The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as the state of well-being in which an individual:
- realizes his or her own abilities,
- can cope with the normal stresses of life,
- can work productively, and
- is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
And contrary to popular belief, mental health is not just the absence of a mental illness. It’s so much more than that.
Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living, and enjoy life.– WHO
Meaning that if you’re having a hard time doing one (or all) of these things, you might be experiencing poor mental health.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have a mental disorder, it means you need to check yourself and identify what’s going on.
Because, as the first Director-General of WHO once said;
Without mental health, there can be no true physical health.Dr George Brock Chisholm
The two are linked – physical and mental health. And that’s why you hear the popular statement, “There’s no health without mental health“.
It’s not a thing people say because it’s catchy. It’s a fact.
And it’s also one of the many reasons it’s important to take care of your mental health. Including these 8 other reasons.
- Why is it Important to Take Care of Your Mental Health?
- How Can I Improve My Mental Health Without Medication?
- 17 Simple Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health
- 1. Open up about how you feel
- 2. Practise positive self-talk
- 3. Add exercise to your daily routine
- 4. Keep a gratitude journal
- 5. Maintain a healthy diet
- 6. Focus on the present, literally
- 7. Learn a breathing technique
- 8. Drink responsibly or quit drinking
- 9. Maintain a sleep routine
- 10. Stay in touch with your loved ones
- 11. Ask for help
- 12. Make time for yourself
- 13. Do something you’re good at
- 14. Accept yourself as you are
- 15. Take care of others to take care of your mental health
- 16. Learn to relax your mind
- 17. Learn to love yourself
- In the End
Why is it Important to Take Care of Your Mental Health?
You may be wondering: why am I learning how to take care of my mental health if I don’t even know why it’s important to do so in the first place?
If this is you, or you just want to stay informed, here’s a quick list of reasons why it’s important to take care of your mental health.
- It helps to make better decisions: Because mental health affects how you think.
- It helps to boost your mood: Because mental health impacts how you feel.
- To help build resilience: When you’re mentally strong, you’re able to easily bounce back from life’s difficulties.
- To add to your overall happiness: A happy mind results in a happy you.
- To have healthy relationships: Because mental health influences your thoughts, behaviour and feelings, it also affects how you relate with others.
- For a better work-life: Mental health affects your productivity and performance at work. So bad mental health = a bad work-life and good mental health = a good work-life. No more missed deadlines and struggling to get up for work.
- It helps with your overall health: When you put in the work to improve your mental health, your physical health improves in the process.
- It can help prevent mental health problems: If you take care of your mental health on a routine basis (knowingly or unknowingly), you reduce the risk of suffering a mental illness.
And there are more reasons why it’s important to take care of your mental health. But with these 8, you’re able to understand why.
So let’s proceed to answer a very important question that you may or may not be asking.
How Can I Improve My Mental Health Without Medication?
This short guide on how to take care of your mental health is solely dedicated to self-care tips that don’t include medication. And that’s why we thought it vital to address this particular question.
There’s a popular pyramid in the mental health world. And if you’ve been reading a lot about mental health, there’s a chance you may have come across it.
The pyramid was developed by WHO to provide countries with guidance on how to create and implement mental health services.
In the pyramid (see photo below), self-care is the most frequently needed service, while mental hospitals and specialist services are the least needed. Self-care is also available at a lower cost than all the other options. Yet, according to WHO, it’s the least promoted mental health service across countries.
Using this pyramid, WHO recommends that countries limit mental hospitals and promote self-care. And that’s why, to improve your mental health without medication, you need to focus on self-care.
Self-care, according to WHO, is when a person manages their own mental health problems themselves, or with the help of family or friends.
It’s knowing how to limit contact with high-risk situations likely to negatively affect mental health, develop skills to manage stress, have the ability to discuss and manage emotional problems as they arise and know when to ask for help and whom to seek help from.
It is when you seek help from a mental health professional that medication may be recommended. But with the other self-care options, no form of medication is needed to improve your mental health.
And in this guide, we’re sharing 17 simple ways to take care of your mental health without medication.
17 Simple Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health
1. Open up about how you feel
When you choose to suppress your feelings instead of talking about them, they bottle up. When they bottle up, you find yourself overreacting to simple situations.
And then you start to feel bad for overreacting, which leads you to emotional overwhelm. Which then goes on to cause stress-related illnesses, including depression and anxiety.
Speaking of Anxiety, this free class will help you understand its connection to being an HSP.
2. Practise positive self-talk
The way you talk to yourself matters a lot when it comes to the state of your mental health. When you say good things, the result is a good mood, increased confidence, better self-esteem and improved belief in oneself. All of which are good for your mental health.
