Four Things to Do Every Day for Your Mental Health
Make time in your schedule for these core human needs.
While we’re all (appropriately) focused on caring for the physical health of ourselves, our families, our communities, and society at large, our mental, emotional, and social health needs are quickly emerging as profoundly important, as well.
According to the executive director of Open Source Wellness, which brings people together to learn and practice the behaviors that generate human health and well-being, the core idea is that community is a form of medicine. And while we aren’t physically gathering right now, he shares some of what he has learned during this time.
- Our bodies need to move. They need to stretch, reach, twist, bend, step, sweat, to whatever degree works for our unique shapes and constitutions. They don’t care if it’s at the gym, out in the neighborhood, or in your living room – they just need activity. It’s not just about “staying in shape.” It’s about your immune health and your mental health, as well! Build movement in your structure, at least 20 minutes per day! YouTube exercise videos range from three-minute workouts to more than an hour, and many of them are family-friendly, too.
- You might have a sense of what foods make you feel lively, focused, resourced, and sane, right? Open Source Wellness suggests not banning or outlawing the small treats that bring you joy, but rather setting up a daily structure that (mostly) fills you with nourishing, healthy foods. Always wanted to make a dietary change, learn to meal prep, teach your kids to cook, or sample a new cuisine? Now’s the time! Structure one or two 30-minute chunks of cooking into your days.
- This one, more than ever, is key. Humans need to feel connected. We need to feel seen, heard, and understood by another human – and to extend the same in return. And since it won’t “just happen” throughout your day, you’re going to need to schedule it. More to the point, you’ll need to ask for it. To get vulnerable enough to say, “I really want to connect with you. Can we talk?” Tell the truth about how you’re feeling, what you’re experiencing. Invite them to do the same. Listen with kindness. Offer your support with generosity. High-quality human attention may feel like a scarce resource right now, but you can generate an infinite supply of it.
- Amid all the “doing” – the preparing, protecting, adjusting, coping, responding, providing, procuring – humans need moments to simply BE. It’s not necessarily about serenity, or warm fuzzy feelings. It’s about pausing long enough to let your nervous system come back to baseline after prolonged activation. If meditation or guided relaxation works for you, great! If watching a crappy TV show while snuggled into the couch helps you to just BE, that’s good, too. And if painful emotions get too loud or overwhelming when you try to slow down, that’s OK, too.
In the absence of everything that normally dictates our days, we are called on to create the structures that will support our health, physically and emotionally, in a time of profound uncertainty.