4 Therapist-Recommended Strategies to Improve Your Mental Health
Prioritizing mental health in good times and bad is a critical component of living a healthy and fulfilling life. Without adequate processing of emotions and an understanding of how to choose self-care practices that truly benefit you and build mental health resilience, even the best of times might feel like the worst of times.
According to the Gallup 2019 Global Emotions Report, a review of more than 151,000 surveyed adults across 142 countries, the reported experience of sadness and worry has reached an all-time high. When asked about emotions experienced the day before the survey:
- 39% experienced significant worry
- 35% experienced stress
- 31% experienced sadness
The negative did not always negate the positive as about three-fourths of people said they experienced a lot of enjoyment, laughed or smiled a lot, felt well-rested, or felt treated with respect.
The world has plenty of good left.
Even when positive emotions and events exist, so do negative ones, often at the same time. So how do we deal with everything?
Taking care of mental health looks a little different for everyone. Learning to identify, accept, and process events and emotions is critical.
In addition to utilizing multiple therapeutic techniques and modalities, our team of All Points North Lodge licensed therapists are equipped to offer extensive suggestions on taking better care of your overall mental health. In group therapy and one-on-one therapy work, customized mental health strategies are encouraged based on your individual circumstances and needs.
For a jump start, here are four promising recommendations for taking better care of your mental health, from our All Points North therapists.
Validate and Honor Your Own Emotions
“One of the most important ways to care of your mental well being is to validate and honor your emotions and feelings,” says Eva Goode, a licensed clinical social worker and Primary Therapist for the trauma program at APN Lodge. She says, “So often when we feel an undesirable way, we want to get rid of the emotions that we’re experiencing.”
As we can all attest, negative feelings can often be uncomfortable. It can be tempting to cope with these emotions by ignoring them, invalidating them, or stuffing them down to try to move on. According to Eva, “Allowing ourselves to feel is one of the most integral building blocks of mental well being. When we stop calling our emotions bad or wrong, we can start to have empathy and understanding for ourselves and the feelings that are a natural part of being human.”
Despite what the world or our minds try to tell us, Eva says, “Anger, jealousy, sadness, shame . . . these are natural emotions trying to communicate to us about our environment and experiences. When we judge and push away these emotions, they reside within us and become more intense, or worse, turn into physical ailments.”
Pent up emotions really can bring pain and sometimes even sickness. Eva encourages, “If we can learn to understand, validate, and eventually love all of our emotions, we become free and reduce our suffering."
Set the Morning Tone, and Close the Evening Page
Ashton Dunphy, a former primary therapist and clinical counselor for addiction treatment clients at All Points North Lodge insists the power of a positive routine is invaluable.
She says, “One of the things I talk to [our clients] about when it comes to self-care is starting and ending your day on a positive or relaxing note.”
As intuitive as this may sound, it’s far from common practice for many of us. Ashton explains, “Most individuals get up, rush through their morning, and don’t take the time to set an intention for their day and how they want it to go.” Intentions are simple, overall goals for the day, common in mindful practices like yoga but beneficial for any aspect of life. “Our thoughts affect our emotions, which affect our behavior, so if we can start out our day on a positive note, this can be helpful in making each day a good one.”
New to relaxing waking and sleeping? Ashton suggests, “One way of doing this could be to start your day off with a meditation or daily reading and end your day with another meditation or journaling exercise.” Many therapists encourage journaling to help get stirring thoughts out of your head and onto paper. You can think of it as the mental health equivalent of washing your face before bed.
Not into journaling? Ashton says, “Another way may be to exercise in the morning or the evening, which increases dopamine in the brain to create a more relaxed state of mind.”
Whatever you choose to set the morning’s tone and finish off the night, Ashton says, “I really encourage my [clients] to find a routine in their life to get into a new habit or way of living.”
For those who have struggled with addiction, a life void of routine can feel chaotic and overwhelming. Ashton says, “In changing their habits and routine, this rewires the brain to think in new ways and challenge negative behavior patterns.”
Find Meaningful Connection
If Ashton champions one thing in particular for progress in mental health status or recovery, it’s connecting with people who support you and forming meaningful relationships. She says, “I encourage [clients] to work on reaching out to others when they are feeling stressed as a way to connect and build relationships.”
Ashton explains that isolation is incredibly common in addiction as well as mental health struggles. When isolation becomes the norm or you become accustomed to feeling like no one understands, learning to build trust with others and develop a network of support for the hard times is critical, she says.
Depending on your struggle, she says, “This may include getting a sponsor, attending meetings, going to yoga classes, or attending an IOP program as a way to connect with others and find that [you] are not alone in [your] journey and other people do care and want to help.”
Begin Checking In with Yourself
Also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Primary Therapist for the trauma program, Lana Seiler says, “One good way to take care of your [mental health] is to really get to know yourself. Meditation and mindfulness practices can help us get in touch. It’s hard to know if we need rest, a change in job or relationships, a hot bath, or to set a tough boundary if the line of communication with [yourself] is shut off.”
If slowing down and being still is outside of your comfort zone, no need to start with anything major. Lana suggests, “Try short periods like 3-5 minutes of quiet time to ‘go inside’ or ‘notice.’ Just sit and be for a few minutes.” It may feel uncomfortable or unnatural at first but stick with it. You will begin to build both comfort and capacity.
“Gradually, that time can increase and [you can] start looking at the separation [between] your ‘being’ and your mind thinking. Some part of us is observing the thinking. Getting to know that ‘self’ gives us self-awareness.” Ultimately, Lana argues this practice helps us begin listening to ourselves and learning what we need. Once we know what we need, it’s much easier to respond.
For more next steps in your journey with mental health, addiction, trauma, or personal development, give us a call at 833.276.5634.