1. Talk to your doctor.
The first initial step of any health transformation is to consult a medical professional about the appropriate steps to take. General physicians are able to offer depression screenings and mental health consultations. They can then refer you to a clinician who is able to tailor to your specific needs.
2. Practice gratitude.
Life’s so much better when you’re acknowledging the bright side. Research suggests that expressing what you’re thankful for — from your dog to your favorite song on the radio — will improve your mental well-being.
3. Try meditation.
Meditation is no longer some New Age fad that’s too intimidating to try. The practice has a host of health benefits, from better concentration to — yep — improved mental well-being. There are multiple methods of meditation that offer varying degrees of investment. That being said, the practice doesn’t have to be complicated: Try just setting aside five minutes for meditation when you wake up or before you go to bed. You’ll likely either start or end your day on a positive note.
7. Lean on your support system.
After all, what are friends for? A 2011 study found that spending time with your BFF can reduce stress. Research also shows that social connection is imperative to mental health. Spend as much time as possible with your loved ones, whether it’s going to dinner or just watching a movie together.
8. Educate yourself.
About mental health and about the world around you, that is. Mental health conditions are much easier to manage when you know what’s really happening inside the mind. For example, did you know that some disorders may be genetic? Did you know that many conditions have physical symptoms? Learn as much as you can about what you’re dealing with or what your loved ones are experiencing.
9. Adopt a well-balanced diet.
Put good in, get good out. Eating well is key to overall health, including your mental well-being. Try incorporating fruits and vegetables in your diet more often along with brain-boosting foods like walnuts and spinach.
10. Listen to sad music.
Go on, sing (and listen to) the blues. Letting yourself indulge in melancholy melodies may actually help perk you up in the long run. Research shows sad songs may help you heal after a breakup. They also may prompt a few tears — which science says is good for you. One recent study found that a good cry can help boost your mood.
Sometimes a change of perspective involves a change of scenery. There are many testimonies from people who have said their wanderlust has changed their life for the better.
12. Sleep more.
Who doesn’t love an excuse to sleep in? A lack of sleep doesn’t just wreak havoc on your physical health, but it seriously messes with your mental health. Research shows sleep deprivation can make it difficult for someone to regulate their emotions. Poor sleep is also a sign of more serious mental health problems. Try going to bed just 10 minutes earlier every night and work your way up to a healthy amount of sleep.
13. Do a digital detox.
Social media is basically just a highlight reel of someone’s life — but that most likely doesn’t stop you from feeling a pang of envy every time someone posts a photo of their fabulous party, their new car or their shiny engagement ring. Research suggests that people can feel depressive symptoms from scrolling Facebook, likely due to the internal social comparison that’s taking place. The antidote? A break. Ditch those devices every so often for the sake of your mental health.
14. Express kindness toward someone else.
Want to feel good yourself? Make someone else feel good. Studies show that kindness can be cyclical. When you do a good deed for others, that makes them happier, which in turns make you happier, too. Even the smallest gesture can make a difference. Pay it forward every so often and reap the benefits.
15. Learn to say no.
It may be just two tiny letters, but this is your gentle reminder that “no” is a complete sentence. Burnout happens easily — in the office and outside of it. Make sure to spend some time alone and prioritize your well-being. If you don’t want to go to a party, don’t do it. If you feel overwhelmed by your workload, speak up. Self care is not selfish.
16. Talk to others about mental health.
You never know who you may be helping by opening up about your own experience. The only way our culture is going to be eradicated from the stigma of mental illness is if the conversation continues. You can be part of that change.
Here’s to 2017 being the year of you!