And if you talk to yourself in a negative way, the latter is true. Low self-esteem, bad or low mood, lack of self-confidence and absolute lack of belief in oneself.
3. Add exercise to your daily routine
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that are a great relief for stress, anxiety and depression. So find an exercise you enjoy and start enjoying the daily benefits of taking care of your mental health.
And if you can, try working out outside of your house. Because exposure to sunlight gives you vitamin D, which increases serotonin—a chemical that’s said to have a calming effect, which is great for your mood.
4. Keep a gratitude journal
When you keep track of what you’re grateful for, you get this daily realization that your life or situation isn’t as bad as it seems. Because you can see everything that’s good in your life on paper and that’s a constant reminder that things can get better.
Plus, practising the art of gratitude makes you feel really good. It boosts your mood and keeps you in good spirits. Just think back to the time you told somebody ‘thank you’ because of something they did for you.
It could be a shop attendant, your colleague, a stranger, your partner, etc. How did you feel? Now imagine feeling that way every time you write in your gratitude journal.
5. Maintain a healthy diet
We read somewhere that carbs increase serotonin (which is a great mood booster) and proteins increase norepinephrine, dopamine and tyrosine (all of which work together to keep you alert).
Vegetables and fruits provide nutrients that feed the cells that affect mood-regulating brain chemicals. And food with omega-3 such as fish, nuts, and flaxseed help to improve your mood and restore structural integrity to brain cells.
And yes, we agree that’s a bit of information overload, but how awesome is that? We don’t even know what flaxseed is, but we’re about to find out because our brain cells definitely need some omega-3.
So find a way to always eat healthy. Not because we said so or because everyone seems to push healthy diets down your throat, but because it’s a great way to take care of your mental health.
6. Focus on the present, literally
With this self-care technique, we don’t mean that you forget the past and stop obsessing over the future, though this is important too. What we mean is for you to pay attention to what’s going on around you. If you’re at work, pay close attention to your workspace, co-workers, boss, etc.
Is your workspace organized? If yes, be grateful for how organized you are. If not, take a moment to put your stuff in order. How about your co-workers? Who is nice to you and who is mean? And why do you think they’re the way they are? Also, what do you know about their personal lives?
Doing this doesn’t mean you’re wasting time with non-issues, it means you’re taking time to process your environment. It means you’re appreciating things and people you didn’t appreciate before. And you’re learning something new every day – like identifying the positive people to hang out with.
7. Learn a breathing technique
If you struggle with anxiety, this particular way to take care of your mental health is gold. Breathing techniques help you to deal with stressful situations by calming you down.
In fact, instead of telling yourself to calm down whenever you feel angry, excited, anxious, or have another strong feeling, you should tell yourself to breathe.
There are so many breathing techniques available. And because we can’t cover all of them in this particular post, here’s a post on Healthline where you can learn more about breathing exercises.
And we kid you not – we once used the deep breathing technique to bring down a headache! So trust us when we say, they’re quite effective.
8. Drink responsibly or quit drinking
Alcohol is bad for your mental health. There are no two ways about this. Especially if you’re using it to beat anxiety, get some sleep, boost your mood, suppress a bad feeling, or numb the pain.
This is because while alcohol works great to help you forget your troubles (in the short term), it also works great to help you amplify them (in the long term). And we know this from first-hand experience.
It was overwhelming at first – to have to feel, think and do everything while sober—but you sort of get used to it and even start to appreciate it.
It helps you to stop escaping uncomfortable feelings, conversations, and situations. And instead, start to process them as they come.
You should try it.
9. Maintain a sleep routine
As a highly sensitive person (HSP), sleep is very important. Just as it’s important for you to take time and recharge, it’s also important that you always get enough sleep. You can’t just wing it with 4 hours of sleep as most people do.
And we’re guessing you’ve wondered why other people can have so much energy with little sleep, but you can’t. Or how some people are able to take a 15-mins nap and you always seem to need an hour or two.
It’s not a fault you have, it’s just the way you’re wired.
Not only do you need to sleep enough, but you also need to keep a sleep routine. And this is beneficial for everyone (even non-HSPs), as our bodies and minds function best when they’re used to a certain order of events.
So if your bedtime is 10.00 pm, try to sleep every day at that particular time. And wake up at the same time every day. With time, you’ll notice you don’t even need an alarm to wake up or a reminder to go to bed.
You’ll start to feel sleepy at the same time every night and become void of sleep at the same time every morning. And this kind of routine works wonders to help improve your mental health.
