5 Bonus Habits to Adopt for Mental Wellness | Mental Illness Awareness

As I was writing the 5 Habits for good mental health, I started to remember other habits that I have adopted over the years.  So rather than make one very LONG post, I decided to make these the bonus five!

I call them a bonus because really that’s what you get if you adopt them… a big supply of bonus mental energy, if you will.  Over the years I have adopted each as they have become needed for my recovery and good health and also when I found that I gained so much from them.  I have just continued to try and do them.  Mind you, I am FAR from perfect at any of the habits including the first five that I shared.  But boy, do things look and feel brighter when I’m managing my health in this way.  Also, remember that all of the things that I am suggesting are not easy when you are really struggling, so just take baby steps.  They are not meant to replace medication, that’s something you and your Dr. should discuss.  Just take it one day at time.  So here we go!

  1. Start Journaling– (this one I recommend doing daily if possible) I have been a journal writer for a long time.  Even in my teen years.  I have books and books of ramblings that probably will never make it off my dusty shelves, haha.  But it has never been more apparent to me than it was almost 4 years ago when I had my second Manic Episode* that landed me in the psyche ward, how much a journal can help you through out your life.  I have been able to look back and see patterns and signs that have been especially helpful now.

Your journal doesn’t have to be anything special, most of mine are just spiral bound notebooks that I like because they were pretty or had a nice positive quote on the front.  If you know me, you know I’m easily distracted by shiny pretty things, haha.  I love me some pretty little bling.  But I digress.  The importance that a journal can have in your life in a situation such as Bipolar, for example, is immense.  I wish that I’d done a lot more than ramble in mine. But at least I have dates and times documented that I can look back on.  What I have started doing now that has been especially helpful is first, write a small sentence about how I am feeling maybe even rate how I’m feeling on a 1-10 scale.  One being completely down like the worst of the worst, and 10 is thinking that your on fire (I aim for between 6-8. 9 and 10 are danger zones for me).  Some people have even said that putting a small arrow in the corner.  Pointing up=good day,  pointing down=bad day is helpful.  But for me the scale tends to give me a better idea of where I’m standing.

Second, make a list of 10 things  that you are grateful for that day (If you can only do 3 then do 3 and work up). I write in the morning so I always put down things that happened the day before. But if evening works best for you that’s awesome!  Gratitude is an Attitude and before you know it, the gratefulness and love that pours out of you from this small act will amaze you.  One word of advice, these should not be the exact same things everyday.  Look for small seemingly insignificant things that you can appreciate each day.  Maybe some days the best you can do is, “I didn’t trip over the laundry again today!”  Seriously, if we can learn to recognize that there is good in the darkest of days, we can make it through.  As I said before, I am not perfect at these things and there are PLENTY of days that get missed (usually the days that I’m feeling the worst, but hey that’s a pattern you can use later ;)).  Speaking of days that you feel the worst, if you can make yourself do just a few of the things I’m sharing, you are moving in the right direction.  There’s always a way!

2. Find a Friend – It’s not as hard as we make it out to be, however it is difficult.  Yes hard and difficult are two different things ;).  What I mean is, Friends are everywhere, literally (not hard to find),  we just haven’t done the difficult part of reaching out to those around us that could be potentially the best friend you’ve ever had!  Support when you’re hurting can be the best healing balm you can find.  Even if this friend turns out to be someone you’ve never met that you found through a blog online, haha, that went through the same things you are going through.  I promise you, if they are posting online, they are open and willing to talk with you. However it is much more lucrative for you to find someone near you, and spouses and family members can sometimes be the best.   What ever the case, these people can be there IN PERSON to lift you on days that seem impossible to make it through.  To pop by unannounced with a little treat.  Or be there at a moment’s notice when you’re really desperate. Or just to call or text you to let you know you’re on their mind.

I know I’m making it sound easy, and trust me, I know from experience that NONE OF THIS is easy.  But having someone to talk to is so essential for recovery.  Getting better is never a straight line up.  It is filled with ups and downs and curves and hills and it is so much easier to navigate all of that with someone in your corner to support and lift you.   So make a list of people that you feel close enough that you could reach out to them.  I promise you, there are people waiting for you to ask.  Put away your pride and be vulnerable for a minute.  I believe that there are no coincidences in this life.  Everything happens for a reason.  And that person for you, needs you as much as you need them!

3. Find quiet time– Oh how I wish that I’d known this one years ago.  It’s  hard with 4 littles under the age of six, to find an ounce of peace and quiet.  But it is so essential to good mental health.  If you have to ask your significant other or a friend or family member to watch the kids for a few hours a week, do it.  Ultimately 15-30 minutes a day that you can take time out to refresh would be best.  Whether it’s to read or meditate or just tune out for a few minutes.  It is so good for your mind and body to just get a few minutes to think and contemplate how the day is going.  But like I said, if you are unable to do this daily, at least find time during the week that you can take a time out for yourself.  In general most of us tend to do so much for everyone around us, neglecting ourselves.  However, if you are having a hard time functioning, how can you possibly be 100 Percent for everything and everyone else you have to take care of.  Take care of you, then it is much easier to take care of those around you.

