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One of the most important elements of fostering positive mental health is truly taking care of yourself. Putting yourself first will mean better mental health and improved mood. This will give you the capacity to handle everyday stressors with more ease and take care of the ones around you.

Your mind and body are closely intertwined. When you’re considering steps to improve how you’re feeling, be sure to factor in everything below.

Sticking to a very strict or inflexible habit with exercise, diet or sleep might not ever be a real possibility – we all lead busy lives, after all. But learning how to activate the relaxation response, engaging in moderate exercise several times a week, trying to eat reasonably well and arranging your activities so that you have a regular sleep schedule all have great benefits to your ability to manage stress and improve your mood. 

Create moments of relaxation
It’s important to add breaks in your day to allow yourself a moment to take a breath or even wind down. You can use deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to engage the relaxation response at any time of day as well as in stressful situations. You can also experiment with other strategies – such as aerobic exercise, weightlifting, biking, playing a sport, mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, yoga or pilates. Exercise is a great example of both a stress management technique and self-care.

Reconnect with the world
Three or four generations ago, it would have seemed like science fiction to imagine that people would spend much of their days engaging with the world via screens. Our ancestors lived more of their lives outside, governed by variations in weather and seasons.

One recent study found that spending just 20 minutes a day in nature significantly improved individuals’ stress levels. This doesn’t mean you need to go deep into the forest for a daily hike though. Getting outside and making purposeful contact with the natural environment can improve your mood and balance stress. Science proves it too as studies show the efficacy of forest bathing as a natural therapy and shows us that there are real benefits to spending time outside in nature.  

When you’re outside, practice mindfulness: try to disengage from external distractions and bring your attention to the sights, sounds and even smells of nature. Pick a spot and observe how it changes over time – throughout the day, across the seasons. Listen for the birds, watch the squirrels, take a look at the trees.

Remember that the mind and body are interconnected. A healthy body is an amazing support system for our busy minds. So, be sure to give that support system all the help you can. You’ll feel so much better – physically and mentally.

This step's words of wisdom (below) is a guided meditation. Find a comfortable position and begin.

Other resources

Words of wisdom

HubSpot Video