We live in some very trying times, where it seems as if anxiety and depression are at an all-time high in our society. Social media can prey on self-image and make us fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to the flawlessly curated Instagram feed of others. Plus, the news cycle is a constant reminder of everything that’s gone wrong.
There are so many obstacles to mental health that can cause you to question your self-worth and feel helpless and empty, but learning how to manage what’s going on inside of your head can be a game changer. Here are five ways that I keep my mental health in check.
Immersing Myself In Nature
Living in a major city can cause a constant on-the-go, nonstop-grind disposition. And the no-sleep culture that’s often glamorized in pursuit of goals is unhealthy (get your eight hours of rest, people!). It all can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Studies prove that people who reside in inner cities are at higher risk for anxiety, depression and mental illness. Last year, I took my very first hike in Stowe, Vt. and now I’m hooked! Getting out of the metropolis and going on hikes has helped me to improve my overall mental and emotional state. It’s now one of my favorite hobbies because it allows me to be consumed by nature and live in the moment—completely unplugged. There are no worries, no obligations and no room for overthinking when you’re wrapped in Mother Nature’s embrace.
I feel blessed to be able to work out because, in my line of work, I meet people who simply can’t because of injury or health-related restrictions. Exercise is my therapy: It has equipped me with so much confidence in myself and my capabilities. Being able to push past physical limits is gratifying and reinforces my ability to do the same outside of the gym. Fitness and being active is beneficial to mental health, and it’s literally changed my life. I feel better after I work out and for me, it’s a surefire way to elevate my mood.
Making Time For Things That Bring Me Joy
To-do lists can feel like neverending scrolls. Yet, too often they don’t include the things that bring us joy. As a professional with a full-time job, side hustles and creative pursuits, my attention is often split in multiple directions. I know how it feels to get caught up in keeping your head down and doing the work. We all know the saying “work hard, play hard,” but the latter really is important. You might associate the wordplay with children or animals, but it’s such an important part of the human experience.
In a 2013 study, The Playful Advantage: How Playfulness Enhances Coping with Stress, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Lynn Barnett found that adults who describe themselves as playful reported less stress and better ability to cope with the stressors they do encounter. My preferred form of play is sketching. I love to sketch fashion designs for the athletic wear brand I’ve been conceptualizing for years. It fills me with joy when I pick up my iPad and start transferring visuals from my mind onto the screen. I feel like a kid again, wielding the paint brushes and easels I’d beg my mom to buy me. Playing looks different for everyone, so figure out your preferred form and drop it on your to-do list.
Spending Time With Myself
Spending quality time in solitude is essential to my mental health. I’m an empath, so I’m constantly exchanging energy with others. It’s a gift I’m blessed to possess, but also one that requires time to myself to recharge. Being in my own company allows me to sit with my own thoughts and emotions (and my nagging ego) and question them. It allows me to reflect and rejuvenate after the stressors of the day or week, which helps me be the best version of me.
This one is major. I take time to acknowledge how grateful I am for big and small things in my life regularly. Even in moments where something unfortunate may happen, I dig deep to find the things I’m grateful for and it helps to quell frustrations I may be feeling in the moment. Multiple studies have shown that practicing gratefulness increases happiness and reduces depression. You can do this in list form by logging three things that you’re grateful for every day. It can be as simple as a positive encounter at Starbucks. Practicing gratitude has changed my perspective on life by making me realize how much more I can attain because I’m grateful for what I already have. It also stops me from comparing my life to anyone else’s because I understand that we’re all made different with different paths. And I’m so grateful for walking in mine.
Keisha Villarson is a NASM-certified personal trainer with a strong community of men and women who value and prioritize health and wellness. Follow her on Instagram at @keishavillarson for fitness inspo and healthy recipes.