10. Stay in touch with your loved ones
Relationships are everything! They provide a connection that no gadget, book, or hobby can give. And that’s why breakups are super hard to get over, and the deaths of loved ones feel like a daily stab in the chest.
So to maintain good mental health, keep in touch with the people you love. Your friends, parents, siblings, kids, co-workers, etc. Check on them every now and then to know what they’re up to, and in doing so, also share how you’re doing.
This ties you to them forever and eliminates any form of aloneness. Which means you’re never alone. And so when life gets tough and it feels like it can’t get worse, you’ll always have a support system to lean on.
11. Ask for help
You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to listen to you and offer assistance if you’re willing to ask them.
It could be your loved ones or people you’ve never even met. People who understand your situation because they’ve walked in your shoes.
Or it could be professionals whose work is to help people improve their mental health.
All you need to do is accept that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help and then know the right person to go to for help.
So if you’re struggling with something today, don’t be shy or reserved to ask for help.
12. Make time for yourself
You can’t be putting out other people’s fires and not take a day off to relax.
Why do you think workplaces are required to provide leave days for employees? And why if an employee chooses not to take advantage of their leave, their employer can force them to go on leave.
It’s especially important for you as a highly sensitive person to take time for yourself. Because in a day, you’re taking in too much information from your environment.
You’re absorbing other people’s moods and emotions. And you’re immersing yourself in other people’s problems.
So take 10 to 30 minutes in a day to focus only on yourself. Take a day off to focus on your mental health and pamper yourself whenever you get a moment.
Meditate, do yoga, go for a swim, soak in a bath, eat well, sleep, or do something else that’s solely dedicated to you.
13. Do something you’re good at
What do you love to do that you know you’re great at? Is it your job, basketball, cooking, singing in the shower, or helping people?
Whatever it is, do that!
Because being good at something boosts your confidence and increased confidence is great for your mental health.
14. Accept yourself as you are
I used to blame God for creating me so sensitive. I would spend long nights crying about it and wondering why I couldn’t be as emotionally strong as other people.
And I hated myself for being so weak.
What I didn’t know, though, was that being sensitive isn’t necessarily something bad. It’s not a sign of weakness like society makes you believe. Or a bad trait you need to get rid of.
Being sensitive means you have the trait of High Sensitivity — an inborn trait that evolved as a survival strategy. And when this trait is harnessed, it can make you the strongest person in the room.
When I learned this, I started to appreciate myself a little more. And I learned to accept myself just as I am, and this has been great for my mental health.
You too can do the same. Learn more about the things you hate about yourself. Understand why they exist and why you can’t get rid of them. It will help you understand yourself better, and in turn, accept yourself.
And speaking of accepting yourself, this 40-day guidebook has an entire chapter on Self-Acceptance.
15. Take care of others to take care of your mental health
Did you know there’s more joy in giving than in receiving? This is even true for a sensitive person because it’s in helping others that you find fulfilment.
And what’s more? We’ve come to learn that if you start reaching out to people with the same problems as you, and offer to help, you start a journey of healing through them. How cool is that?
If you can take care of someone today, in whatever way that’s available to you, do it. Your mind is going to thank you and your mental health is going to soar.
16. Learn to relax your mind
Just as the body gets tired from too much activity and action, the mind gets overwhelmed from too much thinking, feeling, and processing information. So, just as you relax your body after a long day, also make time to relax your mind.
And there are many ways you can do this, depending on your personality and interests.
For instance, we love to listen to soothing music whenever we feel overwhelmed. We like to have no screen time because we spend a lot of time in front of a computer. And we love to take long walks in a serene environment where the only things we see are trees, grass and animals.
Oh, and we also love to watch the water flowing.
So find something that works for you and start doing it as often as you can.
17. Learn to love yourself
Loving yourself is the epitome of good mental health.
Remember, mental health is more than the absence of a mental illness. It’s the psychological, social and emotional well-being of an individual. And it affects the way we think, feel, and behave.
This means if you love yourself, everything you do and are is positive and compassionate. Because you’ve got nothing but love for the person that you are, and there’s nothing in this world that can change that fact.
So if you don’t already, learn to love yourself through meditation, prayer, mindfulness, self-understanding, and self-acceptance. Or in any other way that works for you.
In the End
These 17 ways to take care of your mental health are a starting point or form of inspiration. You can take all of them to heart and implement them, or you can take the ones that feel close to home and focus on them.
If you’re a highly sensitive person, you’re at more risk of suffering a mental health problem than a non-sensitive person. Because of the nature in which you feel things and how deeply you process information.
And that’s why it’s necessary for you to take care of your mental health.
It’s not a polite suggestion for you to consider, it’s something you need to do for your overall well-being and quality of life.