The absolute best things I’ve done for my mental health

  1. Blogging. Having a space to talk to myself and also get feedback from others really helped me gain some distance and perspective.
  2. Therapy. Self-sabotage borne out of unresolved issues won’t be solved by gritting my teeth and forcing myself through.
  3. Reaching out to friends. Not just to vent and talk, but also to do a combined enjoyable activity. And also to be there for them, because [see first mantra under #13].
  4. Diversifying my physical activity (walking, dancing, climbing, yoga-ing, hiking, rock climbing).
  5. Having a mindfulness practice (sometimes this is just taking deep breaths).
  6. Escaping the city, when possible.
  7. Working to increase self-awareness. This meant trying to break passive-aggressive habits, defensiveness habits, etc.
  8. Cutting out most sugar (crashes did a number on my mood).
  9. Trying new things to break out of a rut.
  10. Logging my mood with an app (I use Daylio and I love it… and no, nobody paid me to say that).
  11. Cooking for myself (and sometimes a friend) as often as possible. Cooking for oneself or for others is an act of care.
  12. Finding useful mantras:
    • “This isn’t about you”. I’m not the center of the universe.
    • “Trust your instincts”. They’re often right.
    • “You got this”. I got a lot.
    • “Be genuine/sincere”.
    • “Be kind to yourself”.
  13. Finding a personal organization system to combat procrastination. For me, this entailed 3 types of to-do lists (I can’t say this is the most streamlined method; maybe a bullet journal would be better, but it works for me for now… and of course, it could be greatly improved upon):
    1. a Workflowy account so I can see all the stuff I need to do/have done, sorted and divided. Clean interface, accessible from phone or desktop browser, helps me see the big picture.
    2. A notebook to write down notes on meetings about the stuff on my Workflowy list.
    3. A simple Kanban for breaking meeting notes/to-do lists into smaller tasks (a three-columned board with spaces for “To Do”, “Doing”, and “Done”, and putting project to-dos on sticky notes that I then stick in the appropriate column. The benefits:
      1. I can limit my “doing” column to make it less overwhelming.
      2. I can see how much I got “done” which is rewarding.
      3. It’s physical rather than digital; hanging it up and looking at it is not distracting like having to switch screens or open a browser.
      4. It was cheap/free/portable (i used post-its and a fold-up “noteboard” I made out of index cards and packing tape, some whiteboard markers, some transparency markers, and a thumbtack and binder clip to hang it up).
  14. Enjoying time with kids and/or animals. Not everyone has kids or animals in their family; go to a shelter, or go play with a friend and their dog, something.
  15. Taking care of my teeth. This means flossing daily, which is more important than brushing y’all!
  16. Taking breaks from social media.
  17. Noticing compulsive thoughts, and talking about them/allowing them to run their course while working to let go of them.

There are lots of other little things. But working on mental health involves so many proactive tweaks to so many parts of one’s life, getting rid of so many self-sabotaging efforts, that it’s so hard to distill it down to a short short list.

Do you do any of this? Something else?


2 thoughts on “The absolute best things I’ve done for my mental health

  1. I think I do all of these except journaling my mood and organizing my lists, but I’m working on that too.

    I think the other things which I really focus on lately which have made a positive difference are:

    1) Whenever I have a thought about something wrong with the world (which kind of happens 27 times an hour if using the internet), I remind myself that many things are out of my control and I resolve to only think and act on those that are within my control. Drawing the fine line between mental restraint and ambivalence.
    If I don’t actively do this I find reading any news basically unbearable, among other things. But I actually find that nowadays the most direct application is to just try to do this when thoughts arise during breathing meditation before redirecting the thought.

    2) I try to actively consider the level of implied violence in different habits or actions, and imply the concept of Ahimsa (conscious cessation of violence). It gets you to think about a lot of things and be more consciously aware of thoughts, words and actions. Is self defense violence? Video games? Anger at politicians? Paintball? Eating fish? Are they necessary, or spiritually destructive? How can I minimize my mental/physical violence where necessary?


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