I went through a pretty tough time recently. When I say tough, I mean I would wake up and my first thought was, Can this day just be over already?
Maybe that sounds like a relatable feeling that you experience on Monday morning after a long weekend, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I don’t mean being tired and unwilling to roll out of bed. I mean feeling that life is so pointless and empty and worthless that there was no point to go through the day doing the same old things with no purpose.
There was no particular reason for my spell of sadness. There were a few changes in my life, but nothing dramatic enough to send me down a spiral of depression. I was trapped in a dark hole and didn’t know how to get out.
If you’ve ever experienced this feeling, or if you’re currently still stuck in your own dark hole, you know how hopeless it can feel. I’m sure you’ve heard before that “it will get better” and doubted it relentlessly, but the good news is that it almost always does.
The solution isn’t the same for everyone. Your mental health journey will be unique and personal to you. But hearing someone else’s journey can help you navigate out of the dark. So here are the top five changes I made in my life that helped me. Maybe they can help you too.
1. Clean up your diet
I would never try to claim to be a “clean eater.”
I’m not huge on greens and when given the choice I would usually rather choose a comfort food over a healthy food – probably a product of growing up in the south.
But once my mental health started to be affected, I took more time to consider all of the items I put into my body, including my food.
Food is our fuel. The chemical makeup of different foods can affect us in different ways. One of these ways is our mood. Indulging in meals with refined carbohydrates like sugar, or just skipping your meals in general can be bad news for your attitude. And I was guilty of both of these.
One of the first steps I took in my mental health journey was to refocus on my meals. Opening my mind to new foods was a big challenge, but it was definitely worth it.
I learned the benefits of adding more complex carbohydrates with soluble fiber to my meals. These foods can increase your serotonin (the happy hormone) and they will slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. These foods will help you feel better and stabilize your mood.
2. Break up your routine
A rut. We’ve all been there.
Humans are creatures of habit, so we can’t help that we get stuck in routines sometimes. These routines can get us down. They’re boring.
If you start to feel like you’re living life in autopilot, slam on the brakes and shake things up a bit.
Change up your morning routine and find a new show to watch or a new route to get to work. Pick up a new hobby to wind-down with in the evenings like an adult sports league or something more relaxed like oil painting.
It may seem intimidating to change, but you won’t turn your life around without taking risks and stepping outside of your comfort zone.
3. Your tribe affects your vibe
If you’re anything like me, you feel major changes based on the energy of your environment. If you surround yourself with negative energy, that’s just asking for a bad mood.
Of course it’s challenging to have to say goodbye to toxic friendships, but once you decide to make that change, you’ll be so glad you did. If someone is leaching your energy, they need to go.
Make considerations into all factors of your life: your romantic relationships, toxic family members, co-workers, and your social media tribe. Social media can be extremely influential on your perspective of your own self-worth. If you find yourself feeling down after scrolling through your feed, maybe take a break from all of the apps as well, or unfollow the people that are affecting your mood.
Once you clean out all of the negative energy in your life, you will allow a place for positive energy to grow.
4. Look forward, but stay grounded
One big strategy I tried was constantly looking forward to something exciting. I would plan events (even if they were small), write them on my calendar, and count down the days to the “next big thing.”
Always looking forward can be just as draining, though. You have to remember to stay grounded and live in the present moment as well.
While the big events can help get you through a tough week as you anticipate a rewarding experience, it’s also important to find the small moments in each day to cherish. The little things in life truly amount to a lot when you start to notice them. A steaming cup of coffee in the morning, the smell of the woods, or hearing the background noise of human interactions can all help brighten your mood once you start to pay attention and appreciate the nuances of life.
5. Follow healthy habits
Turning your mental health around is about more than switching up your routine and eating healthier. If you want to see some big results, you’re going to have to make some big changes.
Do you regularly find yourself feeling low energy and drowsy throughout the day? One culprit could be your meals. Another could be a lack of quality sleep.
It’s more than important to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night – it’s necessary. If this is a challenge for you, try out these tips:
- Take a warm bath
- Use essential oils like lavender in a diffuser to create a more aromatic sleep environment
- Drink a cup of herbal tea
- Try nighttime yoga stretches to relax your muscles
- Stay away from electronics at least two hours before bedtime
- Read a book
If it feels like you’re exhausted all your options and you still wake up not feeling rested, there may be an underlying issue – your mattress. Did you know that the lifespan of a mattress is only between 7-10 years? After that, your sleep will suffer. Do the research to know if you need a better mattress and find the one that best suits your personal needs.
Another way you should shift to healthier habits is by putting yourself first. Your best chance at turning your mental health around is taking time to focus on improving yourself. Your relationships and the other parts of your life are important, but they will all be negatively affected if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
Don’t be afraid to prioritize yourself. It will make all the difference.
Image courtesy of Radu Florin.