.
Have you ever seen Legally Blonde? In the words of wise owl Elle Woods, “exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy." She knows.
13. Be kinder to yourself
When you're feeling low, looking after yourself can feel all kinds of wrong and it can be hard to believe that you're deserving of your own attention.
It's like you're being selfish or too self centered, but if it feels weird to you to put yourself first then you're probably not doing it enough.
You deserve the same amount of love, care and TLC that you give to everyone else, so try and act towards yourself the same as you would to your best friend. That includes the things you say to yourself, too.
14. Remember that your doctor is there
And last but not least, try your best to remind yourself on the daily that there is ALWAYS someone to talk to if you’re not feeling yourself. It can take some major bravery to book an actual appointment, but one step at a time.
Just the reminder that a professional is actually there when you need them can be pretty comforting. Even if you feel like none of your friends will really understand how you're feeling, don't forget that your doctor is always there to talk to.
Find out more about chatting to your GP about all things mental health over at MIND here.
- Words by Lucy Wood.