4. Find an outlet or hobby– None of the things that I am listing are easy when you have 900 million things to do in a day.  But if you want to have good physical and mental health, these things are so helpful.  I guess if you wanted to, you could consider your workout as hobby, or your daily walk as you time out.  Getting a two for one sort of effect.  But if you want to be really effective, find ways to work these into your schedule.  Again, some things like hobbies don’t have to be worked into every single day.  Once a week can be very beneficial for your psyche.

So let’s just take a look at some of the things that you could do as a hobby and please don’t say social media!!  I’m talking about things like finding time to read that book you’ve been wanting to read since last summer.  Or working on that creative project that you just never seem to have time to get to.  Or writing that book that you always wanted to start, but something else always comes up.  Maybe you’d like to try something new like watercoloring or hand lettering.  Something that really takes you away into another world for a period of time and gets your mind off of the things that you’re struggling with.  There are literally millions of hobbies that you can take on and try.  You’re bound to find something you really enjoy that gives you something to look forward to.

5. Do something for someone else quietly and Intentionally– This is one that has really helped me when I’ve been at my lowest.  When I’m in that spot (you know the one where you just can’t seem to make your self do anything), I don’t exactly feel like getting out and helping someone move, or making dinner for someone (I care barely get that done for my own family!).  However,  doing small things quietly and intentionally, like sending a card, or sending a text, just to let someone know your thinking of them can take the pressure off of thinking about yourself and how bad you feel.  Believe me, I know it can be difficult.  That’s why I say “intentionally”.  Even when you don’t feel like it, make yourself do it.  Don’t just be random about this, honestly try to think of someone else and how you can brighten their day.  I promise you that in doing it, you will get an instant bump in gratification.  You actually got up and did something really nice for someone else.  And the more that you do things like that, the more it will come back to you and the better you feel.  At least for the moment. The reason that I say quietly, is because for most of us who suffer from mental illness, the last thing we want to do is draw attention to ourselves.  So doing small and simple things that you can do by yourself on your own time, without anyone really noticing can be very uplifting and gratifying.  I heard a story of someone that would intentionally place penny on the ground in a specific place that they could follow up on.  knowing that for someone (maybe even a child), it would bring a smile to their face.

So there you go.  5 more habits that you can add to your life to make it better, and to help you be more mentally and even physically healthy.

* One of the first questions that people ask me when they find out that I have Bipolar, is: What is a manic episode like? So I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot and have decided to write a post about it.  It will be  from 2 different perspectives.  Mine and my husband’s (since he has been with me for 2 now).  It will be informative and useful for those who have or are suffering with what they think might be Bipolar.  And also for those of you that have friends or family that you think might have Bipolar and you want to be a support system for them.  So if you’d like to be notified when my posts update.  Just follow me!

 

5 Habits to adopt for good mental health

In the last post I promised that in the next one I would be sharing the 5 things that I try to do EVERY day, that I have found really help a lot when trying to balance and maintain good mental health.  This is not meant to replace medication (if needed) or other forms of therapy.  And if you think you may be suffering from depression or other mental illnesses, I highly recommend seeing a Psychiatrist to get an accurate diagnosis and help you formulate a good plan of action.

This is certainly not just for those who suffer with mental illnesses.  These habits are great habits to adopt for anyone who wants to improve their physical, mental and emotional state. So please don’t click off now, I promise this will be worth it.

So let’s just jump right in! I am going to go in specific order of importance as they apply to me and my mental health, but I’m sure it may be completely different for others.

1. SLEEP- At least 6-8 hours of good solid sleep per night.  It might seem crazy that I put this as the number one habit to adopt, but it is so so important!  Sleep is when your body recovers, rejuvenates and repairs itself. If your not getting enough, your body can’t function as it properly should.  Besides the obvious negativities like poor focus, fatigue and lack of concentration, poor sleep is linked to overeating, a greater risk for inflammation, depression, a greater risk of heart disease and stroke and it affects your emotions and social interactions.  It also contributes to lower glucose metabolism and increased risk of type 2 diabetes and those are just a few of the negative effects.  So it makes so much sense to give your body what it needs so that it can function as efficiently as possible.

