Updated: Aug 3
Improving your mental health is a combination of working on your mind as well as your physical health. Here is a simple acronym to remember, taken from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, that will give you 9 ways to improve your life!
Accumulate Positive Emotions
Cope Ahead of time
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Avoid Mood Altering Substances
1. Accumulate Positive Emotions:
Why is this important? Research shows that you need 5 positive experiences to equal or cancel out 1 negative experience. If all you do all day are things that you do not enjoy (work, commuting, cooking, cleaning, arguing with family) then you are far more likely to have a negative mindset. We need to have positive experience in our lives to help offset negative experiences.. There are short term and long term things that you can do to accumulate positive emotions. Short term activities are more like enjoying a cup of coffee rather than drinking it in a rush on your way to work, or calling someone to catch up while you take a walk. There are also long term activities that you can do to create a life worth living. These have more to do with realigning your life with your values and goals rather than just floating along.
See my post all about this for more ideas!!
2. Build Mastery:
This follows the "practice makes permanent" rule. Let's say you go to play a soccer game and you have not practiced in months! You are most likely going to be rusty and not perform as well as you would like. (Yes, I am talking from experience!) It is the same with our mental health. If you are not using your tools, they will not work as well for you when you need them. An example of this is meditation. The more you practice and challenge yourself, the better you get at refocusing on the present. When you need to refocus on the present in real time, you will be able to. When would you need this in real life? Maybe your partner is telling you something important and all you can think about is "I am so hungry! When are they going to be done talking so I can ask about dinner"? This thought is probably not helpful in the moment, but if we can refocus on what our partner is saying, it gives us a moment of connection rather than disconnection! (yes, again, talking from experience!)
3. Cope Ahead of Time:
Do you have something important or stress-inducing coming up? Trying to figure out how to prepare for it? Use this Cope ahead method! In this exercise, you visualize coping well with what is to come. You will spend less time worrying about the event. Instead of working yourself up and thinking of the worst case scenario, you can spend your time imagining yourself being successful! Imagining what skills you are going to use when the time comes; like deep breathing, distracting yourself, using I statements. You can use this for a difficult conversations with loved ones, for upcoming interviews, a meeting with your boss, a confrontation that you are not looking forward to and many other situations!
4. Physical Illness:
When you get a cold, it is really easy to think, "I don't have time for this! I'm just going to press on and pretend I don't feel sick." Most of the time, this makes us feel sick for longer and puts us in a mental fog. Next time you get sick, try taking your sick days you have built up!! If you are not able to take a whole day off, you might cancel some meetings or taking a nap during your lunch hour. Putting off going to the doctor even though you have had the same symptoms for weeks / months? Making that appointment happen is also part of working on your mental health.
5. Lather, rinse, repeat:
Practicing good hygiene can actually have a big impact on how you feel for the day. Ever leave the house without brushing your teeth and you just feel gross all day? Not great for your mental health to start the day off feeling gross. This can also apply to showering, washing your face, When we take care of our bodies, we tell ourselves that we care about us!! Washing your hands throughout the day can also help reduce the chances that you get sick!
Fun research fact!
If you wash your hands after a perceived failure, it can help "wash away" the negative emotions that you are feeling associated with the failure.
6. Eat balanced:
I know I know! This is hard! There are so many fast, easy options that are not so balanced. Or you have the thought, I don't care, Im just going to have whatever I crave. If you really pay attention to how you feel 10-20-30 minutes after that massive burger, side of fries and a soda, you’ll notice you feel sluggish, heavy, tired. This is not the greatest for your mental health when you still have 4 more hours of work and 2 meetings in the afternoon. Eating something that will fuel your body, and give you energy will help keep you in a healthy mindset.
7. Avoid mood altering substances:
Yes, this includes alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco along with others. When we use substances to alter our mood, this takes away from our brain’s ability to do it on its own. We can lose the skill of self-soothing without the substance and can feel reliant on it. It may not be addicting for you in the literal sense, but if you use mood altering substances as a way of coping with anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, or feeling overwhelmed, then you will most likely not have other effective ways of working through these emotions.
SLEEP!! So important, and usually the first thing that goes when we are stressed. The best way to work on your sleep is to set a wake up time, not necessarily a bedtime. By setting a wake up time, you force your sleep hormones to readjust. You will find that you get tired at around the same time if you are waking up at the same time. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, like if you have an event to go to late at night, or your friends are in town for the weekend and stay out extremely late. As a general rule, your wake up times should be that same EVEN ON THE WEEKENDS! Your body needs consistency and might be harder to sleep during the week if you wake up hours later on the weekend.
When people think of exercise, they liken it to torture. This doesn't have to be the case! Getting in movement throughout your day is the key! Instead of parking in the closest parking spot at Target, park at the end of the row. Take the stairs when you can. Do you have a restaurant that you like going to a few miles away? Try riding your bike there or walking. You can even put a post-it note on the bathroom door that says "but first, do 10 squats". At the end of the day, you will have all of your exercise in without the pain of going to the gym or going for a run!
Hi, I’m Kristina Anzell, I am a Clinical Social Worker dedicated to providing compassionate and tailored mental health support for moms at all stages of motherhood. My mission is to empower you to thrive in your role as a mother while nurturing your own well-being. If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my blog here! If you want more information or are seeking treatment, feel free to reach out!