If there is one thing that 2020 and 2020 2.0 (which is what I call 2021) taught us, it's how important it is to prioritize our mental health and well-being. Yet in the midst of all of the drama that just refuses to let up around here, I totally get if that can be hard to do. That's why I've got a few hacks; ones that I hope will help to relax you, to center you, to not let this crazy world get you so caught up and frazzled that you're not able to focus on your priorities, your needs, your peace.
If it feels like you've been on edge lately and, no matter what you do, you can't seem to get a grip, here are eight things that can help to bring you back to the middle.
1. Create Something
In the Bible, the first thing that God is introduced as is being our Creator. Since the Good Book says that we are made in his image and likeness (Genesis 1), I am a firm believer that we all have the ability to create something — to make something that came out of our own thoughts or imagination. It might be a piece of jewelry. A photograph. An article. Some art. A DIY project. The list is endless yet when you are intentional about creating something unique and new, it affirms the power and ability that you have within your own being and how can that not be the ultimate kind of mental health boost?
2. Talk to a Positive Person
Lawd. There is so much negativity out in these streets that I think we should take out a moment to discuss some of the telling signs of what a positive person looks and lives like. Positive people tend to look for the good in all situations. Positive people like to laugh and have a good time. Positive people are self-aware and mindful. Positive people are supportive and encouraging of others. Positive people choose to let things go. Positive people don't wallow in negative feelings. Positive people are proactive about making wise and healthy choices. Positive people are solutions-oriented. Positive people surround themselves around other positive people.
Some days are gonna be better than others. Don't beat yourself up about that. However, instead of hopping on social media or calling that one relative who finds a way to see the bad in everything, connect with a positive person instead. I've got a friend who is always seeing life from a glass-half-full perspective. It's kind of hard to stay feeling "blue" when she sees things in "yellow"…if you know what I mean.
3. Buy Yourself a Plant or Some Flowers
Did you know that there are science-based reasons why having a plant in your house is a really good idea? Thanks to the organic compounds known as phytoncides, plants can help to reduce your stress levels which can ultimately boost your immune system. Since plant life also has a way of calming us down, they can actually boost your productivity levels if you have one at your desk or home office. And, because plants require some level of care, they are a way to help you to become more nurturing and compassionate to others as well. So yeah, if you're looking for a bit of a mental pick-me-up, a plant can be just the thing to help you do it.
While we're on this topic, something else that you can do is purchase a bouquet of flowers (check out "Love Fresh Flowers? Here Are Tips To Make Them Last Longer"). The combination of the colors and scent, along with making a proactive decision to do something to make you feel better is also a great way to give yourself the mental boost that you need.
4. Take a Nap
Something that my friends know about me is I talk about taking a nap like I am about to have sex with a 6'5" Godiva-coated king. I'm not joking. I think a big part of it is because, when I'm not counseling couples, I'm usually on my laptop writing about stuff like this which is a blessing (because I am doing what I want to do for a living, from the comfort and convenience of my house) and yet can also be a little draining too. And so, when my mind tells me that it wants a break, I give it just that. And because naps give me more energy and helps me to feel refreshed, I am all about encouraging other folks to take one too.
If you're doing it strictly for the sake of your mental health — you know, in order to get through the rest of your day — there are a few things to keep in mind. For starters, a nap that lasts longer than 30 minutes can put you into a deep sleep that could cause you to wake up feeling groggier and/or throw off your sleep schedule at night. That's why you should set an alarm to go off at around 20 minutes, you should try and take a nap in the early afternoon, and you should do it in silence or with some ASMR nature sounds; that way, your brain can truly get some rest (without your mind working overtime, even in your sleep), so that you can feel significantly better once you awaken.
5. Have a Yogurt Smoothie, Salmon Salad, Some Guacamole or a Piece of Dark Chocolate
Having a little snack is something else that you can do to mentally get through the rest of your day. A yogurt-based smoothie is good because the potassium and magnesium can help to increase oxygen to your brain which can make you feel more alert. A salmon salad is bomb because salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D, both of which are proven to reduce depression-related symptoms, sharpen your memory and improve your mood. I will make some fresh guacamole in a heartbeat — good thing too because the Vitamin K and folate that are in avocados can help to improve one's memory and concentration while the carotenoid lutein is great at strengthening brain function. Or how about a couple of pieces of dark chocolate? So long as it's 60 percent dark cocoa or more, you'll be taking in the antioxidants known as flavonoids which are awesome at keeping you alert and putting you into a better mood.
6. Turn Your Phone Off
Sometimes, what has us stressed out more than anything is the fact that either folks are constantly able to get a hold of us or we're overwhelmed by all of the info that we're consuming online. The device that typically makes this possible is our phone. While I know it might seem like you can't live without your smartphone, a lot of us are old enough to remember what it was like to only have landlines and I promise you that we survived — thrived even. Unless you are a parent, there is no need to feel hesitant about turning off your phone from time to time. Even if you are, at least silence those notifications for a few hours a day.
The sense of urgency that phones provide is an illusion. Folks can text or leave a message after the beep and whatever your social media accounts are talking about, you can pick up where you left off whenever you log back on. (For more reasons to take this tip to heart, check out "8 Solid Reasons To Put. Your Phone. Down.")
7. Write Someone a Thank-You Note
If there is one thing that the absolute cyclic-ness of this pandemic has taught me (Lawd, did folks learn anything last year?!), it's how selfish and unteachable human nature can be (especially in the United States). If you're not careful, it can get you either super caught up or really jaded. One way to avoid this is to focus on the things that you should be grateful for. One way to do that is to handwrite a thank-you note to someone. It can be a friend, a co-worker, someone who works at a favorite store — even your partner or child. By making the time to tell another person what you truly appreciate about them, it can remind you about the good things that still exist in this world while helping you to not be so self-consumed. Besides, the response that you get from that person will be sure to put a smile on your face. It's a "win" all the way around.
8. Toast Yourself
I am BIG on toasting myself. I will straight-up go to the store, get myself some bubbly (sometimes alcoholic, sometimes not), fill up a champagne flute, think of something that I am proud of (even if it's as simple as not cussing somebody out who really needed it or paying a bill ahead of time) and "drink" to it. Y'all, sometimes, we're so consumed by all of the ways that we can improve that we don't take a minute to celebrate how far we've come — even if it's in tiny increments. When it comes to mental health hacks that can immediately do you some good, I'm signing off here because ending the day with a toast to yourself can do wonders. I've been doing it for years and it always makes me feel really good. About myself. Which is always a mental health boost. Cheers!
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