Everyone is different and requires different amounts to  be healthy but at least 6-8 hours per night seems to be a sweet spot for most people.  There are so many benefits too. It can improve concentration and productivity, improve athletic performance. Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories.  And it can improve immune system functions among many other benefits.  For me it is paramount in keeping my mental health balanced and stable. Also one last word of advice for sleep is that if you find that you have lost sleep for a few days, try to catch a few extra winks as quickly as you possibly can.  Sleep deprivation is a breeding ground for mania or manic episodes.

2. MOVE. YOUR. BODY.- At least 30 minutes daily of some form of movement.  I notice a significant drop in my mood within a couple of days of not working out.  It’s really kind of scary for me because I can feel depression settle in almost like a big black storm cloud if I go more than a few days without my regular workouts.  I personally do my workouts at home so I don’t have to get dressed up and wear makeup (cause I don’t go anywhere without makeup, haha), or worry about others critiquing what I’m doing. Plus it saves money on babysitters and gym memberships.  I have been working out consistently for over 25 years and have learned specific workouts that seem to have a greater positive effect for me.  Over the years I have collected quite a variety of videos, and equipment to keep me from getting bored doing the same workouts.

But whatever works for YOU is great!  As long as you are moving your body regularly.  Some people love the gym.  Some love to get outside and run or hike, and some enjoy the calming effects of a good yoga session.  It doesn’t really matter what, where, or how you move.  Just move and get those endorphins flowing!  Not only does it benefit your mental and emotional health, it makes you look and feel better.  And who can’t appreciate that?

3. HYDRATE- Drink at least half your body weight a day in water.  I’ve been doing this for many years now and it might seem funny that I rated this more important than a healthy diet (spoiler alert, lol).  And this is on purpose their are so many benefits to being properly hydrated.  Here are just a few:  Weight loss and good skin elasticity.  Hello!  Who doesn’t want to be more fit and have less wrinkles?  (I attribute looking as young as I do at 50 to drinking a lot of water every day for the past 20 something years). Muscle efficiency, mood balancer (yes!), temperature control, memory function, and joint lubrication.  It flushes out the toxins that build up in our bodies creating good bowel function.  It aids digestion and creates better immune health.  It’s just a good solid healthy habit to adopt.

4. Eating a Healthy Diet. – Try and stay away from sugary processed foods.  And, I’m sorry for this one but, ABSOLUTELY no caffeine. Disclaimer, this is what I have found that works for me.  I am not a Dr. so definitely consult your physician on the best diet for you and your body type.

I have personally found that cutting back on carbohydrates and cutting out sugary foods and drinks does wonders for my mental state.  I know when I’ve gone to far with the trips to the ice cream store, because I start feeling lethargic, run down, lacking on focus and concentration and it’s easy for depression to set in.  And as for caffeine, this was a hard line that my Dr. set with me first thing!  I wasn’t thrilled about it for sure!  But it has had a huge effect on keeping me out of a state of mania.  When I’m entering a manic state of mind it feels almost like I’ve had a couple of cups of coffee or shot of caffeine.  So it makes sense that this would be something important to implement.

I’m not going too far down this road because it can be a loaded topic.  There are many options when it comes to healthy eating and different diet plans.  If you want more info on what I DO eat, please DM me and I’d be happy to chat about it.  Again this is what works for me.  The side benefits are many and your brain and body will love you for it.

5. CUTTING DOWN ON HIGH PRESSURE STRESS- Stress affects your body, from your brain to your digestive system!  This habit is probably the hardest one to maintain for most people.  We have so many things going on in our lives from work and family to school, and outside activities.  And that’s just naming a few.  These are just some of the many ways that stress can affect us negatively.  Headaches, muscle tension, chest palpitations, feelings of depression, ravenous hunger, and the list goes on. I have learned over the years that a good practice to adopt is that it’s OK to say ‘no’.  Don’t feel like you have to do all and be all just because you feel like everyone else is doing it.  Or that you just won’t measure up if you don’t.  Your good health is more important than anything else.  Even if it’s something you feel is really important! If you feel your body ramping up or getting anxious, it’s important to follow those signs it’s giving out.  If you are overwhelmed and over stressed to the max and you don’t heed the warning signs, your body will do a mental re-boot without your permission.  Trust me I’ve been there and it’s not pretty.  Bottom line, down time is important and good for your body.

So that is a brief run down of the 5 habits that I promised to share with you.  I thought of at least 5 more that can be helpful as I was writing but I’ll save that for a later post.  Just one last final disclaimer:  Don’t just take my word for it.  If you are having warning signs, do yourself a favor and visit with your Dr.  You only have one body.  It might have come damaged somewhat, but there are still things you can do to keep it as healthy as possible.

p.s.  Not one of these habits is a fail safe.  You can’t just be one and done.  Of course each one is very beneficial and if you can’t do them all, start by adapting one at a time.  But they definitely work better in combination with each other.

If you made it this far, I hoped it helped and please share with anyone you think this might help. XO Wendy